The Fender StratocasterNicky, 2006 - click image to enlarge

The Stratocaster is really my first weapon of choice. My first ever electric guitar was a blond telecaster, but my heart was always set on a Strat I was never enamoured with the whole pre CBS thing. They were so... well bluesy. You just want to play in that style.

My preference has always been for the large headstock, early 70s, three bolt neck plate Strat, with maple neck. The tone that fired me up was Richie Blackmore's sound on Deep Purple in Rock, recorded between August 1969 and May 1970. The classic combination of Strat and Marshal amp.

One of the big advantages of the Stratocaster over the Bigsby equipped Gibson (or for that matter Bigsby equipped Telecaster), is the through body tremolo. This enables movement from a light surf tremolo to an anguished growl capable of descending down to a rumble like thunder. Again, listen to Blackmore's playing on the opening of Speed King, which incidentally I stole for the opening of C.I.D. Here the Strat sounds like it is strangling a demon.

The Stratocaster is, in my opinion a harder guitar to master than say, a Gibson SG or Les Paul. It has more fight, more resistance and its mysteries are not so easily reviled. I agree with Jack White's comments on how sometimes a harder instrument has more ultimately to give, and makes you work more for the rewards. He said something along those lines, and I'm paraphrasing. Like everyone else, I always remove two springs if the Strat comes with a full 5.

Nicky Garratt, 1973. Click to enlargeThe shape of the Strat is perfect, with the contours allowing the guitar to get closer to you than just about any other design. In contrast, the Les Paul or Telecaster sits away from you against the body.

I must have bought my first Stratocaster around September 1973. I was in a band called Piltdown Man (which featured a young Honeyboy Hickling on bass, vocals and harmonica, as well as Big Al Taylor on second guitar), and photos prior to that date show me with a Telecaster.

The photo to the left, from October 1973, is the first I can find of myself playing a Strat. Note the crazy Vox stack and Big Al's Vox guitar! This Strat has a rosewood neck and, as I wouldn't have bought it new, is most likely a 70 or 71.

For my first outings with the Subs in 1977, I used the Strat exclusively, but towards the end of the year I sometimes used a Gibson Les Paul Black beauty. I did not record with the Gibson however, the Live at the Roxy LP, first three singles and Another Kind Of Blues LP were all Stratocaster.

U.K. Subs at the Roxy, 1977. Click to enlarge

By the time we recorded Brand New Age, I was using a Gibson SG live. On the recording I used the Gibson for the rhythm, but most of the lead was Stratocaster. Aside from the live album, almost all the lead on the U.K. Subs albums which I have been involved with has been played on a Stratocaster.

From, perhaps, Brand New Age onwards I mostly used the natural Strat, in the picture in the studio. It is pretty battle worn, but it has a great liquid sound and the brass nut helps the sustain. I believe it's a 1973, but it might have a mix and match neck from 74? I own three other Strats. A 73 sunburst which I have Fender noiseless pick-ups on, just in case we have a crazy hum with the #1 guitar.

I have a 1999 sunburst American standard with the flat bridge.  I’m not crazy about the bridge, but the guitar is nice. I recently bought a white early 70s reissue - that's as smooth as silk. All four have maple necks, and in the picture below, you can view my 'Fender Strat Family'.


The Fender Strat Family - click image to enlarge
Nicky Garratt - August 23rd, 2010