My Top 5 Guitar Things Of The Last 25 Years – Simon Bradley
Guitarist magazine celebrates its 25th Anniversary this issue with a special Collector's Edition, on sale now!
The cover feature is The 100 Greatest Guitar Things Of The Last 25 Years – a massive 18-page celebration of gear, artists, albums and more.
CD & Multimedia Editor Simon Bradley picks his Top 5 from the list
I have fond memories of this unassuming floor-based effects processor – the first produced for the mainstream. Not only did I sell what seemed like hundreds of them during my time working at Musical Exchanges in Birmingham, but actually went on a training course at Roland UK in Swansea to be shown how to work it.
The day went like this. Meekly introduce yourself to a gaggle of similarly hairy-arsed shop workers; spend an hour setting up a patch on the ME-5 (it actually took about four minutes); demo said patch to your classmates; repeat; have a cuppa; repeat; have lunch; tutor unpacks the first GR-50, a melon-twistingly complex guitar synth that none of us could work; spend rest of time trying to get anything out of it; go home.
Amazing to think of the intricate nature of some of the gear we have to get our heads around these days as a matter of course: the ME-5 is to the BOSS GT-10 as the Sinclair C5 is to a Ferrari FXX.
One thing all guitarists surely have in common is a piece of gear we wish we'd never sold. Some of us have more than one but trumping my original Floyd-equipped Schecter PT-1 and white 1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom (sold to insure my rotting Ford Sierra...noooo!) on my personal list is my Marshall 25/50. It was my first real amp and although I didn't really know how to work it back then, I found that flicking it to half-power gave a huge, fat tone that I've yet to recreate all these years later.
True, any 25-watt all-tube head is likely to sound pretty good flat-out, but factor the 25/50's boost feature into the equation and I had the tone that Marshall are renowned for without the crushing output of an SLP...
I ultimately sold it to Phil Docker, a customer (and mate) of ours who used to come into Musical Exchanges each and every day. He's now the guitarist with DLR-tribute monsters Yankee Rose and he remembers the amp: he just laughed when I said I wished I'd never flogged it. And he'd sold it on! Git!
Phil Docker - give me my amp back! (That's not his real hair...)
Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi
Yes, yes, Bon Jovi are crap: yada, yada, yada. There, now that's out of the way, let's get to the facts. The band have sold over 120 million albums since their 1984 debut; they have been selling-out stadia across the world for over 20 years; their diminutive frontman is one of the most famous people in the world; and Bon Jovi are not crap.
Slippery..., released in 1986, is the album that broke the band wide-open and it contains four died-in-the-wool rock behemoths – You Give Love A Bad Name, Livin' On A Prayer, Wanted Dead Or Alive and Never Say Goodbye – and that was that.
I saw BJ on the 7800° Fahrenheit tour at the Birmingham Odeon (21st May 1985, fact fans!) and although I considered them to be an above-average US rock band, I didn't think they'd amount to much more. When we saw them two years or so later, post Slippery at the NEC (December 5th 1988 – Gawd, I'm sad...!), they were magnificent, and remain so.
Peer pressure can get you in loads of trouble, and it can also cause you to miss out on good things. Make sure you see the band live; you'll have a great time and you'll be familiar with much more of their set than you'll freely admit to your Screamo mates...
I worked at the shop during the height of the so-called Rack Phase™ of the late eighties/early nineties and even the most modestly-talented of our guitar-playing punters wanted separates: a separate preamp and power amp glued together by as many half- or full-rack effects processors as their budget would allow. No wonder Steve Vai refers to such set-ups as 'fridges'.
Thanks to the influence of the likes of Paul Gilbert and Nuno Bettencourt, this humble MIDI preamp became the unit for many to aspire to. Remember that this was all in the day before the internet so no eBay, no buying online, no nothing, and ADA were a small concern too, so stocks were severely reduced. Guitar Player magazine used to run a small black and white ad that featured two vertical ADA 2x12 cabs powered by an MP-1 and a Microfet 100 power amp (I think), plus a Pitchtraq effects unit. All of us working there became hoarse with numerous phone calls demanding to know how much we could do such a system for: the cabs were barely available in the US, let alone central Brum!
Still, when all's said and done, the tone an MP-1 produced was incredible...they turn up on eBay from time to time too...
For more info, click here http://www.adadepot.com/
Sorry...another anecdotal tale from my time at MXs. We stocked the very first run of Desert Sun Yellow JEMs outside of the United States and although we knew who Vai was as an entity thanks to Eat 'Em and Smile, these instruments caused players to besiege the shop in droves to simply look and point – again, this was pre-internet. We used to play it before the shop opened, and again when the shop closed and we couldn't get enough of it's wonderful neck, Monkey Grip and Lion's Claw routing.
JEMs are as common as anything these days, but I should point out that we also received one the original runs of the signed Loch Ness Green JEM777LNG that a dealer had imported for sale. We weren't allowed to touch it (or point at it, truth be told) but at least I could say that I'd seen an example.
I had a quick strum of the JEM77FP Floral we sourced for the cover shot recently and it took me right back to when the same model landed at the shop. Modelled after Vai's own curtains? Pink DiMarzios? WTF? It's still the nicest full-blown signature model I've played.
Dirty Bett's, Birmingham, 1991 - So...what did you look like 18 years ago...?!