My darling wifey decided she was going to buy me my guitar of my dreams. How could I say no to that? Not only that, but the plan was I’d get a Saturday off from family duties to go and enjoy the whole guitar buying experience. West Dorset isn’t exactly packed with good guitar stores – so eventually I decided I was going to head to Manson’s in Exeter. The store has a great reputation and actually makes the guitar used by the bloke with the stupid wheezy voice in Muse.
The aimed to get up early (not hard as I was on baby duty) and be out of the door at 8am to drive from Dorchester to Exeter. Baby wakes me up at 5.30am and the day doesn’t get much better. He’s in an unusually crabby mood by 9am. And why haven’t I left by then? My three year old daughter is seeming faking being ill but then gets herself in so much of a tiz that she vomits all over our sofa.
Looks like my trip is over before it’s begun. But wifey shoves me out of the door at 10am and says she’ll cope, “go have fun”, she says.
So I head into the now busy traffic with every other car pulling a caravan. Really slow at one point because of some bearded anti-oil loon (according to his banner) is cycling up the hill on a recumbent bike to piss us off.
But finally I get to Mansons. I’m after a Les Paul, I say, furnish me with any example of a 2008 Standard and Traditional please stout yeoman and leave me to pull my bluesy wah face in private.
Now at this point I should say that I believe what I wanted was a 2008 Standard with an iced tea finish. And this is the Standard handed to me. Looks so pretty. But by God it was awful. Not what I was expecting at all.
The Standard felt way too light – it felt like a toy. And the the asymmetric neck made me admittedly small hands ache within moments of trying to play it. Didn’t care much for the tone either.
What a terrible disappointment. I thought this would be my dream guitar. It was like getting to go on a hot date with Dr Alice Roberts and discovering she had a full set of wedding tackle between her legs. I actually preferred my Epiphone LP to this.
And then I played the Traditional. Now this is the stuff. Felt like my memories of playing pre-2008 Standards. Felt like the guitar a band mate had back in the mid-nineties.Had the weight, the tone – felt like a real Les Paul, or at least what I wanted from one.
But this wasn’t quite right either. The neck still felt a bit too big for my hands. And so I wandered around the shop having a good think. Time was running out on my parking meter outside. Seems neither guitar was quite right.
One last go. Asked the guy in the shop for a go of a Honeyburst Traditional. And wow. I didn’t need to even plug it in. My fingers felt at home instantly and the beautifully Plecked fretboard. Big smile on my face just playing some blues licks unplugged. This is the guitar that had been sat waiting for me to come and find it. This was the guitar worthy of my wife’s wonderfully kind gift.
And bonkers though this is I bought it without plugging it in. I just knew this was the one. That it would sound great back home through some 12AX7 and EL84 valves. And I was damn right.
Got it home and removed the pick guard – I like to see the whole top. And it needs a little adjustment – the stopbar is very high, I’m probably going to restring it tomorrow and wrap the strings over so I can screw the stopbar down. But it plays like an absolute dream. Lovely top too – quite understated. From some angles it looks like a plain top, with a beautiful grain running along the length. And then turn it and it catches the light, and flames in the maple burn across the top. Never a finish I’d have chosen originally – but this was the guitar that spoke to me and I love it.
But nowhere near as much as I love my wife.