Sunny with Occasional Rain
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.
My First Guitar
I was given my first guitar when i was thirteen. I had been taking piano lessons for some years so music was already firmly rooted in my young life, but the lure of the electric guitar and all it represented had weaved its magic and infiltrated my every waking moment. Frequently I would go down to the music instrument shops in central Brussels (where I was born and was living) and ogle the lines of guitars, drum sets and other assorted instruments with a sense of excitement and wonder. The idea of possibly owning a guitar and playing live music in front of an audience – real music ( in other words rock and pop music) instead of struggling through stuffy sonatas and nocturnes, was almost frighteningly intoxicating. Of course I realised later that those early music lessons formed a solid foundation for the career in music I was later to pursue and it was not long before I developed a genuine appreciation and love for the works of the great composers.
At the time, my father was a senior executive of HMV records Brussels, the company that would later become EMI Records. HMV, whilst being heavily involved in the music industry, was also in the business of producing televisions and gramophones during this era, but the man who headed up the creative department of the music division (what is known as the A and R department in record companies) was a warm and charismatic person named Jeff de Boeck, who was truly my first mentor. He had been a successful drummer in Belgium for many years with his Metro Band. Small and hunchbacked but with a personality 10 times his size, he understood my aspirations and helped to encourage me and push me forward. He would accompany me to the shops and guide me through the maze of different guitars. I couldn’t play them but I would hold them and feel the heat they generated. Jeff de Boeck later went on to sign to HMV one of the most successful European artists of all time, Adamo, a singer, songwriter who everyone said, my father included, had no chance to succeed because his voice was almost femininely high. But his songs were timeless, haunting and he went on to sell over 100 million records.
And then one day my guitar was there. A Framus – sunburst. Not the most glamorous or expensive like a Stratocaster or Gibson, but it was mine and it was a beginning. One week later there was a function that my parents had to attend at the local tennis club and a young singer/ guitar player friend of the family was going to play a set of rock standards for a bit of light hearted entertainment. He suggested I join him and he managed to teach me three chords which I then managed to somehow piece together in time. My playing must have been pretty dismal and the chief memory of that event was the almost excruciating pain in my finger tips, but it was a big moment for me and my first live performance (other than singing the solo in the local church’s Christmas Carol service.)
I went on to play the guitar for many years but always knew that I would never be anything other than a very average guitarist, with more enthusiasm than skill and so eventually, when I switched my instrument of choice to piano, organ and various keyboards, I felt much more at home and comfortable. The guitar was never going to be my passport to fame and fortune, but my very first guitar, my Framus sunburst, was possibly my first deep love affair.