“We felt it was the right time to let someone else get creative enjoyment out of his perfectly kept studio guitars”: Gear from the late Iggy Pop and David Bowie guitarist Ricky Gardiner’s collection goes to auction

Ricky Gardiner Auction
(Image credit: Provided/Press; Gardiner Houlgate)

Guitars from the collection of the late Ricky Gardiner are headed to the auction block. Gardiner, who died in May 2022, enjoyed a storied career, founding the Scottish prog rock band Beggars Opera in 1969, before collaborating with David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Tony Visconti described him as a “guitar genius”.

These instruments – which also include bass guitars and a Harley Benton banjo of all things – have never been gigged, are all in excellent condition, but are veterans of the studio, appearing on Gardiner’s solo albums and on later releases from Beggars Opera. In a statement, Gardiner’s family said that it was time they found a new home.

“Since Ricky passed in May 2022, we have been organising his studio and felt it was the right time to let someone else get creative enjoyment out of his perfectly kept studio guitars,” the wrote in a statement. “As a family, we are just excited for the love, care and creativity Ricky brought to us to be passed on through these guitars to a lucky buyer. Good luck!” 

That this collection includes Harley Benton banjo, a PRS Custom 24 10 Top, a 2012 Schecter Diamond Series Blackjack SLS C-1 S-style – complete with a Sustainiac at the neck – and a built-for-speed Ibanez RG550 speaks to the breadth of Gardiner’s musical interests.

Gardiner played on David Bowie’s Low and Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life, most famously writing the music to The Passenger, which would become one of Pop’s most iconic tunes, driven forward by a riff that is one of the all-time greats.

“When I was invited to join David and Iggy in Berlin, I did not realise that they needed material, so I was unprepared when they asked me if I had ‘anything,’” Gardiner recalled to the Independent. “My surprise was effectively covered when I recalled the aforementioned chord sequence and promptly played it to them on my unplugged Strat.”

The rest is history. After tracking Lust For Life, Gardiner’s life changed pace. He became a father, moved out to Wales, built a home studio and worked on a more experimental body of work, collaborating with his wife, the composer/multi-instrumentalist Virginia Scott.

This is when these electric guitars were put into action, such as his 2010 PRS Custom 24 10 Top, which was played on Songs For The Electric and on Beggars Opera's Lose A Life.

Gardiner’s 2007 Gibson SG Standard, finished in Cherry Red, also appeared on Songs For The Electric, and is being auctioned with its original hard-shell guitar case. These are guitars we might expect to find in Gardiner's studio. Others not so much.

Take the Schecter. This seems like an anomaly. It is a metal guitar, in a satin black finish with a skull inlay at the 12th fret on the ebony fingerboard. At first blush this is not a tool for space-rock or symphonic prog and yet it features on Songs For The Electric. 

But taking a closer look, that Sustainiac is the sort of device Gardiner would always have gravitated to, giving him the sort of sounds Tony Visconti wanted him to use with Bowie without resorting to an E-Bow. 

And besides, in the privacy of the studio, no one can see the skull inlay. Or that your are using an an MIJ shred machine like the Ibanez RG550.

Among the lots are a Caparison Dellinger and Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay basses, a very cool Aria Pro II YS300 that’s got a walnut body with a distinctive maple centre stripe, and a weird Vintage double-cut that looks inspired by a Les Paul Junior Doublecut, but is equipped with a wooden bridge and a piezo pickup.

For more information and picks, head over to Gardiner Houlgate. The auction kicks off on 5 March at 10am GMT.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.