Famous Rock Guitars Part 1

I love guitars…I own 12 of them. It’s something about them that draws me in. Each one has its own sound and vibe. My family made guitars in the 60’s and 70’s so I do remember as a small kid walking into the guitar shop smelling the wood and glue. Some guitars are just as famous as their former or current owners.

I will include 2 guitars per post…this week we have two famous guitars from two completely different artists.

Brian May’s “Red Special”

Brian May’s sound was as a big part of Queen as Mercury’s voice. Brian May designed and built the Red Special with his father, in 1963, using any parts they could find.  The neck of the guitar was fashioned from an 18th-century fireplace mantel, the inlays on the neck from a mother-of-pearl button. For the body, they used wood from an old oak table. Then the bricoleurs combined a bike saddlebag holder, a plastic knitting needle tip, and motorbike valve springs to create a tremolo arm.

Brian May: I remembered that at the time we finished the topcoat of varnish, my Dad had wanted to christen her as the Brian May Special, and I had poo-pooed the idea; now I realized that it wasn’t so uncool to give her a proper name. So one day in a radio interview, when someone asked me what I called the guitar, the words Red Special just tumbled out before I’d had time to think. 

Legendary Guitar: Brian May's Red SpecialBrian May of Queen, playing Red Special, the guitar he built himself as a  teenager. | Queen guitarist, Brian may, Queen band

The Red Special is not in a museum it’s with Brian and it’s still his number 1 guitar.

I have a couple of guitars that has some cracking in the finish but nothing I’ve had or seen compares with this one.

For more than 40 years Willie Nelson has been playing a Martin N-20 nylon-string acoustic guitar he named “Trigger,” after Roy Rogers’ horse. A classical guitar designed with no pick-guard, the famous relic has developed a gaping hole in the body.

Willie got this guitar in 1969 after a drunk stepped on his Baldwin guitar. The same year he bought Trigger his house caught fire and Willie braved the blaze to pull it out.

Willie Nelson has said….“When Trigger goes, I’ll quit.” 

Willie still plays this guitar…and yes it has a distinctive sound all its own.

Queen – Somebody To Love

This may be my favorite Queen song. I loved to play this in my car when I was a teen with a stereo that could blow your hair back.

This song is sung with a gospel feel, with the voices of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor multitracked to sound like a choir. According to Brian May, the gospel sound was inspired by the music of Aretha Franklin.

Freddie Mercury wrote Somebody To Love. In interviews Freddie has said the lyrics reflect a man calling out to God, asking why he works so hard, but can’t find love. At the end of the song, he finds hope and decides he will not accept defeat

The song peaked at #13 in the Billboard 100, #2 in the UK, and #5 in Canada in 1977. The song was on the album A Day At The Races.

The band was super talented and it wasn’t just Freddie’s voice that made it… All the members contributed. Brian May’s guitar playing and sound was just as much part of Queen. John Deacon’s bass playing and songwriting that produced some of their big hits. Roger Taylor who is an excellent drummer also wrote some of their bigger songs.

From Songfacts

.Peter Hince, the head of Queen’s road crew, recalled to Mojo magazine September 2009 that “among the road crew there were songs you liked and songs you didn’t like.” He added that this was, “always one of Queen’s best. The studio version was very polished, but on-stage there was so much more guts to it.”

Hince recalled to Mojo the video was “filmed at Wessex Studios while they were making the A Day at the Races album.” He added: “Aesthetically, you had to have all four around the microphone, but John (Deacon) didn’t sing on the records. By his own admission he didn’t have the voice. He did sing on-stage but the crew always knew to keep the fader very low.”

Several bootleg recordings and live videos exist where evidently John’s mic was not turned down, and it becomes painfully obvious that the above statement is true – one particular live performance of “In The Lap Of The Gods” is wince-inducing!

In October 2009 a remake by the cast of the Fox TV musical comedy Glee returned this song to #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #26 on the UK singles chart. Their version was featured in the episode “The Rhodes Not Taken.”

Frank Turner covered this for the B-side to his vinyl release of “I Still Believe” in 2011.

The Voice contestant Jordan Smith’s rendition took the song back into the upper reaches of the Hot 100. The week after his performance of the song on the December 7, 2015 episode of the singing competition, Smith’s version debuted at #21 on the chart.

This was used in a commercial for the Honda Ridgeline that debuted during the 2016 Super Bowl. In the spot, a flock of sheep sing this song, having heard it when they were transported in a Ridgeline with a truck-bed audio system, which we’re sure is quite handy for teaching songs to sheep.

Somebody To Love

Each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet (take a look at yourself)
Take a look in the mirror and cry
Lord, what you’re doing to me
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can’t get no relief, Lord
Somebody uh (somebody) somebody (somebody)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?

I work (he works hard) hard every day of my life
I work ’til I ache my bones
At the end (at the end of the day) I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I go down on my knees
And I start to pray (praise the Lord)
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody uh (somebody) somebody (somebody)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?

(He works hard) everyday (everyday)
I try and I try and I try
But everybody wants to put me down
They say I’m goin’ crazy
They say I got a lot of water in my brain
I got no common sense
I got nobody left to believe
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Oh, Lord
Somebody uh (somebody) somebody (somebody)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?

(Can anybody find me somebody to love?)
Got no feel, I got no rhythm
I just keep losing my beat
I’m alright, I’m alright (he’s alright)
I ain’t gonna face no defeat
I just gotta get out of this prison cell
Someday I’m gonna be free, Lord

Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Somebody (somebody) somebody (somebody)
Somebody find me, somebody find me somebody to love
Can anybody find me
Somebody to come on, love, yeah

Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody, somebody, somebody to love (find me somebody to love)
Find me, find me, find me, find me uh somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love (anybody, anywhere)
Somebody, somebody to love yeah yeah oh (find me somebody to love)