Roger Waters’ Black Fender Stratocaster

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During the “Us and Them” Tour, Roger has been playing what appears to be a vintage Fender Stratocaster on a few tracks. There isn’t much information online, but it’s clearly a well-worn instrument, which if it’s a genuine Fender, suggests either a custom shop model or a real vintage instrument. There doesn’t seem to be a CS logo in pictures, so my bet would be on the latter.

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The small headstock and Transition logo suggest a 60’s instrument, earlier than the large headstock came in (very late ’65). To my knowledge, Fender don’t produce anything like this guitar at the moment.

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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!

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.

Guitar of the Day 06/12/2015

Snowy White’s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.

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Many people know Snowy from his work in other bands such as Thin Lizzy, or for his work with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters over the years. Whether in his capacity as a backup guitarist or as a solo performer in his own right, his Goldtop was always by his side.

The instrument has undergone many changes, some of which are:

  • New Wiring
  • New Bridge (Gift from Peter Green)
  • Refret
  • Out of phase pickup selection. (Originally via a toggle switch on the back, now changed to a pull/push pot in the bridge tone position.

After 45 years of service with Snowy, the guitar was auctioned in early 2015, selling for almost US$95,000.

Premier Guitar did a fantastic interview with Snowy (as well as the other guitarists) during Roger Waters’ “The Wall Live” tour, as part of their “Rig Rundown” series, which you can find here.

Review: Roger Waters’ “Amused to Death”

I don’t write very many reviews.

This is, at least in part, due to the fact that I have a strong tendency to wonder why anyone should care what I think. Of course, I can’t answer that for you.

Having said that…

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Once in a while an album comes along which demands to be spoken about, particularly when it seems to be neglected by the masses. Roger Waters’ Amused to Death certainly filled that criteria when it was first released in 1992, and it remains to be seen how its 2015 reissue will be received publicly.

Certainly, the discrepancy between the sales of Roger’s solo career and that of the ‘Pink Floyd’ he left behind would be weighted rather differently if the works produced by both were judged on musical merit alone, even moreso if they were judged on lyrical content. Your mileage may vary, but to me this seems to speak of the worrying tendency of the modern listener (indeed, of any modern consumer) to allow so much of their taste to be dictated by brand, rather than the product itself. A cursory look at almost any current music video should instantly reveal what the true focus is. If you can perform this test and still claim it’s the music or lyrics, you’re a less cynical person than I.

This is the age of the video medium, where image is everything. Why put money into selling a ground-breaking album and risk a loss when trotting out the same dull shit as before with a shinier gloss will yield a more lucrative return?

Though he was making a slightly different point, Neil Postman noted in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death that the medium is everything.

            “While I do not know exactly what content was once carried in the smoke signals of the American Indians, I can safely assume it did not include philosophical argument. Puffs of smoke are insufficiently complex to express ideas on the nature of existence…

…You cannot use smoke to do philosophy. Its form excludes the content.

…it is impossible to imagine that anyone like our twenty-seventh President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred-pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today’s world. The shape of a man’s body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or, for that matter, in smoke signals. But it is quite relevant on television. The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech. For on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, rather than words…

…You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content.”

This message clearly resonated with Roger Waters, since ultimately Postman’s book would inform recurring themes on the album, even to the point of borrowing the title Amused to Death.

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Of course, the idea expressed in this title was not entirely new. A favourite of Waters’ (and indeed, Postman’s) was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in which he lamented the idea that, far from the tale of subjugation in George Orwell’s oft-compared 1984, the human race would be only too happy to be exploited by the government in ignorance, minds occupied with the instant pleasures of the modern age, and unconcerned with world events or the lives of fellow human beings.

These are the images that Roger Waters’ Amused to Death paints in such vivid colour.

This is not an album for the passing fancier of throwaway pop. This is serious music.

Waters holds back no punches as he sings of man’s greed, the invocation of God to exploit those who believe, the horrors of war and the horrors of a world where war can be packaged as a consumable on television and of course, as always, empathy.

