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Music

Guitars that have been loved and lost

This is a blast: from the previously mentioned Professor Batty, a blog about guitars he’s owned over the years. Discover what happened when Gibson lost its collective mind, what a “demented” guitar that shouldn’t exist is actually like to play and why he’s still got bits of the worst guitar ever made.

Guitars are odd things. I can’t claim to have played, let alone owned, the variety of guitars that the good Professor has, but over the years I’ve still loved and occasionally lost the following:

  • Fender Stratocaster (two: one cheapie as a teenager, one good one now)
  • Fender Stratocaster 12-string (heavier than a mountain)
  • Various Squier Telecasters (fun and painfully trebly sometimes)
  • Fender Telecaster (a proper one; my weapon of choice during my gigging days)
  • Epiphone Riviera (milestone birthday present: beautiful guitar)
  • Fender Jazz Bass (sold the real one years ago, have a Squier copy now)
  • Squier Precision Bass (genuinely one of the most fun things I’ve ever played, whether I’m playing bad punk or bad funk)
  • Aria Pro II Bass (a pointy purple one. It was a long time ago)
  • Enormous Epiphone Elvis acoustic (big one with what looks like a giant moustache)
  • Fender Marauder (a distinctly odd Modern Player cross between a Jaguar and a Strat. Sounds fantastic, plays great but feels like it’s made of balsa wood)
  • Yamaha Electro-Acoustic (another gigging guitar, now in the smaller hands of Girls Rock Glasgow).
  • Epiphone Les Paul Studio (currently covered in dragon stickers and played by my daughter)
  • One of those Ovation copies, a roundback acoustic made of fibreglass that sounds like you’re playing a wheelie bin

I’m sure I’ve missed a few too.

It all seems a bit wasteful when I’m a terrible guitar player, my lack of ability made considerably worse by RSI and subsequent carpal tunnel surgery. But musical instruments have a weird appeal whether you can play them or not, because many of them are just incredible objects. For example, here’s what my Epiphone Riviera looks like:

Isn’t beautiful? I look at it more than I actually play it.

Despite still owning more guitars than is necessary or sensible, I still find myself lusting after guitars in unrequited fashion. I particularly desire Gibson’s Explorer, a coffee table with strings often used by U2’s The Edge:

And I’m constantly arguing with myself about the equally mad but slightly rounder Thunderbird bass, on the grounds that I already have two perfectly good bass guitars already. But look at it! It’s a spaceship with strings!

I think it’s one of the most beautiful musical instruments ever made. It’s the work of a chap called Ray Dietrich, who designed car bodies for the likes of Lincoln, Ford and Duesenberg in the 1920s and Chrysler in the 30s, where his designs included the very pretty Airstream. As a huge fan of the subsequent craze for tailfinned cars, the Firebird guitar and Thunderbird bass really appeal to me: they were specifically designed to echo the tailfins of 50s cars.

But everybody has their favourite, and when it comes to guitars mine is the Fender Stratocaster. My one’s a Mexican reproduction of the 1960s original, but it’s a genuinely beautiful guitar to look at and to play.

And even in my raddled hands, the noise it makes is glorious.