A lot of readers of this blog appreciate Yes and this excellent musician. I suspect that “badfinger20” will like this post as he (or she?) is one of the most eager to “like” my posts. Thank you. It is nice that all my work with this project is appreciated.
Pete Makowski talks to Steve Howe and discovers that guitars are…
Not so much a living, more a way of life
For those of you who have been waiting for the grand opening of Steve Howe`s guitar shop, I have a `good news, bad news` story. First the bad. The Hampstead residential council have refused permission to let Howe turn the top floor of the band`s `vegy` food store into a musical store.
But this does not mean that Howe will not be displaying and selling any of his guitars, oh no, and here`s the good news “I`m going to have my guitars on display in a showroom of a Gibson dealer. I could have sold them privately, but I`d like the kids to have the opportunity to get them on H.P., the same way I bought my first Gibson” said Howe in the comfortable surroundings of his Hampstead flat.
Everyone`s seen pictures of Howe`s guitar collection in magazines and in the booklet enclosed in the band`s “Fragile” album, but it`s not until you see the guitars close up that you realise what a priceless collection this man has. As I entered his guitar room, I was confronted with a priceless collection of Gibson guitars, and it seemed hard to believe that some of these instruments have been around for almost half a century.
Each guitar was polished and scratch free, but this becomes understandable when you talk to Howe, for guitars to him are more than just a way of making a living, they`re more of a life style. “Some people have three cars, I get pleasure out of collecting guitars.
Steve gets his guitars via a contact in the States and he has currently been expanding his collection with the addition of pedal steel guitars. “That is my key instrument at the moment. I`m practising it and I`m playing it on the new Yes album.”
The last time I spoke to Steve he said that he was experimenting with the pedal steel and wanted to include it on his planned solo effort. “There are still things that I want to learn. I`ve only been playing it for a few months. When I`ve finished my album, I`ve already laid a track down, I hope that there`ll be quite a lot of pedal steel on it, I`m hoping to do one number all pedal steel, the album should be finished around the new year. I`ve got a lot of enthusiasm for pedal steel and just as much for mandolin, which is an amazing instrument.
“A mandolin is just a guitar an octave up. All the sessions I do are on guitar and it`s really nice to pick up a mandolin and play it. It`s like a break, it`s not like playing a different instrument but it`s got different progressions and different tuning.”
Going back to Steve`s earlier years when he was strumming in his front room, I wondered how he envisaged his future career would be. “I used to have a faraway dream of being in a successful band with good musicians around me. When I was twelve I dreamt about having a Les Paul. When I was in a group called Tomorrow I wasn`t seeing that dream anymore. I couldn`t see myself selling a lot of records. People used to say I was crazy because I didn`t realise what I contributed to various bands I was in, I didn`t know what they were talking about. I think everyone says that to someone in a group.
“When the group split up just before I joined Yes I started to realise what I wanted. Before then I had so many restrictions – the people, the possibilities, the managerial side… everything didn`t offer very much so I could only offer so much.
“If a young musician has started playing for his dream, it will take him a long time to see that dream come true, he`ll have to go through all the stages of life, he`ll have to get to twenty three and think `God, the world`s a terrible place` and then suddenly you`re through it.”
Does Steve look at the steps of his career as a natural progression?
“All my failures were natural. If I`d been successful then I would have blown it.
Something that has excited Howe is the fact that his five year old son Dylan, is showing the signs of being an aspiring musician. “All he can do is strum the guitar, but to me that is so inspiring. There`s this thing about lack of musical knowledge, it`s like the Jon Anderson story. Jon doesn`t know the theory of guitar but he can still find great chords for songs.
“In classical music it`s better to know everything about it, but in rock it`s better if you know very little in theory.”
I asked Steve if he used tutors in his early years. “No”, was the firm reply, “when I bought my first guitar I also bought a tutor, but couldn`t get past the second page. I didn`t have any idea what music was, it was like Chinese to me. So I left the tutor and began listening to tunes and played them on guitar.
“There are things that I would like to learn, but I`d like a teacher who also performed. I don`t really agree with generalising with tutors because most of the people I`ve met are self taught, I`ve never met anyone who`s had lessons, but that doesn`t mean to say that all the tutors are bad.”
An interesting project that Steve hopes to fulfill in the future is a book featuring all of his guitars.
“This is something I hope to do next year. There`ll be a few pages of text where I`ll try to write a history of the guitar – from the early days when it was considered a cumbersome unfashionable instrument, up to today`s developments. I want the photographs to be of high quality. When you`ve got a lot of guitars you don`t want to keep them stored away in an attic, you want to kind of release them. You don`t want to give them away because you worked hard to get them and selling them is pretty detrimental.
“I want to keep mine because my son might play guitar. I`ll keep them until I`m old and grey, and I wouldn`t mind being buried with my Gibson 175.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ron Wood, The Sharks, John Cale, Michael Fennelly, John Sebastian, Sparks, John Entwistle, Maggie Bell, CSNY, Scott English, Tommy Aldridge, Tom Scott, John Grimaldi, Brian Robertson, Lorraine Ellison, Tony Visconti.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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