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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Guitar Man
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2010
I really wanted and expected to like this book a lot. I play a bit of guitar and have always loved guitars and guitar music- Denmark Street is a bit of a Mecca for me- but although it was interesting in places- The history and historical anecdotes were good-it was also annoying in almost equal measure. I really didn't warm to his circle of friends and his encounter with Davey Graham, rather than being funny, I found a bit sad. I think that if you are in, or aspire to be in, the same kind of position in society that the author is (slightly Bohemian, pot smoking, Lower Middle Class)then you would probably enjoy these episodes. I'm not and I don't.
And come on "a friend, whose brother's wife was the cousin of John Entwistle" gave him a suit, because they were wondering who it would fit and he came to mind? Really? Hmmm...
All in all it put me in mind of a rather long magazine article. Which is fine, I guess, not every book can be an awe inspiring classic (although the reviews quoted would have you believe this one is).
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on 18 February 2010
As a man who is in his 30s set out to learn guitar for the first time, I was intrigued to hear that a book had been written on that very topic. So before I begin, I readily admit that I was going to read this book and most likely enjoy it no matter what, but what a joy it turned out to be. Every finger-fumbling error, misconception, realisation of ineptitude and repeated failing through gradual, sometimes tortuous, painstaking improvement to the sweaty-handed nerve-wrecking climax elicited a "Yep... been there" time and time again from me. As someone who felt an immediate affinity with the author and his travails, I absolutely loved the read. It was a total page turner yet I found myself trying not to read too quickly so that it I wouldn't finish the book too quickly. The man writes with such honesty and complete lack of pretension, the book is completely accessible and you feel at the end that you just want to sit down and jam with him. But if you don't play guitar or indeed any instrument, the sheer likeability of Hodgkinson and the sympathy we all feel with someone trying hard to overcome obstacles, with no-one there to criticise if you give up, will grip you anyway. In the end, I got not only a brilliant read and a book I shall keep to revisit many times over the years, but the inspiration to go on with my own string plucking and to continue to take joy in the instrument regardless of my level of (in)expertise. For that, I give Mr. H. many thanks.
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on 26 April 2006
OK, if I'm honest, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book when I was given it, being neither a guitar player nor having any aspirations to learn. However, I was really surprised when I found that I enjoyed it so much I didn't want to put it down - reading on into the night to find out if the author did really achieve what he set out to do - which, frankly seems to be impossibility when he starts out.

Here's the thing though, not only does this book turn out to be a really interesting read, it's also very funny, making you laugh out loud as you find out more, not only about the famous guitar players and their views, but the authors' friends and family (am full of admiration for the long-suffering NJ, don't think I would be so tolerant if my husband dedicated his every waking minute to learning an instrument) and the effect that this new found passion has on their lives.

Can definitely recommend this book, whether or not you have any interest in the guitar.
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on 31 March 2006
I was bought this as a present and, as a budding player was slightly dubious as to what Mr Hodgkinson, (who's hardly a guitar meister), could add to my experience... Well, loads, it transpires! He soon began to feel like a travelling companion who was as enthusiastic about music as me but at the same time as wary of the frustrations of learning. And it was great to see that all guitarists struggle on certain things - even the likes of Roger McGuinn from the Byrds! You also learn a lot about the origins of guitar music and find out about some really interesting musicians (whose music I lok forward to searching out - particularly Bert Jansch who sounds great.) And I won't spoil it for anyone by saying that the book's finale - when the author plays in front of a live audeince - is brilliantly tense, very funny and strangely uplifting. It felt like it would make a great TV documentary.
The writing style is very funny, imaginative and free-flowing, and I found myself racing through it. A must for any aspiring guitarist but more than that, a great read for anyone interested in music and how it is made.
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on 26 March 2006
This is a hugely enjoyable book, as much a page turner as any novel. Hodgkinson, in his 30s with a wife and two kids, decides to learn the guitar in a matter of months, and perform live at the end of it. This creates the narrative thrust of the book - and much of the humour and drama (it's not easy getting a band together when you've got kids to put to bed).
Hodgkinson has been pretty lucky with his teachers - Johnny Marr, Roger McGuinn, Bert Jansch, blues legends, a bunch of muso friends. As well as learning the techniques of playing he tries to discover what lies at the heart of great guitar playing - how a few chords played in the right way manage to sound wondrous. It's a testament to the writing that you are left with a strong urge to go and buy all the songs he has been talking about.
Obviously anyone with an interest in the guitar or music should read this book. But so should anyone who wants to read a story about someone following their dream - cause it's never too late.
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on 21 January 2014
Will Hodgkinson takes us through the start of his love affair with the guitar with a fair dose of humour, some interesting facts and a series of interviews which are in some cases insightful and in other cases a bit of an anti-climax.

There are two main "disconnects" that require you to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy this book. First, it is absolutely not necessary to go on self-indulgent trips to Florida, Mississippi, Graceland, The Grand Ole Opry and New York in order to learn how to play the guitar. Had Will's aim really been to learn to play the guitar in six months, he would have been far better off spending 5 - 6 hours a day studying boring chord charts and listening to guitarists and trying to copy them. This is what most of us saddos do. However, that wouldn't have made for a very interesting book!

