The first song I ever learned on the guitar was "Stairway to Heaven." Big surprise. Isn't that the song everyone first learns on guitar? Well, that's what I thought until I started teaching high school and I realized that no one was learning that song anymore in their guitar instruction. In fact, none of students had even heard the song. Really? Who hasn't heard of Led Zeppelin?
I wasn't a huge Zeppelin fan when I was a teenager. They were slightly before my time, but every musician I knew practically worshipped the band. So I learned to listen to their music too.
For the entire summer of 1987, I was staying with my family in Tennessee. Music lessons were cheaper there, so I decided this was a the perfect time to learn to play guitar. My grandmother took me down to the local music store and signed me up. When I first met my guitar teacher, T (no names mentioned here), I nearly jumped for joy. He was exactly what I thought a guitar teacher should look like. He had long, black hair teased on top in the style of all the heavy metal musicians of the late 80s. I was obsessed with Whitesnake, Motley Crue, and Poison at that time, and he fit my image of what a rocker should be.
For the next year and a half, I made every effort to get to Tennessee (six hours away from my home in DC) to take guitar lessons. Every holiday, school break, and family event was an opportunity to squeeze in a lesson. Despite the fact that T was twenty-five and I was fifteen, we became good friends. We wrote letters back and forth and even spoke on the phone a few times. My family seemed slightly concerned, but they just chocked it up to me having a teenage crush and him being flattered by my attention.
It wasn't until the fall of my junior that the kiss happened. I was sixteen by then and convinced I was in love and that there was somehow a chance we could end up together. A hug progressed into a kiss, and afterwards he asked me not to tell anyone it had happened. Of course I wasted no time in publishing the news to each and every one of my friends who immediately began planning my underaged wedding.
Within a few months, I stopped hearing from him. He was engaged to someone else (my grandmother sent me the newspaper clipping with the engagement announcement). Never one to pass up an opportunity for romantic drama, I demonstrated my heartbreak by listening to the hardest and angriest metal music I could find and swearing off love forever. I would never love again.
I would, of course, but in the meantime I returned to my obsession with David Coverdale, Rudy Sarzo, and Adrian Vandenburg from the Led Zeppelin-inspired band, Whitesnake.
Do you remember your first love?