true gripes air-guitarists

Anybody who has been to places where loud music is played will probably have seen air-guitarists. They are the guys down the front who attempt to emulate their guitar heroes on stage by miming on imaginary instruments. With heads shaking and eyes closed, they strum away on pretend Les Pauls and Stratocasters, oblivious of the embarrassment caused to friends and strangers alike.

Most of these men (female air-guitarists are a rare exception) got stuck on page two of Bert Weedon's classic instruction manual, Play in a Day, and it has been downhill ever since. Now they content themselves with imitations, thinking in their heads that they look cool, but in truth resembling someone wringing a chicken's neck.

They are the train-spotters of rock'n'roll. Many of them played along with all the "greats", appearing in their time at performances by Cream, Led Zeppelin and Oasis. Some prefer smaller venues such as pubs, where they take up too much space and manage to spill other people's beer. Others specialise in air-guitar session work, carried out in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Only this latter group may be spared persecution. At least they have the decency to keep their fantasies to themselves. It is the ones who go public that are likely to bring modern music into disrepute. After all, you don't get air-violinists or air-ballerinas, do you?

September 1995 has been a bad month for air-guitarists. Many of them have come unstuck and found themselves exposed as charlatans. This month has been the anniversary of the death, 25 years ago, of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi was one of the undisputed masters of the electric axe, and has always been popular with air-guitarists. But many of them tend to forget that he was left-handed. Now that his music is being played in public places again, they are being humiliatingly caught out. It happened the other day. A strange quacking noise signalled the start of "Voodoo Chile", a famous Hendrix anthem. Suddenly this bloke leapt into action, threw back his head and "played" the song to his friends. Halfway through he realised he was doing it right-handed. His shame knew no bounds.

I know. I was that air-guitarist.