Monday, March 26, 2007

Metal Guru

At last! I've wanted one for years and now I've got one. Sort of. Let me explain...

When I was a lad, sometime in the mid-'70's, I used to watch a television programme called 'Top of the Pops'. It was worth watching for a number of reasons, some of them musical, some of them not so. I particularly enjoyed the glam rock bands of the time- T.Rex and Slade were real favourites (still are!), and I remember seeing the 'legendary' appearance by David Bowie singing 'Starman' (or maybe I just remember my Mum and Dad's reaction to it?) Anyway a band that were always worth talking about to my mates the next day were The Faces, which, for younger readers (assuming that I have any), were Rod Stewart's band before he went crap. Their performance of 'Maggie May' gets shown all the time on those retrospective shows that are always on these days and with good reason methinks- you know the one, John Peel looking embarrassed as he mimes mandolin while the band are playing football around him. Great stuff- but next time you see it, check out the guitars. In pretty much all the footage of the band Ronnie Wood is playing a Zemaitis electric, and Ronnie Lane's on a Zemaitis bass or an acoustic guitar of some description. They're very distinctive, often with pearl or metal fronts- Wood's often seen with a black-with-a-metal-circle one, particularly when playing slide. These were all handmade by the late Tony Zemaitis and you still see Woody playing them today in The Stones, except that not all the ones that you see him with now were made by Tony himself (I won't bore you with the full story here, check the websites below for copious amounts of information should you so desire). Anyway it was around this time that I started getting interested in playing the guitar myself (although it needed punk rock to get me to the stage where I could overcome my shyness and actually get out there and do it) so visions of metal and pearl-fronted guitars have always loomed large in my guitar-infested mind. I saw Kris Dollimore playing a pearl-fronted Zemaitis in The Godfathers sometime around 1986, and when we played a few gigs supporting Glen Matlock in the early '90's his then-guitarist Paul O'Brien not only played a Zemaitis (still does!) but was (is!) related to Danny O'Brien, the man who did (does!) the engraving on the metal parts of the guitars. By then however prices of the guitars (due in no small part to people like Marc Bolan, Eric Clapton and George Harrison playing them) had gone through the roof. When he died the prices climbed even further so it looked as though I'd never get one- and I probably never will, not an original one anyway. However they're now being produced under licence in Japan (where I believe Tony Z. holds almost god-like status) though they're really difficult to get over here, and when you can find one they're really expensive.

But I found one in America on ebay- and, overcoming my fears and trepidation about buying it unseen and untested, I bought it. And now it's mine. All mine. And it's fantastic. Ha ha.

Now all I've got to do is get myself into a group where I can go out and play the damn thing!

My one's a GZ-1800WF if you're interested...

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