Pick of the Month - November 1999
1965 Gibson SG Standard

This is the first Gibson guitar I ever bought, way back in November 1972—two days earlier I'd passed my driving test, so that was a very lucky week! Eric Clapton had famously played one of these in his Cream days, distinguished by an outlandish psychedelic paint job, and I dreamt of owning one. Clapton's guitar eventually fell into the hands of Todd Rundgren, who allowed me to use it for the That's Really Super, Supergirl solo.

Anyway… I wandered into John Holmes Music in Swindon that Saturday lunch time to find two guys doing a straight exchange of this immaculate guitar for a budget arch-top, much to the delight of manager Brian Gregg. I knew Brian quite well—he was probably Britain's first professional bass guitarist when in the late fifties he'd played with Tommy Steele, Johnny Kidd's original Pirates and later the Tornados—and I begged him to hold the guitar until I could race home in my knackered Austin A.40 and grab my modded Telecaster and as much cash as I could lay my hands on. I won't go into exactly how much cash I had to find but Brian, God bless him, did me a sweet deal and I left the shop the proudest of new owners. I owe him for that!

I've always considered that the devilishly-handsome SG range, introduced by Gibson in 1961 to replace the Les Paul, is one of the prettiest lines ever produced by the company. The sound of the Standard however doesn't compare to the 50's Les Paul; the mahogany body is too thin, the neck too slender and, worst of all, that attractive tremolo tail-piece does everything it can to remove the natural sustain from the string; not that it ever bothered Angus Young. The glorious cherry finish on the earliest SGs has a tendency to fade to a dark tan, usually if the guitar has been left out of its case for long periods, but thankfully mine's still a rosy red. The neck's been re-fretted and re-lacquered, and it's equipped with an original 1961 “P.A.F.” pick-up at the bridge (replacing the unit I broke in the seventies after clumsily removing the cover). That has gone some way to improving the sound. The humbucking pick-ups are coil-tapped, another seventies fad that I went for in my quest for more tone colours.

When Mike Keneally visited in October 2008, he chose this guitar to play at his gig at Riff's Bar in Swindon—much to my surprise, as I'd only ever seen him playing Fenders. He loved it, and it was a joy for me to hear it in such brilliant hands, powering out of my Matchless amp. I could never make it sound that good! Nonetheless, it has been a firm favourite of mine for many years and I could never part with it.

Recording debut
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