Over the years there have been only a few guitar designs that I have found quite beautiful and made me stop in my tracks and simply say, “Wow!”
Brian May Red Special
The first is, obviously, Brian May’s handmade Red Special. The original was built by Brian and his father from various materials including a hundred-year-old mantelpiece and a knitting needle. The model below is the Super, made by Brian May Guitars, available for £2,950.
This is the perfect electric guitar, as far as I am concerned.
First produced in 1993, I first saw the Parker Fly in the pages of Guitar World magazine. Designed by Ken Parker and Larry Fishman and sold by Parker Guitars, the Parker Fly is made from various tone woods with a carbon fibre exoskeleton and a combination of both traditional magnetic and piezoelectric pickups.
There is still something that I find quite beautiful about this instrument.
Fender Acoustamatic Jazzmaster
And then this week, I first saw the new Fender Acoustamatic Jazzmaster. Versatile, combining rich acoustic tones and overdriven electric sounds, and quite beautiful.
I’ve not been sleeping particularly well recently. Something to do with being in the middle of a global pandemic plus some other personal stuff going around and around in my head at night. I’d run out of my usual podcasts so went searching for something new and interesting.
Why did nobody tell me about The Queen Podcast? Hosted by Rohan Acharya and Queen archivist and documentarian Simon Lupton, the podcast is joined by Queen superfans (and comedians) John Robins and Sooz Kempner and tracks the Queen discography album by album, side by side, track by track.
Queen’s News of the World (1977) album turned 40 years old this year. I was five years old when it came out. It would be six or seven years more until Queen were firmly on my radar, and so would begin a lifelong love of the band.
To celebrate the anniversary of the album’s release, Queen are releasing a box set on Friday 17 November that includes a number of recently unearthed out-takes and rarities.
Among the rarities is this hybrid version of “All Dead, All Dead” (side 1, track 4) featuring alternative lyrics and vocals from Freddie Mercury.
What I didn’t realise, all these years of listening to the song, is that the song was written by Brian May about the death of his childhood cat.
It’s a beautiful song, even if does have the ‘wrong’ lyrics.
The box set is released on Friday 17 November costing £109.99.
Something I didn’t realise was that in May’s original design for the guitar, which he built with his father, he had included an ‘F-hole’, like a violin. The article shows an arch top guitar that Andrew Guyton from Guyton Guitars built for him featuring that F-hole.
What is not featured on the video is that Brian May Guitars now make a large number of variations of his iconic guitar, including the original (in a variety of finishes), a mini guitar, an acoustic and now a bass.
I remember as a teenager making sketches of a bass guitar version of the Red May Special. I wonder if I still have them? I dreamed that one day I would build my own… maybe one day. Now I see that both Brian May Guitars and Guyton Guitars have built bass versions and they are quite beautiful pieces of craftsmanship.
There’s a new book scheduled to be published by Hal Leonard next month with the snappy title Brian May’s Red Special: the story behind the home-made guitar that rocked Queen and the world. More information on the Queen website.