We often forget how reliant we are on nature. Trees give us life, literally. And, as it turns out, they give us music and rock 'n' roll.
Chasing my son around Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum was not what I had in mind when we caught the light rail to the Maton Guitar exhibition. But then, every outing with my two pre-school bolters is the same. I had intended to analyse every instrument, read every panel and flick through every book in the gift shop. Alas, that proved impossible but, thankfully, this amazing collection has been extended until January at the Powerhouse.
I wanted to know who held each of these guitars. Whose beads of perspiration had oiled its timber over the years. No dice. Instead, I played bouncer as I tried to deflect my son's attempts to pick up each instrument and pretend to be Anthony from the Wiggles. You have to understand his point of view. It IS instinctive to hold and touch such beautiful instruments.
My three-year-old did suddenly stop and become enchanted with one particularly gorgeous acoustic model, something you could easily imagine Paul McCartney playing. Sebastien stroked the guitar’s shiny finish and plucked a string or two. The sweet and patient attendant gave it a good Covid wipedown and told me not to worry, that this was what she was there for - disinfecting as you go. Turns out the guitar in question was Maton’s handmade Acoustic Premier from 1954, the very first Premier model made by this celebrated Melbourne firm.
One 12-string guitar from the Powerhouses’s permanent collection is particularly evocative for lovers of Australian rock. It comes from the heyday of the Easybeats, who could lay claim to being our own Beatles. Four fresh-faced immigrant boys came together to become pioneering rock ’n’ rollers of the ’60s, the first homegrown band to score hits overseas. Their music was infectious; is it possible to not tap your feet when you hear the first bars of “Friday on my Mind”? Guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young (big brother to AC/DC’s Malcolm and Angus) would go on to become best-selling songwriters for many artists and secure an influential place in musical history.
I'll be going back to the Powerhouse to check out more guitar lore like this... on my own.
If you're stuck and can't get to Sydney, check out the exhibition catalogue here.
Or watch the below videos below and be mesmerised by the art of guitar woodworking.