This month's Bought & Sold welcomes Barrie Cadogan of Little Barrie fame – a retro-enthusiast with a taste for offset Fender electric guitars and Gibson semi-hollowbodies with P-90 pickups. And he has plenty of wisdom to share from a life spent buying, selling, but mostly playing guitars.
Here he discusses the ones that got away, the important guitars in his life, and also explains why those looking for cheap electric guitars have never had it so good.
What was the first serious guitar that you bought with your own money?
“Well, I inherited a little bit of money when I was a kid from when my grandfather passed away, and I guess the first really good guitar I ever bought was a 1964 Fender Mustang. And they were cheap at the time.
“You know, I didn’t inherit millions or anything, just a small amount of money. At the time it was £350 or something. I guess that was my first really cool guitar. It’s sort of before I went on to a Gibson phase.”
What was the last guitar you bought?
“The last guitar I bought was a Squier 40th Anniversary Jazzmaster. And it’s great, it’s a really good guitar for the money. I liked the look of it because it had a maple neck and it had the Desert Sand finish – kind of a ’50s look to it, you know, a bit like the old Duo-Sonics and Musicmasters. I just couldn’t resist it. So I bought one and all I had to do was get it tweaked by someone. It took about 10 minutes, and it’s great.
“I do think that the more budget-friendly guitars are a lot better than they used to be. The only way you could get a really good guitar cheap when I was younger was if there was something vintage that was out of fashion, you know? Or something that people hadn’t cottoned on to yet. But yeah, I think the Squier is brilliant. I’ve got a Squier bass that I use for demos and stuff as well and it’s ended up on a few recordings.”
What’s the most incredible find or bargain that you’ve had when buying gear?
“Oh, it’s probably stuff that I haven’t got now. I mean, I’ve worked out how many guitars I’ve had in my lifetime… and it’s a stupid amount. I’ve had loads that have come and gone over the years.
“I used to have a 1962 Epiphone Crestwood Custom that had two mini-humbuckers in it and it was in player’s condition; it had had two neck breaks, one at the top and one at the bottom.
“I bought it from someone for about £400 and it was such a good guitar, it sounded phenomenal. I ended up trading it to buy an old acoustic guitar at one point. Crestwood Customs are daft money now as well. I wish that was one that could have been held onto, but that was probably the best bargain I ever got.”
What’s the strongest case of buyer’s remorse you’ve experienced?
“I’ve bought a few things that I thought would be great because I liked other people playing them, but they weren’t right for me. Like years ago I bought a Fender Jaguar because I thought they were really cool, but it just wasn’t my guitar.
“I love the Johnny Marr Jags because Johnny fixed some of the wonky bits and made it his own. But I bought a Jag and it wasn’t right. Sometimes you don’t know until you live with them for a bit or take them to certain jobs, you know?”
Have you ever sold a guitar that you now intensely regret letting go?
“Yeah, the one that eats away at me the most is that I used to have a 1962 Jazzmaster, and it was all straight. It was sunburst and it had its brown case, and I owned it for about a year. I sold it to buy an old Stratocaster because I thought it was a kind of step up, but I never used the Stratocaster anywhere near as much.
“My friend still has that guitar, but I can’t afford to buy it back from him. I don’t think he’d sell it anyway, but I sold it to him 19 years ago. I bought it cheap, in the early days of looking at eBay and stuff, and it’s a guitar that I wasn’t using much because I wasn’t using it live with the band at the time. I didn’t think it was right for [the] live [environment]. So that’s why I moved it on. But I used it a lot on our first album and it’s still the one that got away.”
What’s your best guitar-buying tip?
“You’ve got to look at the budget you’ve got, I suppose, and if you’re really not sure what you want, try as many things as you can. Sometimes the guitar that’s right for your heroes isn’t always right for you. I guess it’s about having that neck and that feel because you might be able to change the pickups and stuff on a new guitar. And I don’t care what anyone says, it’s got to look right.”
When was the last time you stopped to stare in a guitar shop window, or browsed online, and what were you looking at?
“I was looking at something this morning. I’m not a pedal guy, but I was looking at the [Jackson Audio] Silvertone Twin Twelve pedal. It’s based on the old Silvertone Twin Twelve, a sort of piggyback amplifier and it supposedly emulates that in a pedal form.
“I think you could use it as a preamp when you’re recording, as well. I’m not really a fan of drive pedals, I find they sort of shrink the sound a bit, but I was interested in that one. It’s something I might use more for recording or making demos, or something where I can’t mic stuff up.”
If forced to make a choice would you rather buy a really good guitar and a cheap guitar amp or a cheap guitar and a top-notch amp?
“Cheap guitar and a really good amp, definitely. You could buy a really, really amazing guitar, a really major vintage guitar, but if your amp’s lousy it ain’t gonna sound very good. You can get a half-decent guitar into a really nice old amp and it’ll sound great. If I put my cheap Squier into an old Fender amp it sounds really good. If you buy a ’50s Gibson and stick it into a lousy amp it’s not going to do much, really.”
If you could only use either humbuckers or single coils for the rest of your career, which would it be and why?
“It would be a single coil as long as it was a P-90. Most of my guitars have P-90s in them. I’ve got a 330/Casino and I’ve got other guitars that are P-90-esque – I’ve got an old Kay/Airline that’s got those ‘Kleenex box’ pickups, which are kind of like P-90s. So a lot of my sound leans that way.”
- Quatermass Seven (with Malcolm Catto) is available now on Madlib Invazion.