Dave Stewarts Aluminium Strat, Duesenberg and custom made acoustic.
These pics were taken when I was Dave’s guitar tech for a launch at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre of the premiere of Ghost The Musical.
Whilst speaking to Dave at the venue he told me that the guitars had just come up from Abbey Road Studios where he’d been working for the past couple of weeks. The Duesenberg guitar needed the most TLC as the strings had only just been put on slack and not tuned up. This is not a good thing with a Bigsby type guitar as the Bigsby demands more pre-stretching of the strings and thus they need playing in really well to achieve and hold the correct tuning.
He told me the aluminium strat is one of only two known to be made by Fender Custom shop: Bob Dylan has the other one. The thing I noticed about this guitar was its great sustain, thick and full bodied sound. It was probably naive of me but because of it’s aluminium construction I presumed it may sound thin and tinny. The weight was that of an average strat. The bottom e string was noticeably lower on the bridge than the other strings, this can cause intonation problems. I asked Dave about this and he said although unusual, he preferred the feel of it that way. To compensate, the treble side was slightly higher giving better tuning. When I plugged the guitar in I checked the pickups. The bridge pickup has great output with a really nice ring to it: not overly harsh or cutting. The middle pickup was as you’d expect with a good honky sound but when used in the out of phase setting with the bridge pickup it had an instant funk sound: think Play That Funky Music on steroids! The middle pickup and neck combo is great for rhythm: not too bassy and would work great with a chorus pedal. The neck pickup on its own has wonderful articulation, each note delivers a nice harmonic ring and sustain. Considering there are no visible pole pieces, (it’s just got engraved pickup cans on the top) the balance was wonderful.
For the detail freaks out there if you pause this video about 58 seconds in you’ll see what I mean.
The Brian Calhoun built ‘Rock Fabulous’ acoustic had a really well fitted nut, nicely cut and low, the neck was thin and fast and the action was low. The frets were impeccable as you’d expect and all this needed was new strings well stretched and it was good to go. Dave was concerned about the acoustic sounds in the theatre so I had to spend some time EQ-ing the guitar through the theatre desk to reduce reflective sound problems caused by the fact that the Royal Exchange Theatre is designed in the round so there is a lot of sound boom, bounce and reflection (natural echo).