David Gilmour’s V57 Candy Apple Red Stratocaster

David Gilmour V57 Candy Apple Red Fender Stratocaster

David Gilmour is widely associated with the Stratocaster. For many, the Candy Apple Red V57 is perhaps the most iconic. Especially of the post-Waters era of the 80s and 90s. In this feature we’ll look at the technical details and history of the guitar.

In early 1984, David and his long-time technician Phil Taylor, visited the Fender Warehouse in Einfield, Middlesex, UK and tried a bunch of the new reissue guitars from the Fender Fullerton. This was just prior to David heading out on the About Face tour and apparently, he didn’t want to bring his old guitars as they now started to rise in value (International Musician August 1984).

They ended up with at least seven guitars, including the candy apple red V57, a vintage white V57 Stratocaster (referred to as Cream #1 – main guitar on the 1984 About Face tour and first half of the 1987-90 Momentary Lapse of Reason tour), a fiesta red V62 Stratocaster (used extensively on the 1984 About Face tour and later performances in 1985-86) and a butterscotch V52 Telecaster.

David Gilmour's V57 Stratocasters
The three V57 reissue Fender Stratocasters David Gilmour bought in early 1984. The candy apple red and vintage white or cream, were both used on multiple albums and tours, while the sunburst made a brief appearance at the Live Aid concert in 1985 and hasn’t been seen since. Note that all three are pictured with EMG pckups (the sunburst also sports a Roland synth pickup) and shortened tremolo arms. Modifications were done summer 1985.

David also acquired some lesser known guitars from the same batch, including a sunburst V57 Stratocaster (used on Live Aid 1985), a black Elite Stratocaster (heavily modified with Khaler tremolo system and Charvel 22 fret birds eye maple neck as a backup for the Black Strat) and a black V57 Stratocaster (later fitted with Kinman HX pickups and used by Tim Renwick on the 1994 Division Bell tour, Phil Manzanera on the 2006 On and Island tour and John Carin on the 2015-16 Rattle That Lock tour).

Fender 1982-85 American Vintage Reissue series

By the early 80s Fender began to realise that the 70s had been disastrous for the company. Other guitar companies were starting to make copies of the Fender guitars that were superior to their own, which obviously was not good for business.

The new line of vintage reissues were starting to appear in late 1982, although not fully realised and distributed until late 1983. The line ran up to 1985, when CBS pulled out of Fender. The vintage reissue project became the forerunner to the later Fender Custom Shop.

All guitars were faithful to the originals, with original body and neck contours, nitro lacquer and vintage style hardware and pickups. The only obvious upgrade on the Stratocaster, was the 5-way pickup selector. According to project manager Dan Smith, the reason for making 57 Strats and not 54 or 56, was basically because 57 seemed to have been a defining year in American art and pop culture.

David Gilmour’s #1 red

David Gilmour’s Candy Apple Red Stratocaster is often listed as 1984 (including the original paperwork for the purchase), although a late 1983 would probably be more accurate, given that the guitar was purchased in the UK (it had to be shipped from the States) in January 1984.

David Gilmour red Stratocaster About Face Live Aid
David Gilmour pictured (left) with the red Stratocaster in early 1984 for a promotional shot for About Face. Note the guitar is seen with original pickups. The EMG SA pickups were installed summer 1985 just prior to David performing with Bryan Ferry’s band at Live Aid (right). The guitar now also sported the custom shortened tremolo arm.

Upon purchase, the guitar sported a 1950s contoured candy apple red nitro lacquered alder body, a 7.25” C-shaped nitro lacquered vintage tint maple neck, 8 hole 1 ply white pickguard, white pickup covers and control knobs and 50s era pickups.

The guitar is first spotted on a promotional shot for About Face in March 1984. The picture shows the guitar prior to any modifications.

Modifications

June – July 1985, original pickups and tone controls replaced with EMG SA single coils and SPC and EXG active tone controls. By now the guitar also sported David’s custom 4.25” tremolo arm.