It seems that throughout his career, some people have always been quick to denounce Roger’s lyrics as dark and cynical, offering nothing to lighten the heart. He quite often, therefore, suffers the injustice of being labelled a depressive lyricist when nothing could be further from the truth. The strength in Roger’s lyrics comes from an ever-present theme of human compassion and understanding, in the face of the worst the human race has to offer. He once said himself that his line “Strangers passing in the street, by chance do separate glances meet. And I am you and what I see is me.” heard on Echoes represented a theme which continued throughout his work to the present day. His openness about such humanitarian issues is almost unparalleled in popular music and this is never more evident in his work than on very personal albums like The Wall, The Final Cut and Amused to Death.

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In Too much Rope, he sings of an image of a soldier returning to Vietnam to survey the destruction his endeavours helped to cause:

              “What does it mean, this tender TV, this tearjerking scene beamed into my home? You don’t have to be a Jew to disapprove of murder. Tears burn my eyes. Muslim or Christian, Mullah or Pope, preacher or poet, who was it wrote ‘give any one species too much rope and they’ll fuck it up’?”.

Unremarkably, considering how plainly the words are written, one never gets the sense that they aren’t heartfelt. Roger Waters is not a man to shy away from wearing his heart on his sleeve. And without a doubt his voice gets put through its paces. There’s no autotune or electronic trickery to be found here. Just honest and incredibly emotionally charged performance.

This is true of the other musicians as well. P.P. Arnold does a stellar vocal turn on part 2 of Perfect Sense, (in which a stadium joins in a chorus of ‘Can’t you see, it all makes perfect sense. Expressed in dollars and sense, pounds shillings and pence.’). Lead guitar duties are shared throughout by Jeff Beck and Steve Lukather, with Beck lending technically proficient and eerily vocal like solos to no less than seven tracks*.

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It would be easy to say that the final (and title) track is one of the finest of Waters’ career, but frankly the same could be said about almost every other track as well. With no exaggeration, this album truly represents one of the most individual, skilled and honest songwriters in the world at the peak of his abilities. Which is not a statement intended, by any means, to play down the role of the music or other musicians, on this front, too, the album is superlative. Yet when each song presents such a strong, truthful view of the world of its time, however depressing it may be (and remain; the themes of the album are perhaps even more relevant today than they were at the time of writing), that becomes the main draw card in my eyes. If music is the surface beauty of a track and lyrics the depth that makes it stand up to repeated listening, then Amused to Death could last forever.

What’s more, the 2015 reissue brings even more depth to the production side of things. Everything is so much crisper than before. The mix is much better balanced, with new instrument tracks audible in most songs, but never to the detriment of the album as a flowing ‘piece’, something which seems to be common to almost all of Waters’ work. Multiple tracks also receive new guitar solos from Jeff Beck, and The Bravery of Being out of Range receives the most radical remix of all: An entirely new Jeff Beck part has been reintroduced to the entire song, keyboards dropped and Roger’s vocals brought more to the forefront, resulting in a much tighter song than the older version. Of course, the sting of the lyrics remains.

“Just love those laser-guided bombs, they’re really great for righting wrongs. You hit the target and win the game from bars three thousand miles away. We play the game with the bravery of being out of range.”

I could quote easily from the rest of the songs to bolster my point, but I will leave it up to the reader to take that challenge instead…

So if you’re thinking about buying this album, go ahead. You won’t be disappointed. It’s up there with any of the albums Pink Floyd made in any terms you care to measure by. For my money the 2015 version offers significant improvements over the original release, and if you’re a fan of the original, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest you seek out the new one too.

But when you listen, don’t just listen once. And don’t just listen to the music. Listen to a man bearing his soul.

“No tears to cry. No feelings left. The species has amused itself to death.”

  • You can see Roger talk about the album in a 2015 interview HERE

*On the reissue, that is. On the original release (as mentioned in the above article), Jeff Beck’s solo and other contributions are excised from The Bravery of Being out of Range.

Analysis: Roger Waters’ Black Fender Precision Basses

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Rogers main bass on stage during the recent Wall tour.

On the back of the hugely successful (financially as well as artistically) Wall tour, Roger Waters has introduced thousands of new people to his music, and paved the way for a reissue of his amazing 1992 album Amused to Death in late July, as well as a new project presently titled Is This The Life We Really Want?expected May 19 this year. One hardly needs to mention his work with Pink Floyd at all…

But iconic throughout his entire career since the early 70’s, Roger’s imposing stage presence has been married to a black Fender Precision bass, and for the sake of this post, it is this instrument which we now turn our focus to.

