Friday, 28 December 2012

My son's Christmas present has left me pondering my all-time favourite Stratocaster tracks

My son has an electric guitar - well, to be accurate, he has the electric guitar, the Fender Stratocaster. And a nifty, versatile little amplifier, the Roland Micro Cube, which positively bristles with effects - delay, reverb, chorus etc. - and a whole range of "tones" from acoustic to Marshall Stack. Even emits an "A" note to help you tune your guitar. Things have moved on quite a bit in the twenty years since I bought my Telecaster and Fender practice amp!

Anyway, Junior went out last night and allowed his Dad three heavenly hours alone with his new set-up. More fun than a barrel-load of monkeys, I can tell you.

Now, I'm a Tele man through and through - what was good enough for James Burton, Danny Gatton and Steve Cropper's good enough for a sausage-fingered clod-hopper like me. But, Lord, Strats have featured on some stupendous records  - to such an extent, that if the thing could produce echt rockabilly, I'd be tempted, because it reaches tonal areas the Tele can't quite get to and it has a whammy bar.

Anyway, here's a selection of  my Strat-tastic favourites, all of which highlight what makes it such a superb guitar (my son is shaping to become a bit of a purist - he eschewed some very tasty Strats with humbuckers on the grounds that they made the guitars sound too "rocky": the tone produced by traditional pick-ups better suits his distinctly melodic playing-style). Let's start with the late, great Texan bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan:

Ry Cooder's finest hour was the Bop Til You Drop album, on which he produced gorgeous sounds like this:

Here's that genius Nile Rodgers funking it up with taste and delicacy on Chic's "Le Freak":

Of course, the Strat was the Surf Guitar par excellence - Reverb Heaven!:

Here's the Strat at it's majestic best, wielded by Hank Marvin in possibly his finest recorded performance:

No introduction needed:

It's interesting to learn that one of the all-time classic Heavy Metal riffs wasn't played on a Les Paul - is that even legal?:

Buddy Holly made the Strat cool in the late '50s, Hank Marvin made it every boy's desire in the early '60s, and then along came this bloke:

I don't really know why, but I've always been fond of this J.J. Cale-style country chugger rip-off (homage?) by Eric Clapton:

I'll leave you with one of the most awe-inspiring demonstrations of meaningful, enjoyable guitar virtuosity (examples of which are usually fantastically boring) I've ever seen - the great Jeff Beck taking the Strat to new heights:

Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to add my son to this list one day.

A special thanks to regular commenter ex-KCS for recommending Andertons in Guilford (find their website here). My son spent over two hours choosing his guitar there, and there was nary a hint of impatience. It's a superb guitar shop - fantastic stock, great prices and the most helpful, well-informed and enthusiastic staff on Planet Earth. In a guitar store!


  1. Great tracks, but again there is no mention of Bert" Mr Guitar" Weedon? Is it his tweed jacket or what?

    1. No, it's simply that the Old Boy didn't play a Stratocaster - he was, I seem to remember, a Guild man. There are a few photos of him with a Strat, but it looks unnatural, like a 70-year old in tight jeans.

      It may be different where you are, but I can't remember the last time I saw anyone under 60 wearing a tweed jacket, with or without leather arm-patches. Gone the way of tinned salmon, I presume.

  2. I have a tweed suit, a Strat and I'm under 60. Where did I go wrong?

    Bert played the Guild for most of his career, occasionally a Hofner and latterly a Parker Fly, for its lightness. Guild built the Bert Weedon Guild to his specifications, as a tribute. On the same basis it can only be a matter of time before The Fender Fulminator Telecaster hits the shops.

    1. You're at that awkward age - too old to be a young fogey, but too young to be Sir Bufton Tufton. Your time will come, never fear!

      By the way, do you wear your tweed suit while playing the Strat? It's an arresting image. And do you buy tinned salmon?

      I have written to Fender to propose the signature model you suggested. They could start production immediately, as it's a standard Tele, black and white, only with a few dents in it. They could be shipping them from Mexico within a week.

    2. Sadly, my partner shares your view of tweed, for some reason. The suit has not been worn for some time. I have neither bought nor knowingly eaten tinned salmon but will now add it to my Bucket List, along with reading Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften and attempting to understand modern jazz.

  3. Your excellent selection shows just how versatile the Strat is. Add chorus to about half and half plus a touch of reverb, toggle down to the middle plus one setting, throw your plectrum away and the sound is a passable Ry Cooder. Drown the middle setting with reverb and the treble turned up and suddenly you're Hank. However, unless I'm mistaken, ol' Dick Dale is holding a Fender Jaguar in your picture. And don't worry SDG. There can be no more fitting tribute to Bert's lasting legacy than We Are Normal by the Bonzos.

    1. ex-KCS. I had completely forgotten about the Bonzos and Vivian Stanshall so looked them up. Very funny. So thank you very much.

    2. Canyons of Your Mind is an all time classic. All my children were brought up listening to their father play Jollity Farm on the piano. Ali Baba's Camel is essential listening for any one with an interest in the Middle East Peace Process. The Bonzos were on a children's TV show called Do Not Adjust Your Set with some of the Monty Python lot and a lot of the Pythons' more whimsical stuff owes something to them. I'm happy to have re-introduced you to the troubled genius of Vivian Stanshall.

      Now all I have to do is persuade the Blog Supremo to do a post on records which make you smile.

  4. I did wonder, ex-KCS, whether anyone would spot the fact that Dale is holding - THE WRONG GUITAR! I assume he didn't want to damage his real guitar for the sake of a photo-shoot (must be awkward surfing and playing guitar at the same time). I did check contemporary video to make sure I hadn't got it wrong - I'm pretty sure this is a Strat he's playing on the Ed Sullivan Show -
    - and he had a Strat signature model, so I think I'm on safeish ground - though I can't swear he never played other models.

    Like Hendrix, he played the guitar left-handed. Not many people know that. (Or, I suspect, care.)