October – November 1985, the guitar is fitted with a Dive Bomber Tremolo Upgrade system for better tuning stability. It’s a kit featuring a graphite nut and string trees, saddles with roller nuts and high quality springs. The system was soon removed.

David Gilmour red Stratocaster close up
Closeups of David Gilmour’s red Stratocaster reveal the serial number V013327 on the original neck plate (left), some lacquer wear and some tape marked #1 (right). (pictures by Frederic Peynet taken at the Interstellar Exhibition in Paris 2003.)

February 1988, during Pink Floyd touring dates in Sydney, Australia, guitar technician Greg Fryer performs repairs and modifications including maintenance on the frets and nut and carving out the cavity of the guitar to be able to lower the EMG pickups even more.

EMG SA pickups

EMG had been making active noiseless pickups since the late 70s. The SA single coils (Single coil Alnico magnets) feature alnico 5 magnets, internal shielding, a low impedance preamp and 9V battery powering.

According to David Gilmour, the reason for installing the SA pickups in his new V57 Stratocasters (both the red and the vintage white), was to reduce or eliminate noise. Passive single coils and long cable runs were constantly picking up RF noise and hum from the ever growing light rigs and often, a recording studio was no better.

In this video I’m demonstrating the EXG and SPC tone controls.

Active pickups will also drive the signal through large pedal and amp rigs, which certainly must have been a reason for David to use them.

Soundwise, the SAs are very similar to early Fender pickups and the 60s era in particular, with a tad more mid range and compression due to the slightly higher output.

While EMG recommends placing the pickups close to the strings, David preferred them as low as possible to emulate the output and tone of his passive single coils.

David also installed EMG active tone controls, the SPC boosting the lower mid range (400-500Hz) and the EXG, boosting the bass and treble frequencies.

David Gilmour red Stratocaster close up
A closeup of David Gilmour red Stratocaster with the EMG SA pickups (left). Note the slight wear on the middle pickup in particular. This is probably where David would hit his pick while strumming. The original maple neck (right) with wear in the nitro lacquer on the second to fifth fret. (pictures by Jørn-Terje Larsen taken at the Christie’s Auction display in London May 2019).

David seems to have kept the EXG control low or flat for most of his tones, while the SPC was often boosted slightly for solos in particular, anything between 2-7, allowing the tones to both cut through and sustain. For clean tones and milder overdrive, he seems to have kept the tone controls off or flat, occasionally boosting the SPC slightly.

Surely, David would adjust the tone controls based on what he needed right then and there, depending on how the guitar sounded in the particular venue or studio.

By 2005 and the recording and touring of On an Island, David went back to his Black Strat favouring both its performance and tone, commenting that the EMGs “didn’t sound quite as “Stratty” in some ways”. (Guitarist 2006)

Performance history

The candy apple red V57 made its stage debut July 13 1985 at Live Aid at London’s Wembley Stadium. David played guitar with Bryan Ferry and started out with the 1984 sunburst V57, which failed during the first song. In the middle of Ferry’s Sensation, David is seen swapping the sunburst with the red, which he used for the remainder of the short set. The red now sported the EMG pickups and tone controls and David’s custom shortened tremolo arm.

David Gilmour performing Slave to Love with Bryan Ferry at Live Aid July 13 1985. This was the first time David used the red Stratocaster on stage, now customized with EMG pickups and tone controls and the shortened tremolo arm.

The red was used extensively during the 1986-87 recording sessions for Pink Floyd’s next album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, alongside a wide range of different guitars, including a Steinberger GL 3T.

David would use different guitars during the first leg of the subsequent tour, favouring in particular the 1984 V57 blonde Stratocaster, also sporting EMG pickups and the shortened tremolo arm, and a 1981 Charvel Glendora, modified with an EMG H humbucker and shortened tremolo arm.

David Gilmour red Stratocaster Delicate Sound of Thunder Pulse
By 1988, the red had become David Gilmour’s primary recording and touring guitar. Here seen during the 1988-89 leg of the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour (left) and during the 1994 Division Bell tour (right). Both tours were filmed and relased on double live albums and VHS/DVD.

