You have to treat yourself once in a while, innit? I freely admit to having several guitars. There is the Fender F55 12-string I’ve had since 1973. But one of the tuning pegs is knackered and it has no pickup or on-board tuner. I don’t play it. I could sell it. Maybe I will one day, but on the other hand it comes with a host of memories. I mean to say, I played it at the famous Marquee Club. I do like 12-strings though, so I bought a Faith Eclipse Venus a few years ago. It’s part of my working collection.
Then there is the Applause (a cut-price Ovation, and I’m not joking). Sad to say, the neck is definitively warped and it’s not worth fixing . But on the plus side it’s ideal as a slide guitar and I have recently recorded with it.
It does a job, and therefore has to stay
When I got rid of the Hohner vintage white Telecaster in 1974 I replaced it with a nice second-hand black Antoria Les Paul Custom. Both of them (my second and third guitars) were Japanese-made and might be worth a fair bit today… but being young and skint at the time I flogged them and – after I had obtained a generous scholarship – blew a king’s ransom on a British-made Shergold double-neck. I gigged with that for a few years and have the bad back to prove it. It lay under the bed for a few decades, a piece of British guitar history. I suppose I ought to sell it but it’s quite happy where it is.
When One for the Wall reformed I found I could no longer lift the Shergold, so I went out and bought a proper Fender Telecaster Custom, then the Faith (as mentioned above). That was all I needed… until I was taken by a natural maple Epiphone ES-339. John Lennon used to play an Epiphone (Casino). I didn’t have a hollow-bodied electric and they have such a lovely tone. Anyway, it is only a fraction of the cost of a Gibson ES-339 as it’s made in China, though it’s just as good. I asked for it as a birthday present.
There’s one obvious type of axe missing. Everyone needs a trusty, smallish 6-string acoustic to strum along on. The obvious choice was a Yamaha APX500. Very good value at a few hundred quid, he said vaguely.
And that’s it: seven guitars, including four that I play regularly. None cost more than a grand. Got all bases covered – actually, I haven’t got a bass – together with the Fender Mustang amp, plus a small one for practice, five or six pedals and stomp boxes, assorted percussion (everyone needs a güiro, but I have two). Not forgetting two ukuleles (soprano and tenor, obvs). And a microphone, a music stand and about 50 cables. Four capos, three slides, a dozen plectra (Classical education on show) and a few sets of spare strings. A guitar tool kit. That’s it… unless you want to get into electronic music. I have two or three synths, both analogue and digital. Doesn’t everyone? And an antique Boss drum machine that I have recorded with once. And a recorder, a few harmonicas I can’t play…
Get the picture? There’s no room for anything more, so that’s the lot
Except that I’ve always wanted a hand-made guitar. And after all you can’t take your money with you, can you? Just think of my poor Mum and Dad in a care home without a guitar to their name. I proudly present my Flame F2, made by ex-fireman David Kennett in his Sutton workshop. This one was ex-demo, although perfect, so an absolute bargain.
The top is imbuya on a korina body. The fretboard is ebony and there’s also a small amount of tulipwood, maple and mahogany in the body. That makes it look pretty but the choice of woods does genuinely affect the sound. What I want of an electric guitar, at least sometimes, is sustain.
Permit me to bore you by talking about guitar pickups
Basically they are magnets wound round with miles of copper wire which convert the mechanical energy from the vibration of metal strings into an electrical current, which then goes into an amplifier and is transferred to a loudspeaker cone, back into mechanical energy and so on. Magic.
This F2 has Seymour Duncan pickups with series/parallel switching for each double pickup. Parallel wiring of two pickups is what you are used to hearing from Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster when positions 2 or 4 are selected on a standard 5-way switch. Parallel wiring adds transparency and clarity. Am I boring you?
In contrast, wiring two pickups in series produces a longer path with increased resistance, adding volume whilst preventing the highest frequencies from getting through. With series wiring, the output of one pickup goes into the input of another pickup, while with standard parallel wiring, each pickup takes its own path to the output. Besides being noticeably louder, series wiring emphasises low and midrange tones.
On this Flame guitar if you push the knob in you get the sound of series wired pickups, and if you pull it out you get parallel wiring. This is true of the tone control as well as the volume pot, so you can mix and match series and parallel sounds with the pick-up selector. This, I hardly need explain, is not the same as coil splitting, which is what I have on the ES-339.
In sum, it is a beautiful looking instrument, it sounds fabulous, and it is very light. If are interested in having a guitar made, repaired, or just set up properly I can heartily recommend Flame Guitars.
Naturally I shall be disposing of my other two electrics. In due course.