Alarmemorablia – Gibson 335

1968 Gibson ES 335 12 string – serial number 951338

The 45RPM guitar.

James Stevenson tells us the story behind the iconic Gibson guitar used on the 45RPM song.

I was at a vintage guitar show at The Hard Rock in Las Vegas in 2002 (I know, I know, I’m spoilt!) when I spotted this guitar for sale. The 335 12 string is uncommon but not really rare – but I thought it was cool – only thing was the whole of the top had been painted white – and worse, it looked like it had been done by a six year old kid with Dulux! Anyway I bought it for 600 bucks (cheap because of the issue) thinking I’d get it repainted later.

When I got back to England I sent it up to Clive Brown in Rippon, Yorkshire to refinish the top in the original cherry red. Clive is one of the best in the world – period. He rang me a couple of months after he’d received it and told me he hadn’t needed to refinish it after all as he’d managed to remove all the white paint and the original factory cherry finish was still intact underneath! Result!

When I got it back and started messing around with it I realised it was brilliant for a job it was never designed to do – deliver punk rock power chords! Gibson got on the 12 string bandwagon in the mid 60s – but Humbucking pickups were never going to be ideal for that folkey, jangley Rickenbacker 12 string sound. But for power chords– with all those extra highs provided by the high octave strings it was brilliant!

When we came to record In The Poppy Fields a year later I used the guitar in the studio a lot – in fact, apart from a few chords in the middle eight, it’s the only guitar on 45 RPM. I used it in the video too and often get it out to perform the song live onstage – it’s become a kind of icon for the song.

It’s also pictured in full colour on page 90 of Adrian Ingram’s Gibson ES335 book – although he forgot to give me a credit – thanks Adrian (not!). You can also read about it and many of my other guitars if you’re interested at