By early 1988, as the Pink Floyd tour continued, the red became David’s guitar of choice and remained as his primary recording and touring instrument until 2005.

The guitar was used extensively throughout the 90s on several guest appearances and perhaps more notably, on the 1994 Division Bell album and tour, including the Pulse live album and DVD. For the tour, David wanted a second red V57 as a back up for his #1. They managed to track down an identical guitar in Charlie Chandlers guitar store right outside London. Apparently, this was the same guitar David had his eyes on back in 1984 but Mick Ralphs beat him to it. Mick was of course David’s rhythm guitarist on the About Face tour.

David Gilmour using the red Stratocaster performing Sorrow at the Fender Stratocaster 50th anniversary show at Wembley Arena, London September 24 2004.

David used the red for a performance of Sorrow at the Fender Stratocaster 50th anniversary show September 24 2004 at London’s Wembley arena (released on the Strat Pack – Live in Concert DVD 2005).

On July 2 2005 Pink Floyd reunited for a last time at the Live 8 concert in London’s Hyde Park. David is seen using the red during rehearsals but favoured the Black Strat for the actual performance. Although the red would be employed for the 2006 On an Island recording sessions and tour, Live 8 marks the return of the classic Black and semi-retirement of the red.

David Gilmour Live 8 On an Island
David Gilmour pictured with the red Stratocaster during rehearsals for Pink Floyd’s reunion performance at Live 8 July 2 2005 (left). David would favour the Black Strat for the show. The red Stratocaster was used on both the recording sessions and tour for On an Island in 2006 (right). This however, would mark the retirement of the red, as David now had gone back to favouring the Black Strat as his main guitar.

The red V57 was displayed at the 2003-04 Interstellar Exhibition and at the Their Mortal Remains exhibition in 2017.

The guitar was auctioned at the 2019 David Gilmour Christie’s auction fetching USD 650.000.

It is not documented whether David still own the second red V57 purchased in 1993.

Credits
“The Strat Chronicles” by Tom Wheeler, International Musician (1984), Guitar Player Magazine (1984), Guitarist (2006), Vintage Guitar Magazine (2004), The Black Strat – A history of David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster by Phil Taylor, The David Gilmour guitar collection Christie’s Catalog (June 2019), Kit Rae’s David Gilmour tone building site, EMG.com and fryerguitars.com

56 Responsesso far.

  1. Branko says:

    Hi bjorn. Could you tell me delay settings (TDSOTM, WYWH, WALL) for flashback 2?

  2. Sam says:

    Hello Bjorn
    Do you know what bridge and saddles he used after her removed Dive Bomber Tremolo?
    Thoese dive bom he does in pulse are incredible. Almost sounds like he has a floyd rose!
    Any thoughts?

  3. Hadriel says:

    Great text, I would like to know the height of the strings relative to the frets, because bending a 7.25 arm can’t be done using low action … but it looks like it does

    • Bjorn says:

      Low action isn’t really a problem if you allow a very slight curve on the neck and that the string height follow the curve. If you have a dead flat 7.25 neck and don’t measure the bass and treble strings individually you’ll have a hard time doing those bends. I have my strings as low as possible but with enough relief to avoid buzz.

      • Hadriel says:

        What curve are you referring to? To relieve the Truss rod or adjust the strings following the radius of the neck? Even making the individual adjustment as low as possible, within a radius of 7.25 those strings are no less than 1.8mm. below that, they lock in the bends, and it looks like his action is much lower than that radius allows? Is that ray still original or has it already been modified?

        • Bjorn says:

          Sorry for the late reply. As I said, I don’t have any issues with bending on a 7.25″ neck. You need to relieve the truss slightly. Not much but just enough to have a slight curve. If you measure the strings on the 17th fret, I recommend that the bass strings are about 5/64 and the treble strings about 4/64.

  4. Krisztián says:

    oi! where is the battery compartment? thx.

