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This article was originally published in issue #47
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Today. The Gilmour black Strat is a much modified guitar but some of the minor mods really don't need to concern us for the purposes of this article as they include things like different neck plates, knobs and the use of more traditional Kluson tuners.
A David Gilmour special issue wouldn’t be complete without a look at the legendary Black Fender Strat that Gilmour has played on some the best-loved songs in Rock history. Jamie Humphries takes a look at the legend played by the legend.
Guitars can occasionally be as famous as the guitarists that play them. Think of Rock legends like Peter Green, Brian May, Steve Vai and Edward Van Halen. David Gilmour's famous black Strat is certainly one you can add to that illustrious list. His black Fender Stratocaster has been used on countless classic recordings and concerts and has to be one of the most listened to guitars in the world, responsible for some landmark recordings. In this brief history we shall take a look at how the guitar has evolved and been modified from its humble beginnings.
It seems fate played a huge part in this lifelong relationship between man and guitar when in 1970, Pink Floyd were force to cut their US tour short after their equipment was stolen. Gilmour stopped off in Manny’s Music in New York to purchase a replacement Fender Stratocaster and walked out of the store with a humble black standard Stratocaster, The guitar was a CBS Strat with a maple neck with a maple “cap” fingerboard and a large headstock. It also originally had a white scratchplate.
Like many of the Fender guitars of the late '60s it started out as a sunburst, and was sprayed straight over by Fender in black as a custom order. The guitar came fitted with a three-way switch as standard, with the regular single volume and two tone controls. Fitted with a synchronized tremolo system the guitar was originally supplied with a standard length tremolo arm. The guitar was originally fitted with chrome tuners, with the Fender “F” stamped on the back.
Although the back Strat made its live debut in 1970, David wasn’t totally satisfied with the new guitar, and so began a long process of modifications. He experimented with various other guitars before finally settling on the black Strat as his main guitar, which he used on the 1971 album “Meddle”. From there, he continued to record with the guitar, using it on “Obscured by Clouds”, “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Animals”, “The Wall”, and “The Final Cut”! The same black Strat was also used on all of his solo albums.
For some reason, Gilmour retired the guitar in the mid-'80s, at which time he was experimenting with the then new Fender '57 reissue guitars, fitted with EMG pickups. He was also toying with the small bodied headless Steinberger guitar. As a consequence, the faithful black Strat was displayed on a semi-permanent loan to the Hard Rock Café in Dallas, Texas.
Sadly, the guitar wasn't protected by a glass a case and many parts were stolen and damaged. Eventually, the guitar was returned and restored to its former glory during the late '90s, but it didn’t make its return to a main stage until 2005, when the original line up of Pink Floyd reunited for the Live 8 performance in Hyde Park London. Since then the black Strat has resumed its position as Gilmour's main guitar, and a few years ago recently Fender’s custom shops luthiers and David’s long term tech Phil Taylor stripped down the original black Strat and analysed it to produce two stunning custom shop replicas, the NOS, (new old stock) and the Relic version. See our review elsewhere in this issue!