Roger Waters studio bass*

IF you are enough of a Roger Waters fan to be reading this filler post, you might want to head over to @deadskinboy on instagram and follow his profile. He often posts fantastic, intimate and detailed pictures of Roger, which I gather he takes himself.

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I wont post too much from his account, because it’s not mine to use, but he did post an image recently which piqued my interest, which I thought I’d share.

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This is Roger, apparently in the studio, playing a bass which has been previously unseen in connection with him. No reason to assume it’s his, but for a gearhead, it’s certainly an interesting change. Perhaps he is taking a step away from the sound of the Duncan quarter-pounders in his original Precision, or perhaps this is an occasion of convenience. Time will tell!

Mike Oldfield’s Pink Fender Stratocaster

strat_1961_1Frequently spoken of by the man as his favourite guitar, Mike Oldfield owned this Strat from 1984 to 2007.

It is a 1963 Strat, serial number L08044, in fiesta red (visibly a very pink looking red, perhaps due to finish fading, perhaps due to a non-factory refinish either before or after original sale) over sunburst. During the time it was owned by Mike, it was used on 15 albums, and consistently for live work and music videos as well.

Mike has been known to use modified guitars (his 1959 sunburst Strat has an extra two way switch between the original pickup selector switch and the middle tone, a common mod for extra pickup combinations), But it seems from pictorial evidence that this is a completely stock Stratocaster, with the exception of the fact that the volume knob has apparently been exchanged for one of the tone knobs, perhaps because the numbers have worn off the volume.

It was reportedly last used during rehearsals for the 2006 Night of the Proms in Antwerp (this is borne out by photographs of these rehearsals), before it was sold via Chandler guitars to a fan for 30,000 pounds.

The pictures below are in chronological order, and show that the Strat picked up a little more cosmetic damage while in regular use by Mike. More pictures are available at http://tubular.net/instruments/

 

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“To France” video, 1984

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“Tricks of the Light” video, 1984

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“Tricks of the Light” video, 1984

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“Tubular Bells II” Premiere, 1992

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“Tubular Bells II” premiere, 1992

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“Tubular Bells III” premiere, 1998

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“The Millennium Bell” Premiere, 1999

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Night of the Proms rehearsals, 2006

 

Pete Townshend’s Guitars at Desert Trip

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I’ve talked about Pete’s Lace Sensor Stratocasters before, but this year has marked a more substantial change up in his guitars than we’ve seen for about twenty five years!

Gibson recently reissued a Pete Townshend signature Les Paul deluxe, and Pete has been playing one of these onstage, fitted with two Gibson mini-humbuckers and a piezo acoustic pickup.

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Even more interesting however, according to the official tour blog, in early September, Pete received some new Strats!

“Pete now has a pair of new Fender Stratocasters made with Gibson “mini-humbucker” pickups, the pickups he used throughout the 1970s. This gives his modern Stratocaster style has a bit more of that old WHO sound. In the olden days, Gibsons were naturally heavier and nastier than Fender guitars, but modern electronics have made Pete’s current Fenders superstrong, and wide-ranging beasts. He has a dozen sounds he gets from just working the guitar itself. He’s also been a proponent of an “acoustic” sound from the guitar; his electric guitars have a special pickup that simulates the strummy sound of an acoustic guitar. He likes to mix the two quite often, and has had this setup for many years now. It’s a unique thing that almost no one else is doing consistently.”*

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*You can read the blog at https://www.thewho.com/september-11-2016-oberhausen-arena-hall-oberhausen-germany/

Routing a Strat for humbuckers.

Last month, I posted a short entry talking about Andy Fairweather Low’s Humbucker Stratocasters, and frankly I’ve been more and more a fan of his work and in particular his extremely idiosyncratic guitar playing. So I thought a similar guitar would be an interesting project.

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Earlier this week, I received the parts in the mail to complete the project and since the routing procedure I had to perform was a little out of the ordinary for a home job, I thought I’d do a short post on it.

