Twangs for the memory

POP Hank Marvin Fairfield Halls, Croydon
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The Independent Culture
When Hank Marvin produces sounds from his red electric guitar he has a look of pleasant surprise on his face as if he's never heard the tune before. Out of the matching red amplifiers come the celestial opening notes of "Wonderful Land" and Hank smiles at the audience with mild astonishment. Is that really me playing that?

A tom-tom drum thuds in the distance and he suddenly finds himself playing "Apache". He's been performing this one for 37 years, yet he can still make it seem like a new composition. The master of the Stratocaster was back in Croydon, still guarding the secret of how he makes those noises so pure and beautiful. When Hank Marvin played "Atlantis" it really did sound like he was at the bottom of the ocean. "Man of Mystery" still sent shivers up the spine.

Here was a man playing the electric guitar as though it had just been invented. He only gave us one clue about how he did it. "This one's got harder strings," he explained during a guitar change. "I'm trying to build up my shoulder muscles." There were lots of jokes like that. Jokes about Croydon. Jokes about Cliff. ("Emily Bronte had such foresight.") Hank Marvin was once asked by Buddy Holly's father for Cliff Richard's autograph. Not sure if this one was a joke or not, but it was a good introduction to his set of Holly covers.

"That'll be the Day", "Oh Boy" and "It Doesn't Matter Any More" were the latest songs to get the Hank Marvin Treatment, which is a sort of honours list for pop music. In this category we also got "Cavatina" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", but it wasn't all guitar instrumentals. Hank and his backing band were pretty good at the vocal harmonies too, and they knocked out a fine country version of Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train".

What people liked best, though, were The Shadows' hits, and he gave us these from time to time all the way through the show. Hank Marvin only had to launch into "FBI" or "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt" and we were whisked back to another era.

Suddenly, it was the early Sixties, when men could impress women merely by kick-starting their motorcycles, bank robbers made their getaways in Commer vans, and brave Russians and Americans hurtled through space in capsules the size of a garden shed.

Hank Marvin was only 19 when he recorded "Apache". You can work out for yourself how old he must be now, but he's still rockin' like a teenager. Even his red guitar looks brand new.