As a child one is drawn to the largest gift under the tree but, as adults, we know the best gifts actually come in tiny boxes of the type that contain jewellery, watches or, in my case, a plectrum.
A plectrum, for those that don’t know, is a thumb-sized slice of plastic, costing approximately ha'penny a piece and sometimes called a ‘pick’. Available in a range of shapes and thicknesses they are designed to make the strumming of a guitar easier and less painful, though they do not make my playing any less painful, especially when compared to my brother. To be fair, he is a professional who grew up on 80s shred-metal whereas I was content to stop learning once I could play 'three chords and the truth’, which is all one required as a 70s punk fan!
My brother is currently touring with a number of bands including that of Emily Cappell, a North-London singer/songwriter with a beehive hairdo and a catchy line in witty, English pop inspired by Joe Strummer, Two Tone and Dolly Parton. Here they are being all rock 'n' roll together on stage last summer...
For reasons as yet unknown to me Emily appears to be best friends with Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols (below, centre right) and, even more astonishingly, legendary sideman Earl Slick (centre)!
More than a musician, a sideman is like the sidekick to your rock hero. Robin to Batman. Silent Bob to Jay or, in our case, Earl Slick to John Lennon and, my personal icon and spirit guide, David Bowie! Yes, from 'David Live' in 1974 to 'The Next Day' in 2013, Slick played for the man on stage and in the studio for nigh on 40 years. He wrote the riff for 'Golden Years' forchrissakes!
I saw Slick play live with Bowie on A Reality Tour in 2003. He is pure spiky-haired, leather-clad, tattoo-covered rock 'n’ roll and was as close to Bowie as any musician after Mick Ronson, which is why my brother knew how much his plectrum would mean to me and asked his boss, Emily, if she could get one for me (thank you Emily!).
So, on Christmas morning, as the children argued over who’s was the biggest gift I dug through the pile to the smallest one and found it was addressed to me. A small jewellery box that might once have contained an engagement ring but now contained a small slice of music history, a ha’penny piece of plastic worth a fortune to me.