Released on 1 April 2022, a new song from guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, “Teeth of the Hydra” from the forthcoming album Inviolate.
This is extraordinary, but what else would you expect from Frank Zappa’s former guitarist?
And just how heavy is that three-neck guitar? It comprises a 12-string guitar, a 7-string guitar and a 4-string bass, with a whole bunch of onboard gadgetry including what looks like three vacuum tubes.
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a John 5 album which had some bluegrass influences, so I went in search of more bluegrass music on YouTube. I discovered this song “Demons” by Greensky Bluegrass, which is a jolly fine tune. Some splendid beards and facial hair too.