To begin with, I had a black Jimmy Vaughan signature Strat, and a fitting tremolo hanging around, originally intended to take some gold lace sensors.

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Needless to say, when I decided on humbuckers instead, the routing wasn’t exactly perfect to accommodate them, so a little woodwork was required.

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I decided to use a small handheld belt sander, to get into the small cavity of the route, without risking any cosmetic damage to the rest of the body.

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It’s easy enough to remove small ‘slices’ of wood from the center to the edge of the route (also possible to do it much more time-efficiently, but arguably with more risk using a chisel), and open up the entire section.

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In the end, I opted for a ‘swimming-pool’ style route because the pickups were yet to arrive and I wasn’t sure of the exact spacing of the custom pickguard.

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I installed the tremolo and the neck and finally, a couple of weeks later, the pickguard showed up in the post. Pre-wired and custom designed to my request by Sigler Music and their 920d custom shop*

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One snag in the plan was the humbucker mounting.

These particular humbuckers are Seymour Duncan Antiquities, in my opinion, the most pleasant sounding (non-custom wound) humbuckers on the market, harking back to theose ideal vintage Les Paul tones.

That said, they’re designed to be mounted in a Les Paul, and a LP has a deeper route for the mounts than a standard Strat.

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My solution, as you can see, was to clip off the deep screw-tips, which leaves the pickups at the perfect depth on the bottom of the route. Of course, If you were feeling brave, you could always drill some deeper holes in the body for the screws, but personally, I’d not be comfortable drilling that close to the tremolo cavity.

As it turns out, I ended up raising the pickups quite a lot anyway, so there remains a substantial portion of screw for adjustment.

Finally, all was mounted perfectly (humbuckers supplying the nice change of not having to attach the ground wires to the trem claw and shielding paint), and after some new strings, it was time for that all-important first photo!

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And that all-important first song:

 

* You can find the ‘Sigler Music‘ page of loaded pickguard options at:
http://www.siglermusiconline.com/collections/920d-loaded-pickguards
They’re a fantastic company, and have always been more than willing to accommodate any requests I’ve had at extremely affordable prices.

Andy Fairweather Low’s Stratocasters

401px-Andy_Fairweather-LowIn his career as one of the most reputable session guitarists in the world*, Andy Fairweather Low has used many different guitars. From the late eighties/early nineties, as a part of Eric Clapton’s (and in 1991, George Harrison’s) band, he used Eric Clapton signature guitars with Lace Sensors almost exclusively, but he has since stated in interviews

“I never got on with the lace sensor pickups. I found some old humbuckers and actually, some new P90s. I like the sound they make.”

I have yet to see any evidence of his P90 guitars, but for a long period beginning in the late nineties, he was often seen with some Eric Clapton Strat’s, heavily modified with these Humbuckers.

There is little more to be said about these guitars, except that he appears to have had at least five different versions, two each in Black and Olympic White, fitted with either one or two Humbuckers, and a red version with three, as seen at the ‘Concert for George’ .

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For anyone interested in seeing and hearing his Black Strat in action, check out his amazing solo in ‘Money’ from Roger Waters’ ‘In the Flesh – Live’ DVD.

 

*Andy has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, The Band, Richard and Linda Thompson, Dave Gilmour, The Who and Pete Townshend, BB King, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Jimmy Page, Ronnie Lane, Linda Ronstadt, Roddy Frame, Emmylou Harris, Joe Satriani, the Bee Gees, Jeff Beck, The Impressions, Lonnie Donegan, Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, David Sanborn, Benmont Tench, Warren Zevon, Charlie Watts, Mary J. Blige, Dave Edmunds, Georgie Fame, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush, Phil Collins, Van Morrison, Gerry Rafferty, Chris Rea, Buddy Guy, Chris Barber, Jackson Browne, Bill Wyman and Sheryl Crow, amongst others.

Review: Fender Japan Rosewood Telecaster

I’ve got kind of a thing for Rosewood. Personally, I think the most beautiful guitars in the world are the all-rosewood Fenders, and it seems like of the various models, the most famous has to be George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster.

