Episode 1 begins with the killing of a huge tree – „bigger than you could ever imagine“. Then it introduces a narrator, situating himself in 1995, who narrates a story that goes back to 1951.

Young orphan boy Bobby Lindley lives on a farm in Illinois with his aunt Buggy. He is obsessed with playing guitar. With his brand-new 1951 telecaster guitar, he enters a musical contest, only to have his guitar broken by his competitors. His aunt repairs the guitar for him using wood from a pulpit that belonged to her late preacher husband.

The wood has some special qualities, first of all its striking looks. Oddly, the repair of the broken neck doesn’t extend to the neck, but grows into the body of the guitar as well.

When Becky, Bobby’s girlfriend, picks up the guitar after the repair and plays seven notes, Bobby steps in to resume his place as its rightful owner. They go on to form a band and write a song – or rather, the song mysteriously rights itself through the guitar.

While playing the song, the place is shaken by an earthquake, and the wood used to repair the guitar grows a branch that extends across the body down to the pickups.

Becky and Bobby eventually marry and settle in Chicago. Bobby, however, fails in starting a career as musician. He attributes the failure to the guitar and drops it on a leaving freight train. Some weeks later, he leaves wife and child to become a L.A. studio musician.

It turns out that the narrator, Terrance Woodridge, is the couple’s son. He hears the story from his mother, in 1975.

The episode is full of hints of what is to come. Not only is the motif of the tree mentioned from the very beginning, brought up again in the wood to repair the guitar, and in Bobby’s dreams. Rebecca plays seven notes on the guitar before Bobby takes it back into his hands. The lead song of the episode, Brimstone Lampfire, starts with the lines „walking through the sacred land – here I stand, axe in hand“, which may refer to the guitar as well as an actual axe, and picks up the motif of the killed tree.

The episode itself has a ring structure centered around the lead song.

  • Intro: killing of the tree
  • A: narrator is introduced
  • B: orphan Bobby comes to live with his aunt
  • C: acquires guitar and breaks it during contest
  • D: guitar is repaired with wood from a pulpit
  • E: band rehearses in the barn
  • X: song played, earthquake
  • E1: barn burns down
  • D1: Move to Chicago, Bobby feels uneasy, dreams about trees
  • C1: Bobby abandons the guitar
  • B1: Bobby leaves his family
  • A1: Narrator reveals that he is Bobby’s and Rebecca’s child

(c) Stephan Küpper