Pick of the Month - March 2000
1963 Fender Stratocaster

The sound of this guitar is what principally replaced the “steam-organ” element of XTC following Barry's departure from the group and my arrival in March 1979. It has an extraordinarily wiry tone in its bridge pick-up which I've never heard in any other guitar. It's also the loudest stock Strat ever, its super-light alder body producing a big, full tone.

Well, I say stock… keen-eyed viewers will note that the all-maple neck is an add-on, made by Californian luthier Phil Kubicki, which I fitted in the spring of 1981. Kubicki had worked for Fender in the late 1960s, and had a significant hand in creating the all-rosewood Telecaster given to George Harrison. The improvement in the sound and performance of the guitar with the Kubicki neck installed was immediate. All recordings prior to English Settlement were done using its original rosewood-fingerboard neck, which has twisted around a fault in the grain, rendering it practically useless for everything but slide playing! The pick-up circuit and hardware are original, except for the 5-way selector switch, the tremolo arm and the plastic spring cover on the back.

I bought this guitar from my mate Pete Goss (Dean Gabber of the Gaberdines) in the spring of 1978, when it still sported its factory Sherwood Green Metallic paint job. I didn't like the colour, so took it to Mick Wareham (then Kempster's repair man in Swindon) who stripped it back to the wood and added an “antique violin” lacquer (a decision that, if taken today, would remove thousands from its value!). It stayed that way throughout the touring years with XTC, and, contrary to apocryphal reports in Song Stories, this is the only Stratocaster I owned at the time. In September 1984, Jonny Kinkade did the lovely faux-Lake Placid Blue re-finish you see to-day, finding a closely-matching colour from a Chrysler/Talbot auto-paint catalogue. He currently has the original neck, and is working on a solution to re-shape and restore it—watch this space.

Recording debut
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