Material Real: Gear

     Like most guitarists with a unique sound, Allan Holdsworth's career has been partially shaped by an evolving landscape of guitars and amps.  Below is a a list pieced together from interviews, photos and videos.  In reality, Allan's descriptions in published interviews were largely a simplification of his actual set up, as he almost always did modifications "under the hood".  Nonetheless, this rough timeline might give some insight into Allan's ever-restless search for the "perfect tone".


1961: (Age 15): Allan’s gets an acoustic guitar which Sam buys from Allan’s uncle (this guitar may actually have been (or been preceded by) his mother Vera’s acoustic Spanish guitar).  It lays around for a couple years unplayed, but years later Allan begins to noodle around on it. (16, 64, 35, 27, DD)
Allan's father buys him an f-hole cello (arch-top) guitar (probably a Hofner President). (16) 
1963 (Age 17): After seeing an electric guitarist in a pub, he, his father and/or a friend of theirs attaches a pickup to his f-hole cello guitar. (16, 51, 5, 67)
Sam's friend builds an amplifier for Allan’s guitar.  Allan is intrigued by the building process and learns from observing the process. (51, 17)  
Allan gets a 15-watt amp from his parents (possibly the same one Sam’s friend built?) which produces a nice horn-like texture when it feeds back. (34, 7)
Allan buys a (blue) Fender Strat, but 6 months later, in a Kitchens department store in Leeds, Allan is transfixed by a cherry red Gibson SG Standard, which he buys.  A friend takes over payments on the Strat.  (5, 7, 16, 51, 67).  
1969: Allan plays his Gibson SG Standard through a Vox AC-30 amp (this SG/Vox combo is used for the ‘Igginbottom record).  (7, 61) (Actually Mick Jackson remembers Allan playing Marshalls, not Voxs)
1969: Allan tries to play sax (as taught by the sax player from the Glen South band) and clarinet (as well as showing interest in oboe and English horn) but has health issues.  Allan finds a violin in a junk shop. (17, 22, 34, 40)
1969-72: While with the Glen South Band, Allan somehow parts with his cherry SG Standard. His next guitar is a Hofner Colorama with a bent neck and a broken truss rod.  Allan soon replaces it with a 1960s Gibson SG Custom guitar, which sounds nice but is not as well made as his previous SG (3, 5, 33).  He begins using a Vox AC30 amp.
1972, Nov: Allan records with Tempest using a Gibson ES-335 semi-acoustic, after trying out and liking Paul Williams’ ES-335. He also plays around with an ES-175 (he doesn’t sell off the SG Custom, though).  (11, 33, 51, 64b)  
1974.07.16-18, 23-26 (CC) – Allan records “Bundles” with Soft Machine using the white Gibson SG Custom and the ES-335.  He also plays acoustic and 12-string acoustic guitars.
1975: Allan still plays the white Gibson SG Custom with Tony Williams as well as a Small Stone (or MXR) Phaser with a Marshall stack (51, 64, 64b).  The white SG Custom later gets repainted pink and then blue.
While Allan is “out in the country” visiting his girlfriend, he hears that his blue (previously white) SG has been mysteriously sold off to a pawn shop by Tony’s tour manager to get back his/her fee.  After returning to NYC, Allan sees the guitar at a music store but can’t afford to buy it back, and so instead gets a black 1961 SG Custom with 3 pickups. (35, 62)
1975.07: Allan records on Tony Williams’ “Believe It!” (37)  While working with engineer Bruce Botnick, Allan finds his preferred miking set up (“Neumann U87 placed between the center and the edge of the cone.”) (61)
1976: Allan acquires a new 1973 Fender Stratocaster, but is unhappy with the magnetic interference from the pick-ups on the strings.  Nonetheless, it gets used on the 2nd Tony Williams record, “Million Dollar Legs”.  (16, 64b)
1976, May (24-26) (CC) & June: “Velvet Darkness” is written in 2 weeks and recorded in 9 hours at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in NJ.  On one track Allan uses Tony’s girlfriend Tequila’s cracked acoustic guitar.  (3)  
1976, July: Allan is forced to sell the black 1961 SG Custom in order to get enough money to fly back home to London (but with the ’73 Strat). (7, 35, 40)
1976-78: Back in England, Dick and Gordon Knight make a custom neck (maple with ebony fingerboard) for the $300 Strat Allan brings back from the States. He also replaces the Strat’s 3 single coil pick-ups with 2 PAF humbuckers salvaged from his previous SG Customs (center position). This guitar is used from Gong (first heard on the Gazeuse! album) thru UK, but is sold before moving to the States.  (64b)
Allan also acquires 2 more guitars: one with a neck made by the Knights attached to Boogie maple bodies, fitted with Dimarzio (Gibson copy) PAF pick-ups (5, 16), and one with a Boogie Telecaster body made out of ash and fitted with a Fender Jazzmaster neck.  He also owns an Ibanez cello guitar (Gibson L5 copy) and a 1938 Gibson Kalamazoo acoustic.
For lead  amplification tones, he uses Marshall 50 heads with 4x12 cabinets, and for clean tones two Marshall 100s with a short Dynachord stereo delay to create a sense of subtle stereo.  He also uses a Burman for lead sometimes.  (11)
1977-79: With Bruford, he plays both the maple and white Knight-customized Strats and a red Gibson SG.  He also adds a 50 watt Hiwatt top to his Marshall 50 and Marshall 4x12s, all with modded elements. The Vox AC-30 also makes a reappearance in 1979.  (46)  Effects-wise, he no longer uses a noise gate or an MXR phase shifter at this point.  (3)


(to be updated as new Chapters are posted)

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