Second, Will is no Ordinary Joe, he is the privately educated son of well-to-do parents and is now chief rock critic with The Times. The confidence that a private education buys has been well used by Will to blag his way to interviews with an impressive array of well-known guitarists. (The only blip occurs when he finds himself lining up to get Les Paul's autograph and realises he is just another punter shelling out cash for the privilege of meeting a legend. You almost expect him to say "do you know who I am?"). Will freely admits that his background is not that of the classic rock musician and one senses that he is not cut from the same cloth as Billy Childish or James Williamson.

Once you accept these points and the fact that the "I need to learn to play the guitar in six months" idea is just a framework around which to hang a travelogue, a series of interviews, a personal odyssey and a selective history of the guitar, you can focus on the large number of enjoyable aspects to this book. In short, it is funny, personable, well written and interesting.

There were one or two bits near the beginning where I thought this was going to be a diary interspersed with excerpts from Wikipedia, but the book soon settled into a nice rhythm of personal anecdote, interviews and interesting information.

As a guitarist of 40 years, it was nice to learn a bit about playing approaches and techniques and the book made me want to listen again to pieces I hadn't heard for a long time by guitarists as diverse as Bert Jansch and James Williamson.

Will gets a few good quotes out of some of the guitarists he meets. My favourite was from Johnny Marr: "Marc Bolan recycled Chuck Berry and Howlin' Wolf riffs and made them inauthentic by sticking a Gothic minor chord in the middle of them, which no Delta blues man would dare do for fear of being accused of homosexuality." Minor chord = gay. Classic!

Overall, an entertaining read and thoroughly recommended.
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on 21 March 2007
If you play guitar you will like this. If you dont, but you like good music, you probably will also like it. It is interesting throughout and loses a star for being whimsical rather than funny at times, but dont let that put you off.

Most mortals find playing the guitar difficult, are frustrated because they cant afford the guitar their hero has and are tired of the fumbled chord changes and tuneless flappings that accompany their attempts to improve.

The author is no different but shows that this happens even if you have lessons from some of the worlds best guitarists.

People willing to laugh at themselves generally make a good job of this sort of book and Will Hodgkinson proves that.
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on 7 April 2006
I really loved this book; even though I never considered myself to be interested in guitars or guitarists, Will Hodgkinson's enthusiasm is infectious - by the time you get to the point where he's buying his first instrument, you're really gripped by which one he's going to choose. He has managed to get some truly legendary players to collaborate on the project, but perhaps more interestingly, some maverick eccentrics. Some of them are people who have been unjustly overlooked, and he really allows them to convey their passion in their own words. buy this book! it's great.
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on 25 March 2006
Will hodgkinson's story of his journey into the world of the guitar is a charming and often hilarious one. I never considered myself to be at all interested in guitars or guitarists, but his enthusiasm is infectious, and the account so engagingly written that you find yourself completely involved, to the extent that when he comes to buy his first guitar, it's a real cliff hanger which one he's going to go for. Will Hodgkinson has managed to persuade some truly legendary guitarists to collaborate with him on the project, not just the very famous, but perhaps more interestingly, the maverick eccentrics. He has really got them to explore their passion for the instrument, and allows them the opportunity to convey it in their own words. Very enjoyable.
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on 24 April 2006
Hodgkinson tends to ramble off on tangents quite a bit, but overall this is a very interesting and funny read. It also rings horribly true.

In case you haven't seen any reviews - it's an autobiography about a man in the UK, in his mid 30's who knows a fair bit about guitars and who loves guitar music - but now he decides he wants to learn to play. He is inspired by hearing 'Anji' and vows to make a public performance in 6 months time. The book charts his progress and his encounters with a wide range of amateur and professional players - including Davey Graham and Bert Jansch.

Anyone who is just starting to learn to play the guitar will appreciate this book because they will suddenly realise that others have trod the same, often painful paths and hit the same problems and pitfalls - including going into a guitar shop to buy a first instrument and then feeling utterly demoralised by everyone else there who seems able to play anything and everything.

Anyone who can already play will be reminded of their early days and they will smile wryly at his descriptions of a wife who can't stand his early efforts and his son who can only cry when he launches into his first practice pieces.

Anyone who is an expert player will be reminded of the need for patience and empathy when trying to explain to a beginner about the rudiments of playing.

And anyone who loves the guitar will rejoice that somone has at last written a book that is not only full of facts but also looks at both the pleasures and pains of the instrument. For this quality alone, Hodgkinson can be forgiven his occasionally wandering text.

Oh - and if you want a couple of images from the book that are now seared indelibly into my imagination - how about the author finding refuge in a large hollow tree in a wood and trying to practice - only to have his reveries disrupted by (how shall I put it?) - doggy leftovers? Or how about going to an open-air festival with a friend whose mother, instead of packing him a tent, packs him a child's, easy-assembly Wendy House?
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