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.

George’s Bangladesh Stratocaster (Update)

I recently saw this video of John Lennon and George Harrison recording John’s ‘How Do You Sleep’, and noticed an interesting footnote to my earlier post about the Bangladesh Concert Strat.

It seems George’s Strat of choice for the sessions was very likely the Bangladesh Strat before it was sanded to it’s natural finish.

Let’s take a look at the info we have.

  • The Bangladesh Concert took place in August of 1971, recording on Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (on which ‘How do You Sleep’ appears) finished by early July of the same year. Consistent with George having time to strip the finish between the two.
  • The sonic blue Strat in the video has a maple neck, and a mint green 3 ply pickguard, an uncommon combination indicating it comes from the crossover period between Fenders white single ply, maple neck combination and the rosewood boards which were to become standard later. The Bangladesh Strat shares these features.
  • The Strat isn’t set up for slide at the CFB as this one is here, but it would be when George taped his Dick Cavett Show performance on Nov 23 with the sanded Bangladesh Strat, so George was known to use it for slide, and seems to have favoured the instrument during this period.
  • The spacing of the 12th fret markers on the fretboard is consistent between both.
  • This Strat has the same strap as the Bangladesh Strat.

So, if my suspicions are accurate. Not only have we identified that the CFB Strat was originally sonic blue, we’ve determined that the finish was stripped between George’s recording sessions for ‘Imagine’ (probably ending early July) and the final CFB rehearsal on July 31!

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Guitar of the Day 27/11/2015

George Harrison’s Bangladesh Stratocaster

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In the prevailing mood of my week, I’m going to continue with another George-related post.

Not much information is available on this Strat as George, to my knowledge, was only once seen publicly with it outside the Bangladesh concert and rehearsals. This was when he played slide on it during the performance of the song “Two-Faced Man” by Gary Wright and the Wonder Wheel on Dick Cavett’s show, before giving a lengthy interview.

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The guitar appears to be a late-fifties to early sixties model Fender Strat, as it has a transitional combination of a maple neck and a 3-ply pickguard.

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Since George rarely talks about acquiring new Stratocasters, it’s possible (but by no means confirmed) that this guitar was the one gifted to him by Clapton when the latter was in the process of building “Blackie”. Clapton brought back six Strats from a US tour and gave one each to George, Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood, taking the best parts of the remaining three and putting them together to make “Blackie”.

According to George, he personally stripped the finish from this Strat accounting for it’s bare wood appearance. He later claims to have given the stripped Bangladesh Strat to Spike Milligan, who identified a sunburst Fender as the bangladesh Strat during a later interview , suggesting a refinish.

This post has an interesting part 2 HERE.

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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.