As instruments, Gibson's entry-level single pick-up solid-bodies are among the best electrics ever made (stay tuned for more examples in the coming months – I love them!) Designed with the student in mind, players like them for their simple, un-fussy construction, their ease of playing and fabulous sound.
With the Junior, the classic lines of the SG's body sculpture are un-cluttered by pick-ups, tremolo systems and fancy inlays. Two basic control knobs (for volume and tone) and the lovely "single-sided" pick-guard (to be replaced later in the year by an ungainly-looking piece of plastic that virtually covered the top half of the guitar) join the single-coil P.90 pick-up and wrap-over bridge in a perfect composition of minimalist functionalism. The slender mahogany body and big, chubby neck combine with the pick-up and bridge to produce a rich yet twangy tone with lots of sustain; actually more akin to the Gretsch sound than a Gibson.
This particular guitar did not leave the factory looking the way it does to-day! I found it, in a decrepit state, in New York City at the end of XTC's brief U.S. tour of Spring 1981. Originally it was cherry-finished and equipped with a Maestro Vibrola unit. The cherry had been scraped off down to the bare wood, and the Maestro lost, leaving three gaping screw holes in the top of the body. The Gibson bridge had been replaced with a dreaded Leo Quan Badass unit (as so many wrap-overs were in the seventies), and the crappy little Kluson tuners had made way for some serious Grover pegs.
On returning to England I had the guitar re-finished in opaque white, the better to mask the vandalism of the missing screws, and because I had a soft spot for Gibson's "TV"-finish option (white against black, most effective on monochrome television). The Badass bridge bugged me, however; it just didn't look right. I searched around and eventually found an original Gibson wrap-over. Once fitted, the difference in the tone and performance was astonishing! As a result, I've come to appreciate the value of the string anchoring principle as it relates to tone and sustain.
I actually used the guitar on-stage with XTC at our shows at Private's Club in New York, still in its un-painted state, on pre-English Settlement versions of Snowman and English Roundabout. It made a fleeting appearance in the Mayor Of Simpleton video, yet somehow hasn't made it on to too many records.
Recording debut: XTC - Blue Overall (slide solo, 1984)
Features on: Dozens of home recordings, and Steve Hogarth's European tour of February 1997.