  5. Jorge Rodriguez says:

    Hello! If you look closely at the Volume knob, you can see a blue marker arrow on the number 8. I have a replica of the Red Strat and I am guessing that David played the rhythm parts on 8 and cranked the volume knob up to ten for the solos (plus the Muff). I tried it on Time: Volume knob on 8, bridge and middle pickups and overdrive for rhythm. For the solo, volume at 10, bridge pickup and the Muff. The red Strat is my favorite. Congrats to the lucky buyer Muulva1. Hope to see more of the Red Strat

  6. Sindre says:

    If anyone been waiting for Phil Taylor´s book about the black Strat to come back in print, they are now avaliable on Amazon again in paperback (editions unknown)
    Has gone for over $100 on the second hand market
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pink-Floyd-History-Gilmours-Stratocaster/dp/0955663512/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Pink+Floyd+The+Black+Strat+book+4th&qid=1563697794&s=gateway&sr=8-3

    • Ryan says:

      Good thing I checked the comments! Even though it’s paperback, I had to order it. It says the paperback is the Fourth Edition too. So we’ll see when it arrives. Thanks for the heads up!

  7. Muulva1 says:

    HI. All. I have been on this site many times but have never posted anything. Just a quick note. My brother and I were the ones that won the bid on the Candy Apple red Strat at yesterday’s auction. We are both players and NO, the guitar will not be put in a closet or on the wall. It will be played. We do have some questions on it though, if someone can help us. I am worried about the frets on it. They seem very low. Since we will be playing it, It may need a fret job in a year or two or three. I was thinking that if we do ultimately have the frets changed, does anyone think that Phil Taylor would be able to do it. I am not sure if we would trust anyone else to do a tune up on it or a fret job. There are some other questions that I will post later. Thanks again everyone.

    • Bjorn says:

      Well, I guess a congratulation is in order! I would think he’d be interested in helping you out.

    • You are one lucky s.o.b ( I mean that in the nicest of terms). Congrats. You should make some videos and place them on Youtube. $615,000???

      • Muulva1 says:

        Hi. We should be posting some videos soon. Was a very exciting auction. Prices were well above ridiculous. I think 90 percent of the prices were from people that just wanted stuff and had alot of money to burn.

        • Muulva1 says:

          PS. If it is OK, we can post some close ups of the guitar on this website. Not sure how to post pictures though.

          • Bjorn says:

            Please send me an e-mail post*gilmourish.com and I’ll be happy to post them! Thanks!

            • Anton says:

              So, how’s photos doing? Can’t wait to see the red strat!

              • Muulva1 says:

                Hi. Just sent some photos over. Hopefully they will be on soon! Post any questions.

                • Bjorn says:

                  Did you send them to me? Haven’t received any. If you want to share them here then send to post*gilmourish.com. Thanks!

                  • Muulva1 says:

                    HI. I emailed them to gilmourish.com. I tried emailing them to post*gilmourish.com. but it came up as invailid address. Let me know if I am doing it correctly and if not, let me know. Thanks

    • FABIO CLAUDIO RUSSO says:

      I think the best place where you can bring the guitar is Charlie Chandler guitar experience based in London. They restored the Black Strat too.

    • Phil Robinson says:

      Hello there,

      Firstly, congratulations on the purchase of the guitar that started my obsession with David Gilmour’s/Pink Floyd’s Music

      For a fret dress – the ONLY place I’d take *that* guitar is Charlie Chandler in Hampton Wick, SW London

    • Robert says:

      Waow….
      i think you’re just above the happiest man on earth…
      Please… Post video of the red strat anywhere… Just say where… and I’ll be instantly in front of them to watch them…
      congratulations on your victorious auction.
      Robert

      • Muulva1 says:

        Hi all. We are waiting for the guitar to be delivered. it should be received this week. As soon as we get it, I will post close ups of it. Also, please post any and all questions or comments. I will be more than happy to answer any and all of them. Thanks again!!

