This month, May, forty years ago. I could end the post right here and you’d know what I’m talking about. One of the world’s most famous guitars is celebrating its 40th birthday – David’s Black Strat.
I had two goals when I started this site. Well, I had many goals, but I mainly started my research because I wanted to know how David got his Animals tones and what his Black Strat was all about. The Animals stuff was fairly easy, at least in terms of discovering his pedal setup etc but the Black Strat was a bit more difficult. In 2002, the Black Strat was all but forgotten and all there was was just lot of rumors and too much false information. Who can you trust when even David doesn’t remember? It took me some years to get enough details to begin making my own Black Strat. I learned a lot from pictures, film clips and not least from talking to other Gilmour fans. Still, not knowing everything sort of created this legend and mystery. Was it the same guitar that he used on Pompeii? Was there more than just one Black Strat? Where did it end up? Why didn’t he use it anymore? Which pickups did it have?
Now we know it all. During the past 4-5 years we’ve gotten all our questions answered from numerous magazine articles, interviews and not least Phil Taylor’s book about the Black Strat. I mean come on! A whole book about the guitar none of us knew anything about some years ago! It was indeed the Pompeii guitar. It was the guitar used on numerous Floyd albums. It did feature a humbucker at one point.
Still, the big revival came in 2005. After years of absence David actually used the guitar at the biggest event of the decade – the Pink Floyd reunion at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London.
I’ve told this story many times before but I was there. Right there where it all happened. I was in shock when they entered the stage – the only band that wasn’t introduced… just a heartbeat. I nearly fainted when I saw David playing the Black Strat. I really don’t know why. I mean up ’til that point I had only read about it and it belonged to the old Floyd history but it was extremely emotional. I remember screaming to my friends “He’s using the Black Strat!” They just looked at me and probably thought I was crazy. Pink Floyd was standing on the stage and I was ranting about a fucking guitar! I was in tears, literally crying, and I vaguely remember a guy I’d never seen before took his arm around me and said “It’s beautiful isn’t it”. He was probably talking about the music but I like to think we were sharing the same moment – seeing the Black Strat.
At this point David was making a new album and of course everyone wondered if he’d be using the Black Strat. I remember reading an interview with Guy Pratt autumn 2005 where he said that David had starting using different guitars that gave him a new tone. I was worried. No Black Strat? Then the Island Jam got released. Still no Black Strat? Some months later I finally managed to sleep, assured that the guitar was indeed once again David’s main guitar.
Standing right in front of the stage in Amsterdam in 2006, leaning against the front monitors, was an incredible experience. I remember staring right into the Black Strat and feeling a strong sense of “this isn’t real”. All the dings, scratches, the aged pickup covers, the shortened trem arm, the Hendrix strap and David playing his heart outâ€¦ I’m sure anyone who saw David live in 2006 knows what I’m talking about.
David bought the Black Strat at Manny’s in New York May 1970. It was actually not meant to be. David had already been to Manny’s only weeks earlier and bought his first Black Strat. As it turned out, most of Pink Floyd’s gear got stolen only days after the purchase and David once again went to Manny’s and bought a second Black Strat. It made it debut performance at the Bath festival, UK, June 1970. – see the “The Black Stratocaster” feature for more pictures and a detailed history.
People often ask why I haven’t bought the Black Strat replica or signature. I think the main reason is that owning a replica of someone else’s guitar isn’t what’s important for me. It’s looks cool and it’s really nice to play but somehow I don’t feel that it’s David’s guitar. It isn’t of course, there’s only one, but it could be any guitar for all I care. I’ve made my own replica as many of you’ve done. I bought it long before I even knew there excised a Black Strat and when I did know, I tried my best to make it sound like David’s. I did all sorts of things – including a lot of mistakes – but in the end I think I reached my goal. Funny thing is though that it’s actually quite different from David’s but for me that’s kind of the point. It’s like a tribute but at the same time my very personal guitar with years of experimenting, admiration of David’s work and tones and lots of happy moments built into it. Every time I look at it I think of the day I saw David in 2005 and all the stuff I’ve learned throughout the years from talking to other fans – you!
It’s strange though… to celebrate a guitar. I mean, it’s basically a couple of pieces of wood and some wiring. Hardly worth a fraction of it’s collectors value. But, it doesn’t really matter. It’s THE guitar. It’s the guitar used on a handful of the world’s best selling albums of all time. It’s the guitar used on some of the best guitar solos ever played. It’s not just a guitar it’s a piece of my, yours and the music history. Join me in celebrating the Black Strat!