Left Hander’s Day: 6 Southpaw British Rock Stars

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath (Pic: Steve C. Mitchell/Invision/AP)

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath (Pic: Steve C. Mitchell/Invision/AP)

It’s Left Hander’s Day, a chance for the 10% (or thereabouts) of people who leave inky smudges across the page and find tin-openers and scissors to be counter-intuitive and frustrating to celebrate the internal wiring of their own brains.

Let’s start the celebrations with a little note for guys who work in guitar shops. Fellas, we know you mean well, we know you only have the best interests of your customers at heart, but unless you know what it is like to be left-handed and trying to learn an instrument that appears to resent the way you hold it, maybe your advice isn’t going to be all that useful.

By which I mean we have definitely amassed enough examples of people who learned to play the guitar left-handedly and did quite well out of it—Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, for starters—for you to give up telling all southpaw fret-fanciers to just learn to play the same way everyone else does. Y’know the reason why left-handers can’t just do things the way right-handed people do? It’s because they’re left-handed.

And if Kurt and Jimi aren’t good enough, why not try one of this sinistral six instead?

Paul McCartney

Oh yeah, he’ll do, won’t he? The single most accomplished musician of the rock and pop era in terms of record sales and cultural impact combined (Justin Bieber is also left-handed). Just imagine what he could have achieved if he had stuck to playing right-handedly. What worlds he could have conquered with his mighty muse, what galaxies of talent he could have tapped into. Ah well, we shall never know what we have missed.

Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

Basically invented heavy metal, playing not just back to front, but with plastic fingertips too. This dude is a dude, dude.

Robin and Ali Campbell (UB40)

Even taking into account the fact that they’re brothers, how many bands can you think of that have boasted two cack-handed guitarists to one right-handed bass player? That’s a full reverse-Beatle.

Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals)

Quite apart from being a supremely gifted songwriter, Gruff deserves a special mention because he plays right-handed guitars upside-down, unlike most of the other people on this list, who either favor a right-handed instrument with left handed strings on (fattest at the top, thinnest at the bottom) or pure left-handed instruments. Still it didn’t do Bobby Womack any harm.

Phil Collins

Not just a left-handed guitarist, but a left-handed drummer too, which thankfully requires no special equipment, you just put the kit together back-to-front and commence thwacking.

But don’t be fooled by:

• Noel Gallagher, Robert Fripp, Elvis Costello, Gary Moore, Chris Martin, David Bowie, Chris Rea, Wilko Johnson or Mark Knopfler. Natural lefties all, these men learned to play right-handedly, because that is what felt most natural to them. And why shouldn’t they?

• The Muppets

Not British, obv, but did you know Janice and Floyd from the Doctor Teeth band are left-handed, as are Kermit and Scooter whenever they play instruments? It’s because it is easier for right-handed puppeteers to make it look like they are playing properly. And why can’t they do it the other way around? Because they’re right-handed.

See more: 
Snapshot: 14 Photos of British Rock Stars’ Grown Children
Six Iconic Instruments That Built British Rock
(Up To) Eleven Of The Greatest British Rocker T-Shirts
Five Great British Rock Stars In Horrendous TV Commercials

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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