Benny's Guitar History - Part One
It is 1983 - My good friend Adam Climey teaches me 'E' 'A' and 'D7' on his older brother's Yamaha SG2000. This guitar had such a lovely tone, we used to spend hours jangling away on it. Adam almost knew 'Freebird' and could play a few Jam songs too. He was great actually; a really nice bloke. Note: I later mentioned him on the sleeve-notes of the TUT TUT album, but I was not in contact with him to let him know. I do hope he would have been pleased to see the acknowledgement. 1984 - Along with further chords from Adam, my brother returns from his travels abroad and also teaches me various bits and pieces. he had a cream 1978 Fender Musicmaster electric, and a beautiful steel strung acoustic (which had an oval soundhole and gold tuners) - both these guitars were cruelly stolen from him while living in Manchester sometime around '84 - '85. It is still a sore point, and if I ever had some money to spend on an expensive gift for him, I would find a replacement Musicmaster and give it to him. 1985 - My First actual guitar - Fender Dreadnought Flat Top Steelstrung Acoustic - bought for my 14th birthday from Promenade music, Market Hill, Sudbury - Shop isn't there any more, but I still have the guitar. I can still remember seeing it in the shop window. It was £140 which was a fortune, but my parents somehow got it for me. To this day It sports a large crack in the back, that it sustained around '86 or '87 when it was the victim of a high velocity falling shelf accident. The less said about that the better, but I was particularly upset about it and it has never been fixed. Moving on swiftly.... 1986 - First Electric - Westone Spectrum GT - Sold my drum kit to part finance purchase of it from the little shop that was on Station road in Sudbury (my brother in law reminds me that the shop was called 'Two's Live') - thanks Johnny! I absolutely lusted after this guitar for nearly a year after picking up a colour brochure in the aforementioned music shop. This guitar was (to me anyway) completely awesome. It had an HSH pickup config, a simple non-locking trem bridge and mind boggling switching options. To this day I've never had a guitar with such complex controls: all three rotary pots had 'pull' tap options in conjunction with a standard 'Les Paul' type 3-way switch. The permutations were vast. This guitar saw me through my formative years as well and through my first year in college. Sold it to my good friend Paul Beavis in '91 or '92. Hooked up with him through friends reunited in 2003 and was pleasantly surprised to find he still had it! 1991 - Ibanez RG360 - My first real 'Rawk' guitar, in Cherry Red. Got this from Axe Music in Colchester, Essex. Starting to get serious now, this guitar had a fast, slim 22 fret 'Wizzard' neck, and proper Floyd Rose licensed double locking Trem. I later fitted a DiMarzio 'Fred' Bridge Humbucker, and spring loaded 'clip lock' straps, which was coool!
As a massive fan of Steve Vai already at this point; I lusted after a Jem guitar, but alas, at this time those were simply beyond my means (there was no budget version back then). So, the obvious choice was the RG. Again, economics being what it is; I couldn't afford a 550 or any of the mid/high end RG models, so a 360 was the axe of choice. It had an HSS pickup configuration, cheap pups, cheap tuners, and a TRS trem rather than the beautiful and vastly superior EDGE bridge system the higher ups came with.
Despite all that, It was a huge step up from the Westone in every way (except in terms of tone options, as the Westone was mind boggling). I absolutely loved this guitar, and it became home for me while I finished college, and at least until I finally bought a Jem (see part three). 1993 - Yamaha RGX321FB Free Art - My first 24 fret guitar - Saw this in Guitarist Magazine while still at college in 1992. The following year I convinced my Ma to help buy one from Machinehead Music in Harlow, Essex (they had a special offer on!!).
This model was clearly designed to try and grab Yamaha some of the vast market Ibanez was cleaning up in with the RG range. It actually had several design innovations which predated similar advancements the RG's would gain a year or two later (like Yamaha's less successful attempt at what Ibanez would later call their 'All Access Neck Joint').
The craziest aspect of this particular RGX model however, the 'Free Art' bit. Basically the guitar had a clear pick-guard that covered the entire front face of the body, and the idea was that you use the guard as a template to create a paper or card design of your own (it also came with 3 or 4 to use straight away). You then put your design on the guitar, and fix it in place by screwing the clear guard back down over it.
There's an interesting little side story to this guitar, which I will post in a separate blog.
Part Two coming soon.