1964 Stratocaster

Justin HaywardI came across this 1964 (63?) Stratocaster in the early or mid 70’s – I think it was in the USA somewhere.  I wish I could really remember where I bought it, but my feeling was that it was in the US, in LA just before, or around the time of the beginning of the Octave recordings.

I had owned a Strat before, in the early 70’s, but it was made at a time, in Fender’s history, when things weren’t so good – but this 64’ guitar was different  – it spoke to me and kind of nestled up in my arms.

It has a slightly wider neck at the nut, making it very easy for me to play as I have long fingers – other guitars that are narrow towards the nut are impossible for me.

It had a 3-position switch and all the parts are original and the finish was immaculate when I had it – you could see and hear that it had spent its life being loved and cared for and played.

It rather bothers me that the only photos I have with it showed me, rather recklessly, parking a cigarette (or something smoke able) in the head end – ouch. Sorry about that.

It played like a dream, so well in fact that I was scared of taking it on the road – I couldn’t subject it to the rough and tumble of road life. The sound, if you wiggled the switch to stay between the middle and bridge pick-ups was sublime (you would have heard that particular, individual sound on everything from Mark Knofler to Hank Marvin to Jimi) and it always stayed in tune, no matter how brutal I was with the tremolo arm.

Justin HaywardI knew instantly it was the greatest Strat I had ever played – of course – but it was also the greatest Strat I’ve ever seen (yes – I know what you’re thinking  – “How did I know”? – but I don’t desire any of those other guys guitars).

I’ve had Strats since – I have a Blackie and another cheaper one, and of course the white Squire Strat that I use on the road that is a surprisingly good and clean sounding guitar.  But on the ’64 the action was low and fine – whoever set it up did a perfect job – and it was (surprisingly for a Strat) even, over all the strings. It was infinitely forgiving and playing it was like being in a beautiful dream of Strat heaven.

I played it a lot on Moodies, and solo recordings and it featured as a rhythm and lead guitar – but you can hear it clearly on ‘Moving Mountains’, the track and the album, and on several guitar solos including  ‘Meanwhile’ and ‘Talking Out Of Turn’ and it’s all over my Night Flight album and the Octave, LDV and The Present LP’s.

For me though, it’s on the recording of ‘Blue World’ where it speaks most beautifully. ‘Blue Word’ was a song made for that guitar and I played it on my home demo of the song and on the real recording – there it is – all over it.  That’s the song I’m recording in these pictures. I can tell by the background  of Strawberry Studios Dorking, and my old AC 30 an MXR Compressor and my Eventide Harmonizer (The Eventide was a perfect way to create stereo in those days – it’s still the best).

I miss very it much. I loved it.

And now I grieve for that guitar as I write.

But, this has happened to me a few times before:

Because I feel guitars alive, that they need playing and loving, I often have remorse and regret attacks for them – I feel unworthy to keep these beautiful things unless I use them all the time. The same happened to me with the ridiculously rare 1959 Blonde Gibson 345 I had (see photos around S.Sojourn time) – I convince myself there is someone out there that will treasure it, and, more importantly, play it more than me – and I let the guitars leave me.

So I did let it leave me – ‘anyway’, I thought – ‘I have the white replica for the tough day-to-day work’.

And then…   I was doing a session, for someone else, not a Jus or Moodies recording, and in my mind I reached for my ’64 Strat… of course it was no longer mine to deliver the sound, and to put that kind of love into the track. Oh.

Since then I have used the Blackie a lot on recordings, when that sound is called for – but it doesn’t come close to the guitar I once worshipped.

Check out what it would ‘knock you back’ to purchase an ‘all original’, immaculate 1964 Stratocaster, even if you could actually find one?

I did, cos I recently started to think about getting another one, and I was yearning for that feeling again.

Wow, you could do a lot of other stuff with that amount of lolly!

But, don’t be sad for me. Mine is the best 335 in the world, in the universe – and my 1955 Martin D28 is King.

I still don’t keep guitars that I feel could have a better life elsewhere – I just hope that that ‘elsewhere’ is not some collector’s wall!

But…. That doesn’t stop me grieving for ‘a once in a lifetime’ Sunburst Stratocaster.

Justin Hayward