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And then, try a little tenderness:
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1. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.
2. YOUR GUITAR IS NOT REALLY A GUITAR Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.
3. PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A BUSH Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. WALK WITH THE DEVIL Old delta blues players referred to amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts demons and devils. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. IF YOU’RE GUILTY OF THINKING, YOU’RE OUT If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. NEVER POINT YOUR GUITAR AT ANYONE Your instrument has more power than lightning. Just hit a big chord, then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CHURCH KEY You must carry your key and use it when called upon. That’s your part of the bargain. Like One String Sam. He was a Detroit street musician in the fifties who played a homemade instrument. His song “I Need A Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another church key holder is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty making you want to look up her dress to see how he’s doing it.
8. DON’T WIPE THE SWEAT OFF YOUR INSTRUMENT You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.
10. YOU GOTTA HAVE A HOOD FOR YOUR ENGINE Wear a hat when you play and keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a wet paper towel around it to make it grow.
A perfect compliment to Jad Fair’s “How To Play Guitar”
I met the cinematographer of FACES, Al Ruban, yesterday. He told me he didn’t know why anyone would speak to an audience before a movie was shown. I met his wife, too. She concurred. So, I’m respectfully asking that you not listen to a single word I’m about to say…
“Cassavetes movies often deal with opposite extremes. Love and hate, joy and misery, lust and repulsion, respect and derision. These feelings exist as one for Cassavetes. And these opposing forces are overlaid on the actors, so the actors themselves are double exposures.
“There is no symbolism or metaphor—everything is what it is. Cassavetes tries to show life and people for what they are—the true nature.
“And the result—the result is a Marx Brothers movie as re-enacted by the skinned, plasticized bodies of the Bodies Exhibit whose corpses are creeping around the country as I speak.
“Drama and film are also two extremes Cassavetes works with. One is physical, one ghostly. A lot of the earliest talking movies were plays captured onto film. The actors were just this—captured. You get mad when no one ever leaves a house and hops in a car and is seen driving away. Trapped.
“Cassavetes comes from a strong background of live drama and improv. In his movies he smashes through this wall between the physical and the ghostly, to make physical movies. Live movies. Movies that seem to be improvising anew with each viewing.
“FACES holds you down underground in a boozy night that never ends. And when it does end and sunlight hits Jeannie square in the face, she cries.
“Sunlight also finds Maria unconscious, as good as dead on the bathroom floor. But seconds later Jeannie wears the biggest smile in the movie. And minutes later, back from the dead, Maria is wanting a smoke.
“It’s this unbending voracity for life that hits the hardest.”