I’ve got to be honest and say I’ve never been able to get my head round this one; why do musicians (particularly guitarists) trash their instruments?  I mean when did you ever see a conductor shred his baton or a ventriloquist decapitate his dummy as a finale?

It’s all Pete Townsend’s fault because he smashed up a Rickenbacker guitar in September 1964 and claimed it was part of his manifesto as a disciple of auto-destructive art; so what’s that funny smell?  I mean it’s not possible that it was just a bit of stage business designed to create a buzz and get people talking about The Who, is it?  So he then spent years destroying guitars (which were more often than not cobbled together from previously-trashed instruments).  Obviously, Keith Moon didn’t need any encouragement to embrace this destructive trend, but that’s another story (actually, it’s several other stories).

So, who’s next?  Someone who didn’t need to resort to any of that nonsense, that’s who; James Marshall Hendrix.  This was a man who didn’t need any gimmicks, but somehow felt the need to show how natural his ability was by playing with his teeth and behind his head.  So when he followed The Who on the bill at Monterey Pop, he had to go one higher so, obviously, he sprayed his Stratocaster with lighter fuel and set fire to it.  As cremation attempts go it was about as successful as Phil Kaufman’s efforts at Joshua Tree, but everyone was talking about Jimi Hendrix and the imitators were queuing up.  Ritchie Blackmore, master of subtlety, pretty soon added Stratocaster destruction to his palette of sophisticated onstage techniques.

If you’re looking for some truly bizarre instrument abuse, then Keith Emerson’s your man.  His big turn in the ‘70s was sticking knives into his organ (his Hammond organ, keep it clean) but unfortunately it always survived to inflict more prog-rock torture on unsuspecting loon-panted male adolescents.  Even the punks got in on the act.  One of the most iconic album covers of all time has a cover picture of a very angry Paul Simonon trying to demolish a Rickenbacker bass.  Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve played a Rickenbacker bass and they’re heavy and built to withstand everything short of a nuclear holocaust.  By the time he’d finally trashed it, Pennie Smith had got the original film developed and printed and the rest of The Clash were halfway to the next gig.  Almost inevitably, Kurt Cobain had to get in on the act as well, extending his self-loathing to his guitars during Nirvana gigs in the ‘90s.

Has anyone noticed yet what all of these musical vandals have in common?  You got it, that Y chromosome; it’s a macho thing, isn’t it?  It’s also an insult to anyone who ever worked hard and saved hard to buy their guitars, drums and keyboards to see performers destroying instruments just to wind up an audience.  Here’s an idea; why don’t we introduce fines for this offence the way they do for racquet abuse in tennis.  Not looking so smug now are we, Matt Bellamy?

And what if Townsend smashed the first guitar because he didn’t realise the roof was so low?