Ying and Yang. Light and Dark. Order and Chaos. Creation and Destruction. Life’s full of dualities. But when it comes to rock’n’roll… sometimes Destruction and Chaos take the lead! Here’s a heartfelt tribute to the memory of Dirtblonde guitars of gigs past, who didn’t quite survive to tell the tale. Destruction won, on these few occasions…
1) Brazilian “Contre Le Sexism” Jennifer bass
The first bass Lula ever used was my Brazilian Jennifer bass which I bought second-hand in Rio (a brand I never heard of before or since, btw). It’s a great sounding bass with a Fender Jazz Bass body but with a narrow Epiphone-like neck. It’s still my favourite ever bass, which I still play at home to this day. And it only has 2 strings… because Lula was the one who inaugurated the era of destruction in Dirtblonde, breaking the headstock at the ending of the 2nd ever Dirtblonde gig! Luckily, the headstock broke in a quite nice, neat way, allowing the bottom 2 strings to still be played normaly. It also looks dangerously pointy… which is cool. I’m always trying to convince Lula to use it live again, but she refuses, since now she’s got two bass guitars of her own. I think the last time she used it was at the Liverpool Calling gig with Pravda at Korova, a few years ago. Boo!
2) The “Tragic Perfect” Stratocaster
I really don’t remember how this Squier Stratocaster finally met its maker in the Great Guitar Shop In The Sky. I remember throwing it across the room at our Ladyfest gig in Leeds. The body got cracked, but I carried on playing it for quite a few more gigs, having gaffer tape wrapped around the body to keep it together, but after one throwing too many, that was it for the guitar. However… as fucked up as it is, it sounds great for Sonic Youth-y droney sounds. I’ve been experimenting with it recently and hopefully it may still be used in future Dirtblonde songs!
3) The “Stay Free” no name Brazilian
When Dirtblonde played in Brazil, I had to buy an extra guitar. The only thing I could afford, at my favourite second-hand guitar shop in Copacabana, was this unbranded, piece of shit. It was the cheapest guitar on offer. To be honest… with the distortion pedal it sounded pretty good and today I remember it fondly. Got no idea what kind of guitar it was or who made it, and it looked pretty cool. It was destroyed at our gig at Funhouse, in Sao Paulo. I remember soem Brazilian dude getting all excited with the remnants of the guitar and keeping it as a souvenir.
4) The “Rock’N’Roll” Teisco/ Audition
One thing I must make clear, is that guitar smashing is NOT a normal ocurrence in Dirtblonde gigs. It happens sometimes, in the heat of the moment… sometimes when the gig is really exciting, or when the gig is shit and I feel frustrated. It’s not something I take lightly… ie. it’s not me indulging in some luxury. Most times, I can’t really afford to smash guitars! In the past, we had to spend certain lenghts of time without playing gigs because I didn’t have an instrument and couldn’t afford a new one! And then, when I was finally able to get something, I bought this Teisco/ Audition guitar, because that was literally all I could afford – got it for £40 on Ebay! And for almost a year it served me well. I remember I smashed it hitting the guitar on the ceiling, at The Magnet’s basement. It was a shitty gig and I didn’t mean to break the headstock… but that’s cheap guitars for you! I still got the neck and I hope to use it to make a Coke bottle guitar, similar to the one Jack White made inthe film It Might Get Loud!
5) Hohner Les Paul Copy
I remember I got this really cheap from Cash Converters. I don’t remember ever liking it much… again, it was all I could afford at the time. But it did the job, for a short while.
During the last song I hit the guitar with a can of Carling, which exploded open in a big shower of piss beer, then I jumped offstage and into the barrier separating the crowd from the stage, hitting the Les Paul until it was fucked. A member of the Leeds Festival security team was heard saying “I was trained to protect the band from the audience, not to protect the audience from the band”. Gig over.
I kept the body and a few years later decided to turn it into an artwork!
6) The New York Guitars
We wanted to travel light, so we arrived in New York with 5 gigs booked and no instruments to play! Lula bought her bass second-hand from Craig’s List and arranged to pick it up after we arrived, in Union Square. I bought my Epiphone Les Paul Junior from Guitar Center in Downtown Manhattan (an ace place!!!).
Ooh… I really loved that guitar. But things ended on a dark note when we had a big fight and I just dumped the guitar in some corner of the Lower East Side, possibly by Delancey st… a few minutes before we were due to play at Arlene’s Grocery (the venue were The Strokes used to play). I thought that was the end of Dirtblonde, to say the least, and the trip ended on a somewhat bitter tone. Also, I’ve actually never seen another Les Paul Junior like this again, and it really bugs me! I want to buy one just like it someday, and play in New York again and replace all the bad memories for good ones. Someday it’ll happen, I hope! (ps: I don’t remember what happened to Lula’s bass. I think she got rid of it in New York too, or maybe sold it once we returned to the UK)
7) The “Corsican” Epiphone Coronet
Here’s another cool guitar that met its end under shitty circumstances. I got this rare, cool Gold Epiphone Coronet second-hand from Ebay and I used to quite like it. Eventually, I decided to paint it dark brown to make it look a bit less shiny. Anyway, one of the frets came off just a little bit, and this guitar became a truly blood-thirsty beast. every time I’d play a gig, it’d end up soaked in blood. I never bothered to fix because I wanted to save money and, well, blood is pretty cool.
