The Best Worst Guitar

Epiphone 435i – a 1980s superstrat. HSS, with locking trem. I didn’t know anything about guitars. But I decided I wanted to play electric guitar. Mainly to fit in with some new friends at sixth form. But unlike any other hobby I picked up in my youth – this was one I stuck with.

I didn’t know what kind of guitar to buy. I just ordered one out of a neighbour’s Littlewoods catalogue. They sent the wrong one – a bass. Then sent the right one. But it was wrong too. Instead of the even cheaper guitar in the catalogue I received the Epiphone 435i that wasn’t even listed.

I had no idea what a locking trem was. Managed to break a few strings trying to tune with the locking nuts tightened. But this cheap HSS guitar with its skinny neck was the only electric guitar I had for nearly 20 years. Learned my first notes on it. Played it a lot live at university. In my late teens and early twenties I must have played for hours every day. I was never any good, but that didn’t matter. I loved that guitar.

It was also special because it was a gift from my mother, who would pass away two years after buying it for me. She encouraged me and listened when I learned something new. Telling me I sounded great, even though I knew I didn’t. At her funeral a friend of my mother’s told me mum used to stand quietly outside my bedroom and listen to me play. She’d told this friend I was really good.

When I met my first wife and we were getting a flat together I brought the guitar down to London and left it with her until I moved. It was the most precious thing I owned. She understood why I left it with her until I moved down. It was a statement of where my heart lay, of how important she was to me.

Within a year of our marriage my wife was dead, at just 35. After my wife died I didn’t think I’d play guitar again. I don’t think I ever wanted to play guitar again.

Until I met my second wife. She encouraged me to play again. We even formed a band for a wedding gig. And I started to practice again. My poor Epiphone 435i, now nearly 20 years old and played to death, wasn’t in great shape by now. The frets were worn flat. I’d filled the straplock holes with matches and glue more times than I could remember. And one day while practicing for the gig the whole locking trem disintegrating, the main metal weight sheering off the rest. And of course it would be a weird size and hard to replace.

My wife bought me a new guitar to do the gig. I still have a few pieces of that Epiphone. Not the whole guitar, but some bits. After a very hard life it pretty much fell apart.

It was guitar given to me by my late mother, held and cherished by my first wife who was taken tragically young, and was played again thanks to the love of the woman who picked up the pieces.

It was a shit guitar. It was the very best guitar.