        • Bjorn says:

          Sounds great! Thanks! If you wish to share your pics here, please send to post*gilmourish.com and I’ll sort it out with a gallery :) – Bjorn

          • Muulva1 says:

            Hi. One other thing that I just noticed. In your description, you say that the Candy Apple red Strat is a 1983 V 57. According all the paper work, including the masking tape on the side of the guitar case that was supposedly written by Phil Taylor calls it a 1984 Strat, not 1983. Also the Christies catalogue calls it a 1984. I am not sure if I am reading the description right. Thanks

            • Bjorn says:

              Yes, I’ve seen that. As you mention, the catalog says 1984. My guess is that they’ve labeled it that because the guitar was bought in 1984. However, they bought in January and in the UK, so I’m guessing that the actual production at Fullerton is 1983. If you look at the history of these early 80s reissues, the CAR Strats were produced from 1983, while some sunbursts started to appear late 1982. Anyway, I’m rewriting the feature as we speak, so I’ll try to look into it some more.

    • Jason says:

      Amazing, congrats.

      If you’re UK based, please let me organise your insurance :)

      Gilmour fan and specialist insurance broker.

      Closest I can get to Gilmour’s kit: https://youtu.be/7RRaPPUs6qI

  8. Crimson says:

    I think that David does not own the Bill Lewis Guitar anymore. Seems like John Shanks has his fingers on it these days.

    https://equipboard.com/pros/john-shanks/bill-lewis-24-fret-guitar

    • Bjorn says:

      That’s not David’s guitar. If you compare them, David’s doesn’t have the laquer wear and, his got toggle switches for the pickups. I guess this ad says that it’s a similar guitar. Not THE guitar. A bit misleading perhaps.

  9. Paul Duggan says:

    These days, when switching between these, the Black and the Gretsches, does David make adjustments to his pedals for EQ or volume variation? Or does he just let the guitars character come through his pedal setup?
    It would surprise me if the clean boost TD settings (for example) worked as well with the EMGs as the pickups in the Black.

    • Bjorn says:

      He tweaks his pedals all the time but I think that’s more a matter of adjusting to mood, venue and the dynamics of the band. He choose guitars for certain sounds so the pedals will fit well. Notice also that he rarely use high gain pedals with humbuckers and Teles but rather with Strats. The EMGs aren’t that much hotter than the vintage pickups in the Black Strat. He’s also using different compressor pedals, often combined, to balance and compensate.

  10. Simon Craddock says:

    Hi, do you know how he used the exp and spc controls. I’ve seen theres a little marker on the volume which I think would indicate his preferred volume level. I’m interested because when I turn mine up it starts getting a bit hissy when using hi gain

    • Bjorn says:

      It all depends on what pedals you use and what sort of boost you need for specific songs. He rarely cranked them so it’s minor adjustments to enhace the sustain or adding a bit of sparkle and it seemed to change every night depending on the venue and how his guitar sounded that night. If you turn them up past 4-5 there will be more noise as you’re boosting a certain frequency range. Make minor adjustments and listen if they’re actually needed. You don’t have to boost if your tones is already on spot :)

  11. Aaron Black says:

    Do we know the fretboard radius? I have an MIJ Strat from the mid-80s that’s a 50s reissue but has a 12″ fretboard radius. Just curious if the C-shaped neck came with a flatter fretboard.

  12. Matt says:

    Hi Bjorn,

    Do you know how David toggled the 5-way/7-way pickup configuration on the EMG-SA equipped guitars, and what sort of switch/button/toggle he used? I notice that particularly during the pulse tour/album, he uses bridge only, bridge & neck, and all three pickups together at various points, but I can’t seem to find any evidence of a switch or control on the guitar to flip between 5-way and 7-way pickup configurations.

    Many Thanks,

    Matt

    • Bjorn says:

      Apparantly these 83 reissues came with 3-way switcher. I haven’t seen anything on David replcing that with a 5 way but he might have. What people used to do back in the days was that they found a sweetspot between each position which actually combined the pickups as a 5 way but I have no idea if David replaced it or how he did it. If you listen to Division Bell it sounds like he’s using a neck/middle combo on stuff like Coming Back to Life which might indicate that he replaced the stock 3 way with a 5 way. As far as I know he used the red on that track.

  13. Antonio says:

    How many springs does he use ? In which configuration?

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