LOT 88 CHRISTIE’S 2004
PRE-SALE EST: $100,000 - $150,000
WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR A GUITAR AT TIME OF SALE*
Serial No: 20036
Body: Alder, black finish
Neck: Maple, 21 frets, maple fingerboard with dot inlays
Bridge: Synchronised tremolo
Pickguard: White single-ply
Pickups: Three single-coil
Controls: One volume, two tone
Switches: Three-position pickup selector with white switch tip
Case: Anvil case stencilled in white with an image of two cartoon duck heads and lettering ‘THE/DUCK BROS./LONDON 01 486 8056’ with adhesive tape inscribed ‘Auction #15/BK/’56 ’57 Black/Stratocaster’
ERIC: "The guitar I chose for my return to recording was one that I had built myself, a black Fender Stratocaster which I had nicknamed ‘Blackie’. It’ s probably a well-known story… I went into a shop in Nashville called Sho Bud which was owned by Buddy Emmons – the famous pedal steel player – and they had things like Rickenbackers in the front of the shop going for quite high prices. In the back they had this second-hand department and there was a row of Stratocasters, almost like clothes on pegs.
"I couldn’t believe that Strats had sunk so low in public opinion. I felt like I’d stepped into a gold mine. Blonde, maple neck Stratocasters, all going for about $100-150 each, and I bought them all. When I got home I gave one to Steve Winwood, one to Pete Townshend, another to George Harrison and kept the rest. Blackie was made out of three of these guitars – the body of one, the neck of another, the pickups of another. If I hadn’t bought those guitars they probably would have been firewood and now the cost of 1950s Strats is ridiculous.
"They’re things of great beauty. Now the vintage Strats have all gone. That particular avenue has probably dried up unless someone finds one under their bed. They go into collections and they don’t come out again. You’d have to be quite wealthy to even think of buying one.
"Something is just magical about that guitar. Maybe it’s all the tender-loving care I’ve given it over the years. That’s probably why I like buying second-handmguitars and old vintage guitars. This may sound superstitious, but you never know who owned a guitar before. That person may have been a master and he may have put something in there. The way the guitar was played and handled seems to stay with the guitar and you inherit that if you’re lucky or aware enough to acknowledge it.
"When I came back to recording, it was with a different point of view, a fresh enthusiasm and a kind of open-mindedness to learn about new music, because that’s when I heard reggae. I was just like a kid in a sweet shop again. When we were recording 461 Ocean Boulevard , we’d walk into the studio and jam, and then we’d listen to it back and write the song. We’d pick out a riff, or part of the jam that was good and then write a song with it. We really got it going in the end.
"I get seriously attached to an instrument and I felt that Blackie had become part of me. A guitar like Blackie comes along maybe once in a lifetime. I played it for 12 years non-stop on the road. Brownie (page 72) was a much more industrial guitar. Blackie was really refined, it was like the racer. The action was perfect even when the neck was quite worn down and narrow. All you had to do was pick it up and it played itself. I developed a lot of trust and security with that instrument. It’s a remarkable guitar.
"It was hard for me to part with Blackie but I had to put it into perspective. My working relationship with Blackie was exclusively and extensively through the Seventies and early Eighties and then after that it was removed from working life. On tour with the Dominos, Blackie got some incredibly bad treatment. When I was playing with the guys from Tulsa – Jamie Oldaker, Carl Radle – I remember ending a song by falling face down on stage on top of Blackie. I cracked the nut and it just shattered.
"Apart from that the guitar was fine. I think the old repair on Blackie’s headstock was originally there when I got it. The reason I chose that neck was because it’s got quite an extreme V. It’s the most extreme V on a maple neck that I’ve found. It was a beautiful neck and had a lovely feel. I think even today that Blackie would be my ideal. If you asked me to pick the classic Fender, it’s a black Strat with a maple neck."