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Someone who came along two years after you and who also pioneered guitar sounds – it wasn’t about solos; it was about sound – was The Edge. What did you think about what he was doing?
“People mention it from time to time, and you know, I don’t like to get like, ‘Oh, he ripped me off.’ We’re a similar era, and Edge is obviously known for using a lot of echo. He’s a nice guy; he’s a very sweet man. You have to hand it to him: For the skills that he has, he’s made a very identifiable guitar sound. You know, they’re probably virtually the most successful band of all time, maybe.”
They’re right up there. I ask because in the ‘60s you had Clapton and Beck, and then in the late ‘70s, we had you and The Edge doing a whole different thing.
“Very different, yeah. But that’s the scene that I come from, and I just think that I’m one of those guys. To me, I belong in that small pantheon of British guitarists. There’s only five or six of us. I definitely think that’s where I am. I started out with Eric and Jeff.”
Let’s talk about your main guitars these days. Are you still using the ’61 Telecaster?
“I have it. It’s in the studio all the time. I’m not using it so much. The few guitars I did this record with were a Stratocaster, which is one that Fender made for me; it’s kind of a replica of my 1961 red Strat. They made two Strats for me to do The Police tour. They’re both killer guitars, so I’ve got those in the studio. Basically, I used one of those two Strats and a Custom Shop Les Paul. Most of the record was done with those two guitars.”
I figured that you might have 200 guitars – it gets to be too many options.
“Kind of, yeah. I’m staring at two huge racks of them right now. And that’s just one room – the other room’s got the same. It’s a bit much.”
The ’61 Tele – you bought that off of one of your guitar students back in the day.
“Yeah, at the time I was scraping by teaching people how to play. Some guy offered if to me for 200 bucks. That’s it, you know?”
For you, that ended up being the deal of the century.
“Yeah, I know. I played the guitar and I thought it was fantastic. I asked the guy, ‘Are you really sure you want to sell it?’ And he was like, ‘No, no, I don’t want it. You can have it.’ And so I got it for 200 bucks. I could probably sell it for a million dollars now. It was just meant to be.”