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Mo Foster rock guitar history book will strike a chord

MO FOSTER is best known as a session musician – an accomplished bass player who has performed alongside greats such as Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Hank Marvin, Sting, Cliff Richard and Dusty Springfield.

Session musician and author Mo Foster

MO FOSTER is best known as a session musician – an accomplished bass player who has performed alongside greats such as Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Hank Marvin, Sting, Cliff Richard and Dusty Springfield.

But he has another string to his bow. Launched in London the other day – at a do attended by music industry legends – was Mo’s book British Rock Guitar.

Subtitled “The first 50 years, the musicians and their stories”, it is part autobiography, part rock music history and (in very large part) an anthology of anecdotes collected by the author over the years.

Here – for which we can be thankful – is a musician who lived and worked through the 1960s, 70s and 80s and can remember what happened.

The foreword is by Geordie Hank Marvin. Writing from his home in Australia, The Shadows’ guitar man recalls being told by “an enthusiastic cub reporter” about his idea for a book about the first 20 years of British rock guitar.

Twenty years have become 50, but the book is out – published in the North East by Andrew Peden-Smith and Northumbria Press.

Mo, it seems, had been talking to Graham Forbes, whose book Rock and Roll Tourist came from the same source.

Mo never was a cub reporter. He actually studied physics at the University of Sussex. But as he writes in his introduction: “I have been a studio/touring bass player for most of my life.”

He is a most engaging guide through the half-century of rock guitar, recalling how his musical awakening began in a 1950s Britain starved of excitement and creative opportunity.

At the age of nine, he was “mesmerised” when his teacher brought a recorder into school. He persuaded his parents to buy him one and they presented him with a descant recorder in a white box. He thanked them profusely for the “decent” recorder.

He progressed to violin and then to guitar as Britain was consumed by the American phenomenon known as skiffle, which would-be musicians loved “because they could at last approximate a melodic or rhythmic sound with makeshift instruments and without any real skill.”

It opened the door for other American imports, none more exciting than rock ’n’ roll. Mo’s story is uncannily similar to many who are now legendary figures in British rock.

His book is full of early photos of them, often posing in bedrooms against lurid wallpaper or in back gardens, guitars proudly wielded.

There’s a cracker of Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, who died earlier this year. Wearing sandals, a huge smile and a straw hat, he was snapped in the garden of his grandma’s bungalow in 1960, aged about seven. The patterned guitar wasn’t even his. It belonged to a friend of his uncle.

This is a book you could effortlessly read from cover to cover, but it’s also a good dip-in-and-out book.

To the true music buff, the sections on innovators such as Charlie Watkins (the WEM PA system) and Leo Fender (the Stratocaster guitar) will appeal as much as the bits about the guys who had the hits. But it’s all in there. It’s a real musical mix, well written and very nicely packaged.

:: British Rock Guitar by Mo Foster (Northumbria Press, £24.99).

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