Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Japanese "Blackie"

I remember the 80's mostly for all the wrong things: unemployment (although this had its good points), New Romantics, Synth pop, dodgy clothes and hairdo's, Thatcher, Yuppies and the pervasive feeling that there didn't seem to be a lot of money around - unless you lived in London.

£325 was a lot of money in '85 and I can't quite remember where I got it from, but anyway I thought it important not to be extravagant and frivolous with this wad, just use it for the essentials in life. So I bought a "Blackie" and a Carlsbro amp.

"Blackie' refers to the nickname that Eric Clapton gave to one of his most cherished black and white Stratocaster's - for those who are uninitiated. I'd never had a Strat before, but had been eyeing them up for a few years. Hendrix was the most obvious factor in my attraction, as it is for thousands of young - and not so young - kids I guess. As soon as I saw this black beauty I knew that I must have it. I wasn't aware that Fender had licensed some of their guitars to be 'Made in Japan' except for the Squire series of course. The guys in the shop were rattling on about how good these Jap Strats were for the price; competing with the American series on build quality and sound. I was sold, and it was sold, for £275 (if memory still serves).

I got a secondhand 50 watt Carlsbro amp with a built in tremolo for £50 too, .. I was very happy bunny that day. As he lived near by, the shop owner even delivered them for me free of charge! That Strat was my very first decent guitar. By 'decent' I mean properly set up with a great action/intonation, feel and tone. Lots of kids these days are spoilt for choice when it comes to relatively cheap, well made and set up guitars, but back in the early '80's it was a real treasure hunt to find one, and was very likely to knock you back a few quid. These days the internet is great for bargains and advice on making your guitar reasonably playable, back then you had to take the instrument to an expert for even the most simple tweaks. There was just so little info around on the dark alchemy of guitar gubbins.

I used to spend hours on that Strat, just sitting there playing arpeggio's and listening to those clean glassy tones jangle. I was never really into heavy riffing stuff by then, I'd began to get a bit more 'technical' and proggy. It came about mainly by me investing in a good scale book because I wanted to understand a little more about music theory. I guess I was wanting to get a little creative, express something of myself rather than just learning other folks stuff...that still didn't stop me spending a lot of money on tab books over the pre-internet years, The Beatles guitar book was particularly well thumbed.

My strongest memory of that Strat is having the house to myself on particular nights and playing 'Pinball Wizard' full blast - I still hadn't seen Spinal Tap by then so please forgive me. The Japanese Fender's were great (are great) guitars, and are still sought after today, have a look at the prices on E-bay. That guitar taught me a lot and gave me so much confidence in my ability - I've often pondered on buying an old one but think I'll stick with my US Sunburst for a while yet. Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

~ H-Allen