Fender&Squier’85

Those of you who own guitars will know that they gather stories as the years go on. Often tiny, uneventful stories, but they do accumulate.

This is my 1984 Japanese Squier Stratocaster. I got it from Graham Bell aka Bellsy at Sound Control in Edinburgh early 1985. A few weeks before, armed with a large record company advance, I raided the shop for toys. Among them was a spanking new red Fender Telecaster which lasted 2 weeks before the wood started crumbling like Wensleydale cheese. “To be honest son, the Fenders are shite the now”, explained Bellsy, “but they’ve started a budget line and they’re actually belters. Try this Strat. If you like it, you can take it plus half your money back on the Tele”. As soon as I picked it up, I knew it was mine. Great neck, the body felt right, and it just looked the ticket. And a Strat was really the thing at that point in time. Not so much now, I think.

Fast forward to the following year at Britannia Row studios in London as my producer, the marvellous Eric Stewart of 10cc turns up in a Mercedes Estate piled high with vintage Fender Stratocasters: take your pick, Davie: 59, 61, 64, 66, 76 etc. etc. So my cheap 84 Japanese Squier stayed humbly in its case. But come 1991, when I finally made a decent record for no money, “Sacred”, that Squier was the sound that propelled the track in all the right places. And it still looked the ticket, paired with a remarkable inky green denim jacket, blue-black jeans and my then skinny frame on STVs NB when we premiered the tune.

Somewhere later in the mid 90s my group, The Pearlfishers found ourselves on a bill at Strathclyde Level 8 in Glasgow together with a group who would become our spiritual twins, BMX Bandits and their singer songwriter Duglas , who would from that day on be my lifelong friend. During our set every time I put my hands on the Squier and sang into the microphone I got horrible little electric shocks. I remember that disconcerting experience as well as anything from any show I’ve ever played. And although we never ascertained if it was anything to do with the guitar it nevertheless felt like time for a revival, mechanically and stylistically too. So I toddled along to CC Music in tow with my pals the late great Lindsay Chapman and the late great Graeme Kelling for a Jimmy Egypt refit. Lindsay – quite the aesthete – insisted on a mint green scratch plate and new, expensive hand wound pickups. Graeme – in the middle of a love affair with tres chic Levinson Blade guitars – nodded his grudging approval. I thought fondly of this years later while dep’ing for Deacon Blue on a show in Dublin, playing Graeme’s beautiful guitar parts verbatim on my cheap little Squier with its mint green scratchplate and expensive hand wound pickups.

Probably the last time I played it live was with Amy Allison at The Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow, opening for Laura Cantrell with our chiming country pop. “Ladeez and Genlmun, welcome to the Opry, we’ve a great night fur yeez the night” bellowed the MC. “The main lassie’ll be on soon but for now geez a great big warm Grand Old Opry welcome to…to…the lassie that’s supportin’ ur!”.

Well, I haven’t played this guitar much in recent times – It’s been acoustic wall-to-wall Chez Pearlies – but some new songs were calling out for the chime of a Stratocaster. Taking the guitar out of its case I could not believe the number of dings and bumps and scratches and wear, nor could I really remember where any of them came from. That’s 36 years for you. The electrics were shot; the frets were down to a whisper and turned out in ten shades of blue. Most things that should move didn’t move. So thank you Andy at Ayr Guitar for love, care, new frets and bashing things artfully back into shape. It sounds great, and as mashed as it is, still looks the ticket.

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