Of course, it’s not cheap to get your hands on one of the original 60’s production run, and still almost prohibitively expensive to pick from the present day Custom shop offerings. But the Japanese Rosewood telecasters are pretty plentiful, and very reasonably priced in comparison to other Japanese Fenders.

Naturally, there are some ‘interesting’ design features which separate these models from the more upmarket models (and their pricepoints).

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Firstly and most obviously, these guitars could never be produced at this cost with full rosewood bodies. So while the headstock face, fretboard and front and back of the body are covered with a rosewood veneer, the bulk of the neck and body wood is basswood.

The veneer seems to be bookmatched, and looks absolutely amazing. Ever since seeing George play his in the Let it Be movie, I’ve thought of these models as one of my dream guitars, and I lost my breath a little when I opened the gigbag on this one.

The model in the pictures is gloss finished, but they are also readily available in a matte finish (more like George’s) if the buyer is more that way inclined. The gloss finish also covers the fretboard, so if you like the feel of a vintage MAPLE fretboard (although this is clearly a VERY contentious issue), you’ll love this.

The full black paint on the rear of the neck and the body sides is also going to be a sore point for some people, but even if you hate it, it’s never going to be that noticeable in the dim lights of an ordinary stage setting.Picture1

So cosmetically, this is a fantastic guitar. But how does it hold up as a players instrument? Well to be honest, the answer IMHO is a resounding “Okay, I guess”.

Let me start by saying that on stage or on record, you’d be hard pressed to hear a difference between this or any other vintage Tele, and after all, these claim to come fitted with USA vintage Tele pickups. So sound wise, there’s no problem at all. But like a stereotypical starlet, gorgeous and seductive-sounding as she might be, a guitar is only capable of saying what you ask it to, and this is not the kind of guitar that makes that operation feel inspiring.

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The tuners are the vintage-style Fender ‘F’ stamped tuners, and (although I can’t speak as to whether this is the case for all ‘F’ tuners, or just these Japanese reproductions) they don’t hold tune particularly well. I’ve gigged a few times with this guitar and I find it holds tune less well than any of my Strats, and I’m a heavy trem user.

But machine heads are easy to replace. Not so simple to remedy is the fact that while the basswood may sound great, it doesn’t feel good. This again may be a matter of personal taste, because the result of this is that the whole guitar is extremely lightweight (There is almost as much difference between my Rosewood Tele and any of my Strats as there is between those same Strats and my Les Paul). But to me, that makes the whole thing feel a little too cheap and lacking in resonance.

Try as I might to get over this issue, this guitar never inspires me to play it particularly. Despite the fact that it sits in pride of place in my music room, I almost always find myself walking past it to reach for something else.

And yet…

Personally, I kind of regret selling my Squier Classic Vibe Tele to pay for the Rosewood, but I rarely play a Tele anyway owing to the fact that I miss having a trem arm, so the kind of “players inspiration” I am talking about isn’t necessarily the requirement it seems like it should be. If I ever have a part I want to play on a Telecaster, this one will deliver the sound in spades, and I have to admit that every time I pick it up, I smile a little at the fact that I’m holding one of my dream guitars.

You can make your own call on what that says about me, but I won’t be getting rid of this guitar any time soon. And I don’t think anything else is going to replace it on the wall. Just make sure you have your priorities in order before you buy one 😛

 

(Apologies for the high contrast on some of these pictures. It’s a 42 degree day in Adelaide and my phone isn’t the best camera in the world.)

 

George Harrison’s Beatle Guitars

George Harrison owned and played many guitars in his career, particularly in his time after The Beatles, when he amassed a sizeable collection. This post simply aims to catalogue the important electric guitars George used during the Beatle days, with a little information about each.

Please note, there are a couple of items missing from the list, because their importance in Beatle history is negligible or debatable, such as the Coral Sitar-Guitar or Gretsch custom 12-string which George owned in the 60’s. Additionally, the guitars are not necessarily presented in the order they found favour with George.