However… it met its end at Korova, when, once again, Lula and I had a big fight. This time, onstage. She stormed offstage and, drunken and in frustration, I smashed the guitar. It wasn’t a pretty sight. A friend actually filmed the whole (short) gig… where I can be seen smashing the guitar and then facing the audience and saying “there, you like it?” and someone comes and holds me, probably thinking I was going to kick off and smash the whole of Korova! It was a shitty time and some people thought it was the end of Dirtblonde.
8) White Epiphone SG
I got little recollection of this guitar. It was a cheap one I got from new, but it didn’t last long. I played maybe one Dirtblonde gig with it, two at most. I used it for my “bagism supergroup” when I organised the bagism event at View Two Gallery in Liverpool… and that was it. Eventually, I used the guitar on a new artwork which still hangs on the wall of our rehearsal room.
9) Sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Junior a.k.a. The Frankenstein
This is probably my favourite guitar! I can’t even remember when I got it, but it’s always been a joy to play. One day, at Korova, when we were playing with Pravda, things got a little too exciting and I smashed the guitar. Thankfully, the body was intact. I took it and the neck of the smashed white SG mentioned above, which was also intact, to John’s Guitar Shop on Aighburth road, and he made a “Frankenstein” guitar for me!!! So… so far, this Les Paul Jr. is the only guitar who actually survived being destroyed, and I still use it at Dirtblonde gigs… a Sunburst Les Paul guitar with a white SG neck, very unique!
10) Vintage V2 Telecaster copy
Oooh, how I used to love this guitar! Here’s another example of a blood-thirsty instrument. I played it on most tracks of our debut album. I loved how it sounded… but it was destroyed after a bad-tempered performance at Glasgow’s Nice’n’Sleazy. I remember I was really drunk and really pissed off, and decided to smash the guitar to vent angst and to make the journey back home a little… lighter. Once again, there was that feeling I just couldn’t be bothered and didn’t wantto play live ever again! Also, I never bought another Telecaster, because too many trendy indie bands started to use them.
11) Vintage V100WR Wine Red Les Paul Copy, the Teenage Bride
Another one of my favourite guitars. Quite an underrated instrument, this guitar is a copy of the 1970s Les Paul Deluxe, with mini humbuckers that sound GREAT! I only used it for one song, ‘Teenage Bride’, which requires a very unique tuning, so needs a dedicated guitar for gigs. This guitar was broken at the ending of our South By Southwest gig at Emo’s Annex, getting soaked in blood, too.
Once back in Liverpool, I took it to John’s Guitar Shop to be fixed, and carried on playing it until 2011, when I threw it across the stage at The Kazimier, when we played at the Chew Disco night. So… I took it to be fixed, refret etc once again, and it’s in great condition once more! However, I’m too afraid to use it live again, certainly not as the last guitar of the night, always a dangerous job! So I gave it a new experimental tuning and occasionaly play around with it. Hopefully will be used in future Dirtblonde songs and gigs.
12) Ivan Hell Custom “Love For Failure” Stratocaster
This is a very, very special guitar. It was a Stratocaster copy customised by my friend and guitar guru Denis. It has Telecaster pickups and some unique pickup switching configurations, that make it sound, at the flick of a switch, at times like a Telecaster, like a lipstick equipped Danelectro, or as fat as an SG. Pretty cool. It became the new Teenage Bride guitar, usually used as the last guitar on the last song of the set.
So, I ended up smashing it (or rather, its neck) when we played Free Rock & Roll at Mello Mello. The story is here. I quite miss it and it’s due to be fixed so hopefully it’ll make a comeback!
And so, our list of broken guitars comes to an end. For now, anyway…
13) Epiphone Dot ES335 Sunburst
Fuck, totally forgot about yet another guitar smashed at a Dirtblonde gig! I didn’t this guitar for long either, I don’t even have any image of me playing it. Smashed at our first – and only – gig in Sheffield, in 2008.
It was yet another of those gigs when we didn’t play to that many people, the sound was crap, we played crap and I smahed the guitar in frustration and decided never to play again… I still feel like a dick for smashing this one, it was a nice guitar! But at the time I was working in a music shop, with regular income and could buy guitars cheaply… so my temper got the better out of me. I guess I never felt attached to this guitar because it was just a poor relation to my 1990s Epiphone Riviera, which Air France lost!