David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster – The Black Strat

Fender recently launched 2 US Custom Shop tribute edition Strats based on Dave Gilmours “legendary” Black Strat, the original guitar was a Stock 69 Strat bought from Manny’s in New York in 1970 and used on most of Pink Floyds classic albums. Atom Heart Mother/Dark Side of The Moon/ Wish You Were Here etc etc. Lots of people are excited about this, half of Future publishings editorial staff are wanking over a CD of ‘Atom Heart Mother’ even as I type. Gilmour has a new live album ‘Live in Gdansk’ to promote and sadly Rick Wright has passed away.

RIP rick. :(

It seems that the whole guitar fraternity are excited by this new arrival to Fenders range. I am a massive DG/Floyd fan, but somehow the hyperbole has vexed me. There are 2 models a New Old Stock guitar and a lovingly bashed up ‘Relic’ addition.

Personally I find the whole relic’ing guitars thing a bit pathetic, if you play live your guitar will get war wounds simply by gigging and being used. The dings and nicks are genuine and tell part of your guitars and therefore ultimately your story. The idea these scars are put on as part of a finishing process is as pathetic as it sounds and when guitarists disagree with me and say “oh but they feel played in” my reply is “BOLLOCKS you fucking girly dentist weekend warrior, get back to stealing my pension with your hedge fund!!!!”

Sorry…;) Rant almost over….

Basically if you strip away the marketing hype. This guitar is a US Custom shop 57 reissue with different pickups, a Callan shortened tremelo arm & block and a clever switch that gives you the neck and bridge positions together. Gilmours original is essentially now a bitsa thats had more surgery than the average Hollyoaks cast member. I had a peruse of (long time roadie) Phil Taylors book ‘The Black Strat’ in Waterstones the other day and the beast has had 3 different necks, several trems and more electronic things inserted into it than Jodie Marsh at an Ann Summers Party. It even had a Charvel neck and a Kahler trem at one point. Here it is hanging on the Hard Rock Cafe’s wall sometime in its history.


Somehow though the “legitimacy” of this model has kinda made people forget that they could easily doctor a black used 57 reissue (US or J-Craft) and simply shorten the trem arm themselves and buy some pickups to mount on their aftermarket black scratchplate. I’ve seen quite a few people already doing this and I for one think its great that with a few spares and imagination its possible to accurately replicate a guitar that a well heeled Floyd fan would pay a couple of grand for.

The irony of this signature model for me is that anyone who has seen DG live with Pink Floyd between 87 and 94 will know that his main guitar was not this (it was on loan rusting away in the hard rock cafe at the time), but a red secondhand early 80′s 57 reissue bought from Chandlers (the guitar was ex of Mick Ralph’s from Bad company I believe) and fitted with EMG pickups and a shortened trem arm. I saw Gilmour on the telly at Live Aid using this guitar with Brian Ferry, then on the telly again when Pink Floyd played Venice in the late 80′s and their ‘Earls Court’ residency in 1994.

Again this guitar has been widely copied by keen DG/Floyd enthusiasts for years. EMG actually make a Dave Gilmour DG20 signature pickup set complete on ready to mount scratchplate. I wonder how all those devotee’s with EMG powered 57 strat’s are feeling at the mo. Is it time for a respray and some pickups to be changed I wonder?

Don’t get me wrong, The Black guitar is of huge historical significance. But if your under 40 years old the guitar you most associate with Mr Gilmour is certainly not the black one. The fact that DG lent it to a Burger chain to hang on a wall for several years kinda makes me wonder if it was all that special anyway?

In typical cynical Jeztone style I wonder if this move towards a DG strat was not instigated by Dave Gilmour but by his Roadie Phil Taylor. Guitar techs to big name artists are increasingly powerful people who can act as a point man between artist and equipment manafacturer or Vintage guitar dealer. One of Metallica’s roadies has an Endorsement deal with Mesa Boogie…so I bet he welds some influence over the equipment choices of the bands he’s teching with for sure.

A DG signature based on the red one would have little in the way of difference to a stock Fender guitar, wheras the black instruments long running history of a test bed instrument for new hardware and pickups, makes it more of a Marketing mans dream. In addition it’s use on the classic Floyd albums of the 70′s also makes it sit nicely with the age group of the Doctors/Lawyers and other Baby Boomers with the money to spend £2k+ on a guitar they could replicate for less than half that amount.

Fender ST57 ALGTX

In addition Dave Gilmour is the owner of a 1954 strat, serial number 0001. This guitar was used by Gilmour at the Stratpack 50th Anniversary a few years ago, while there is also claims this guitar is a bitsa, it is still the most iconic guitar in the Gilmour collection. Luckily Fender Japan make a very unofficial reproduction, basically a 57 reissue with Texas Specials and a gold adonized pickguard. A perusal of Ebay should get you one of these babies for around £550 quid, much cooler looking and far less common than a used red strat with EMG’s in ha ha!

While we are on the subject of Strats anyone who read my £500 strat challenge last year will probably be wondering if I ever did buy a guitar? Well the truth is…..after I went out and had a bit of an early 80′s nostalgia trip with my Ibanez Roadstar and Yamaha SG fetish. I’m back on the Strat trail and boy its a hard slog.

The reality is that finding a guitar to tick all my boxes is proving quite a challenge. The problem so far is that any guitar I buy will probably need some modifications in order to meet my needs as a player. Despite Fender making 150+ variations of the same guitar, nothing is quite hitting the mark yet.

Expect an update next month!

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