The 1975 pulled off a pop power move last night (12 Jan) when the four-piece took five during their set at London’s O2 Arena to make way for a special guest, with Taylor Swift duly emerging from the wings with a Gibson J-180 Special acoustic guitar for a surprise performance.
Now, there are Rolodexes and there are Rolodexes, and whoever is maintaining Matt Healy and co’s contacts book is due a pay rise. This was not just Swift sitting in with the band, jamming on a tune; she played Anti-Hero, the first time the track from 2022 studio album Midnights has ever been played live, and then followed it with a stripped-down cover of The City, from The 1975’s eponymous debut album.
Swift used her go-to SJ-180 acoustic on the night. The Gibson jumbo popularised by the Everly Brothers back in the early ‘60s has a smaller body than the SJ-200, and a shorter 24.75” scale as opposed to the SJ-200’s 25.5”.
While Gibson’s new Everly Brothers signature model reverted to the larger format, it did release a J-180 based on Cat Steven’s favourite six-string, which was originally an Everly Brothers signature guitar that he picked up in 1969 at London's legendary Selmer music store.
Though Swift’s acoustic is finished in white with a matching headstock, there are many similarities between both models. The graduated MOP star inlays across a rosewood fingerboard give it a made for TV spot vibe. Both will have a 16.25” wide body as opposed to the 17” wide SJ-200. The Cat Stevens model, however, has star and moon inlays on the headstock, while Swift’s model has a single star and Gibson logo.
As to her take on The City, Swift stripped it back to the fundamentals, with a guitar capo at the third fret. It is markedly different to the original recording, but it proves that a good song will work in a number of contexts, particularly a track that is a textbook example of how The 1975 bring electric guitar and synth together in harmony. Speaking to MusicRadar in 2014, guitarist and frontman Matt Healy explained their process.
“Synths are the fundamental,” said Healy. “It starts with George [Daniel, drums] making a beat and a synth sound. We normally use pads – these rolling synthesisers – in the background, then a bass line will get added and the guitars are the last thing, which is why they’re so detailed.
“A track like The City, that was a real composite of electronic music and live music: writing the live music, taking a live drum beat and then looping it, taking a live guitar and looping it. It was the first time we started using laptops and embracing it as our sound.”
That approach, explained Healy, allows The 1975 to incorporate all kinds of disparate influences in their songwriting.
“There’s as much Talking Heads and My Bloody Valentine in our records as there is Boys II Men and Toni Braxton,” he said. “We’re not a pastiche, though. So many bands will ‘do’ Cocteau Twins or ‘do’ My Bloody Valentine: all very cool, but if you don’t have massive songs, you’re not going to be a massive band.”
The 1975 are touring in support for their new album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language which is out now via Dirty Hit. See The 1975 for full dates. Taylor Swift’s Midnights is out now via Republic Records. You can check out fan-shot footage of Swift's performance at the top of the page.