'For 'Crazy Legs' I used a Gretsch Duo Jet - I knew Cliff [Gallup] used one 'cause there's quite a good picture on the sleeve of the album 'Blue Jean Bop'. At the time it was a mystery guitar because you couldn't see the headstock so there were all these rumours flying around about what it could be. Once we'd established it was a Duo Jet we made inroads into getting one. I bought a totally wrong one - a '63, which is now sitting upstairs in my attic. Someone said the one to get was the '56 Duo Jet so I asked for one with a fixed arm Bigsby, only to be told that they don't exist. I kept looking and now I've got two - one with a swivel arm Bigsby, which I used on the album, and one with an original fixed arm factory fitted Bigsby, which I got after the album. When I got the fixed arm guitar - by golly! - it was a lot closer to the Gallup sound. I don't know whether it's the resonance through the Bigsby arm or what, but it seemed far closer.
'Before we recorded the album I put a new set of strings on thinking that was a good idea but I was getting a lot of string whistle. If I rolled off the top to get rid of it then I lost the tone so I sent my roadie out to get some flatwound strings and he thought I had gone mad! So I got a flatwound third, fourth, fifth and sixth and instantly that was the sound with no whistle. I don't know the gauge but they're thick [a standard tapewound set of 11, 15, 22, 30, 40, 50 according to Jeff's guitar tech]! I used a Fender Bassman reissue - a nice mellow low end and a piercing top end - why they call it a Bassman when it's got such a top end I just don't know! I borrowed it from the Fender Sound House.'
'I used my own signature Strat for most of 'Frankie's House', playing with my fingers again - after doing the Gallup stuff with my fingers I feel totally schizophrenic. I used a Telecaster for 'High Healed Sneakers' - I had a great time playing slide on that, just in standard tuning with slightly raised action. I have tried other tunings but I always get mixed up! Sometimes I like to try different guitars but I usually think that if the Strat doesn't work then there's a big problem. The Strat is such a versatile instrument it fits most situations - if it doesn't work then the problem is more likely to be a technical thing. Then the Tele does another job altogether - it's amazing how Fender could make such a radical instrument as the Strat then come up with a Tele [sic].
'I used a Fender Reissue amp which has since been stolen and a DigiTech GSP-21 Legend. I tried a whole lot of effects but the DigiTech was ideal because there were so many inspiring preset tones - as well as a lot of silliness! We modified the presets but it's good to see what someone else has come up with first - otherwise you can spend weeks experimenting with delays or whatever.
'I have 44 guitars. Unfortunately, 40 of those are crap! Well, perhaps not crap but a lot of them are prototypes that didn't quite work out. I've got a few vintage instruments but nothing like Dave Gilmour's collection. I've got one prize Fender that was given to me by the late Steve Marriott - a '53 or '54 Strat that looks like it should be in the V&A.; It's got a seasoned ash sunburst body that has cracked due to age and it weighs a ton. It looks just like the Buddy Holly Strat. At some stage when I wasn't thinking too clearly - mid-tour I think - I was getting a lot of feedback so someone kindly unloaded the original pickups and I don't know where they are. I've also got a '54 Tele which I love to death and never breaks strings - it sounds beautiful!'
Jeff and his guitar tech Andy Roberts often experiment with different necks. 'Jeff's got a lovely old 1960 mustard yellow Strat but it's not the original neck,' says Andy. 'He'll change necks from one guitar to another to see if it performs any better - he usually does it to put on a thicker neck. Another interesting guitar he's got is the dark brown/black Les Paul Standard he used on 'Blow by Blow', serial number 27048. It's been refinished and I suspect it was originally a Gold Top that had the P45s replaced by humbuckers. Jeff's got one other Les Paul which is from around '58 - a lot of Jeff's guitars are difficult to date exactly because they've had different necks put on them.
'The Telecaster he used on 'Frankie's House' is a dirty white colour from around 1960 - again, it's got a different neck on it! He acquired that from Seymour Duncan and he's using now it when he gigs with the Big Town Playboys for [Freddie King's instrumental] 'The Stumble'. Sometimes we'll set it up for slide, other times we'll have it set for regular playing - it depends what Jeff feels like on the day. He's got quite a few prototypes for his Signature model Strat, all with pretty thick necks. I think if Jeff could have had a tree trunk for a neck he'd go with it if it could be kept in tune!
'One of the prototypes has Hot Rods hand painted on it but I don't know whether or not it will see the light of day. Another prototype has got Little Richard's name carved into the body - he's very proud of that. He's also got a Jackson Soloist with Tina Turner's name curved into the body - they make a non-matching pair!
'When we go into the studio we'll take a selection of guitars and amps but nine times out of ten he'll use a Jeff Beck Signature model and a Fender Twin Reverb - The Twin. At the moment for gigs with the Playboys he's using a new Bassman and no effects - the man's like a walking effects unit anyway!'
© Douglas J Noble 1993
Back to home page