One of Roger’s original black basses. As stock, including pickup cover. Early 70’s.

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According to Phil Taylor, guitar tech for both Roger and David Gilmour during the Pink Floyd days (and still employed in this capacity by David today), following the theft of all of the bands guitars in 1970, Roger owned three black Fender Precisions; One with a rosewood fretboard, two with maple. One of the maple basses seems to evade more mention, but the other two each play a large part in Roger’s recording career.

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Roger’s preferred bass from 1970 to around 1978/9 was a black Precision with a maple neck, large headstock logo, a white pickguard and chrome pickup cover. This bass can be seen on the tours in support of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, and particularly in some parts (notably the studio footage) of the Live in Pompeii film, where it shares the spotlight with a sunburst P-bass with a rosewood fretboard.

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David Gilmour with black strat and Roger Waters with the sunburst ‘Pompeii’ bass.

David Gilmour’s famous Black Strat was decked out in a complimentary manner, but by the time of Wish You Were Here, David had replaced his white pickguard with a black one (he had also switched to a 60’s style rosewood fingerboard neck). Around the time of Animals, Phil Taylor suggested that Roger may like to switch to a black pickguard as well, and the operation was seen through in time for the In the Flesh tour of 1977, where the bass can be seen with a three-ply black/white/black pickguard, still featuring the pickup cover. Snowy White also played bass on some songs on this tour, using a black precision distinguishable from Roger’s by the lack of a very obvious large black dot which can be seen on the ball part of the headstock of Roger’s main bass. (On this note, this marking doesn’t seem to exist on other P basses of the period, so perhaps it is something as simple as a deliberate cigarette tip burn.)

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David’s black strat circa 1977, with black pickguard, rosewood neck and DiMarzio bridge pickup.

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Roger with main bass on the In The Flesh tour, 1977.

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Snowy playing bass with the Floyd, 1977.

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At some point in the early 70’s, the rosewood-fretboard Precision had received an all-maple replacement neck, but for the recording sessions on The Wall in 1978, David Gilmour had Phil Taylor write to Charvel, asking for a custom made heavily flamed maple neck (featuring a Fender logo) to replace the rosewood one on his Strat, the letter itself clearly also specifies a number of other necks, including a new Charvel neck for a Precision bass.

So the (originally) rosewood necked bass received it’s third neck, a Charvel maple neck with a 50’s style Fender logo. It also received a black pickguard, lost it’s bridge and pickup covers and became Roger’s main bass from the 1979 rehearsals to the present day, first seen in this condition on the Wall shows in 1980/81. On this tour, Andy Bown can be seen playing a second bass (likely the same as Snowy played on the previous tour as it seems to be missing the headstock ‘dot’).

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Roger and Andy Bown share bass duties on The Wall tour, 1980/81.

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Following his split from the remaining members of Pink Floyd in the mid 80’s, Roger took only the Charvel necked bass with him (this one can be spotted because the “Fender” logo copy is strangely sized and positioned), and so he had the Fender Custom Shop make him two copies, which he has used as backups since. In 2010, the specs of these two copies were also used as the basis of the Fender Roger Waters signature Precision bass, although this model features significant differences to Rogers own (A properly proportioned Fender headstock logo, a single ply black pickguard and black hardware).

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The ‘Wall’ bass is still Roger’s main instrument, and he continues to use it on every show. Recently, photographer Lisa Johnson featured the instrument in her fantastic book ‘108 Rock Star Guitars in Pictures’, She notes that Roger had the pickups replaced with Seymour Duncans, also revealing that the pickguard is a three ply black/white/black, but he recolours the white pinstripe with marker before every show to make it appear all-black. Some very nice and detailed photos show that the pickguard still retains the holes from the pickup cover and the extra screw hole in the middle of the pickguard which some P-basses of the era featured. (as well as showing Rogers marker work quite clearly).

The back shot also reveals a maple-cap neck (no skunkstripe), an F-stamped neckplate and a heavily worn ‘tummy-cut’.

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This bass remains Roger’s primary live bass as of the “Us and Them” tour, 2017.

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As an interesting footnote, the ‘dot’ headstock bass remains in David Gilmour’s possession, and was used by Guy Pratt on Coming Back to Life and Take it Back  on the Division Bell album, as well as by David on tracks for The Endless River.

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