Futurama.

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Bought on hire-purchase beginning November 1959. George’s first Beatle guitar. Eventually, George gave this guitar up as a prize to a Beatle fan competition.

Gretsch Duo Jet.

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George’s “first good guitar”. His Gretsch Duo Jet is a 1957 model, bought in 1961 in Liverpool second-hand.  This was his main guitar through the Hamburg and Cavern Club days, and he took it to America and Europe with him when touring in 1964.

Gretsch Country Gentleman.

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In 1963, George acquired his first Gretsch Country Gentleman, owning a second before the year was through. The two models are almost indistinguishable from each other apart from the different methods of strung muting. His first employed a pair of “screw down” mutes either side of the Bridge, while the second, a newer model, was fitted with “flip up” mutes, which could be activated by switches placed in the same position.

Rickenbacker 425.

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George picked up a Rickenbacker 425 when visiting his sister in the US in 1963. Although he didn’t use it as much as his other Rickenbackers, he liked it enough to have a second pickup installed later.

Maton.

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1963 was a good year for George’s guitar collection. He picked up a Maton while one of his Country Gents was being repaired, and retained it for at least a few shows.

Gretsch Tennessean.

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During their run of Christmas shows in 1963/64, George gained a Gretsch Tennessean. He would use this guitar prominently through 1964/65.

Rickenbacker 12 strings.

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George Playing his Casino. The original Rickenbacker 12 string lies on the table, the newer model is in the foreground.

In 1964/65, George would acquire two Rickenbacker 12 strings. The first with a flat top and front and back binding, and the second with rounded contours and binding on the rear only. It appears (visible in the third image above) that the contoured model had a stereo output, while the earlier one had a regular single output jack.

Fender Stratocaster “Rocky”.

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During the recording of the “Help!” album in 1965, George and John each bought near identical sonic blue Fender Stratocasters (they would later both use them to record the solo on “Nowhere Man” in unison). George’s would later receive a handsome paint job and the name “Rocky”, becoming one of his most famous guitars after it’s appearance in the Magical Mystery Tour film.

Epiphone Casino.

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After admiring the Epiphone Casino Paul bought the previous year, John and George each acquired their own in 1966. All three were easily distinguishable by different bridges or tremolos, and Paul’s had an older-style headstock shape.

Gibson ES-345

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In late 1965, George was reportedly loaned a Gibson ES-345 by one of the Moody Blues, after one of his Country Gentlemen was lost off the back of a car between gigs. Whether the loan is a fiction or not, he certainly used one around this period, but not for long, and although it appears in a surprisingly large number of clips and live performances given it’s time frame, he seems to have either ditched it or given it back. Perhaps consistently with the fact that it wasn’t actually his, It’s also rumoured that he never recorded with it.

Gibson SG.

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George bought a new guitar for the “Revolver” sessions. A humbucker-fitted Gibson SG with a Vibrola tremolo system. Perhaps influenced by Eric Clapton’s use of a similar guitar at the time. This guitar would share the position of George’s favourite guitar with his Stratocaster, until it was replaced by a gift from Clapton himself…

Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”.

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In 1968, Eric Clapton returned from a trip to the US with a gift for George; A Cherry red Gibson Les Paul, which George named “Lucy” after redheaded actress Lucille Ball. This guitar would replace the SG, which became unused and was given by George to Pete Ham of the band Badfinger. “Lucy” would find it’s way back into Clapton’s hands (briefly) when he used it to record the guitar solo on “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” for the White Album sessions. Used heavily for George’s remaining time with the group, it would also later provide the lead sounds (under George’s fingertips) for (amongst others) the song “Something” on Abbey Road.

Fender Rosewood Telecaster.

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Finally, in 1969 Fender gave George a prototype all-rosewood Telecaster. This became his main guitar for the Let it Be sessions (making history as George’s instrument for the infamous rooftop concert at the film’s climax) and likely found it’s way onto Abbey Road as well.