Woo hoo! You know the riff, now here's the guitar. A 1974 Hayman 3030H, made famous by Graham Coxon on Blur's Song 2. A classic British guitar from the Jim Burns bloodline - the Leo Fender of the UK. Pleased to meet you!
From the pared down intro and verse to the full-blast chorus, there's probably not another song by Blur that grabs you, throws you around, and never leaves you. Apparently written as a joke on the record company and late-US grunge, but then turning out to be one of Blur's biggest selling singles, and their highest charting song in the US. Graham Coxon wanted a deliberately amateur sound for his guitar. A Hayman 3030H isn't an amateur guitar by a long shot, but for that clean intro, it had the perfect clipped sound. Not to mention the hurricane it unleashes as he stomps on a ProCo RAT for the chorus. A British guitar for a British invasion.
Which is kind of appropriate. If ever there were a UK counterpart to Leo Fender, it's Jim Burns. The man behind the guitars played by Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and John Rostill of The Shadows. The innovator behind the gear-box truss rod (a lot simpler than it sounds) or the Tri-Sonic pick-ups that Brian May soldered into his Red Special. And, teamed up with Vox's Bob Pearson, the designer behind Dallas Arbiter's Hayman range, launched in the late-60s. As Guitar Magazine summed it up in 2002: "In truth, it’s the unique combination of innovation, design, quality and playability that makes Burns so special. Many would say that Burns made the finest electric guitars ever produced in England – and, in the ’60s, probably in all of Europe."
Hayman guitars occupy a relatively short chapter in the Jim Burns story, from 1969 to 1971. But by the time he left, all the major designs were all in place. By 1975, Hayman morphed into Shergold, with the early Shergolds bearing an almost identical design. Short his tenure may have been, but the design and quality of the build is testament to all Burns was about. This is a player's guitar. Lovely slim neck, low action, and tonal range. And, surprisingly (for the rosewood-lover in me at least), a maple fretboard that gives you plenty of dig without slipping around. A beauty to play, even with the temptation to blast out Song 2. Irresistible, of course, so you just have to do that first!
See & Hear It In Action
Song 2 (1997): 2 minutes 1 second of pure joy. Written originally as a joke, this turned out to be one of Blur's biggest selling singles - and their highest charting song in the US. No wonder, for the song that irresistibly lured so many of us back into the moshpit ;-).
Nic Rundell Puts a 1974 Hayman 3030H Through Its Paces: Playing the natural version of the 3030H, but otherwise the same spec as this black beauty, top guitarist Nic Rundell showcases the Hayman 3030H in full indie mode.
There's a lot more to this guitar than Song 2 - be the first to find out!
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Number of Frets
Grover 102s, "PAT. PEND. U.S.A."
Hayman Re-An Humbuckers
Hayman String-Through Combined Bridge/Tailpiece
The Hayman 3030 first came out in 1971. At launch, it sported two Super Flux single-coil pick-ups. The major change after that was the introduction in 1973 of Re-An Humbuckers. I haven't had the chance to try out a single-coil version, but the chat-room story is that the magnets on those tend to have deteriorated over time. No such problem with the Re-An Humbuckers. Plenty of range from jazz-like warmth to indie attack.
These Haymans are beautifully put together, just like their Burns-branded predecessors. Lovely scrolled headstock with that very unique see-through "H" logo disk; original "PAT. PEND" Grover 102s (they must have had some surplus supply from the 60s); superfast narrow neck; a maple fretboard with a flatter 12" radius and fabulously low action; those Re-An Humbuckers, each with 12 adjustable pole pieces for those in search of the perfect balance; and the clear-smoke plexiglass scratchplate and radio-knobs, which just scream 70s retro.
The body's made from obeche, a wood I hadn't heard about until I got this guitar. It's a hardwood, but what's surprising is that, even with an uncontoured 1.75" body depth, there's a lightness to it that means you won't be off to the chiropractor after a solid few hours' playing. It feels great!
A high quality build, with a unique idiosyncrasy. One thing that didn't stand the test of time was the body lacquer. Something in the choice of polyurethane or the finishing process. Apparently, if you find a colour Hayman with an unchecked lacquer finish, the chances are it's been refinished. Me, I love a bit of lacquer-checking, and this one ticks all the boxes.
That aside, this guitar is in amazing condition for its age, with only incidental dings and scratches - and one of the freshest fretboards I've seen on a maple-necked guitar with nearly 50 years on the clock. It demands to be played - and it won't let you down!
Sources & Links
Hayman & Shergold Guitars: The Bible: Andrew Mannering has done the most wonderful job in researching and curating anything you could think to ask about the Hayman and Shergold range in the 1970s. This is the bible!
A Gallery Of Hayman 3030s, And Some: From first to last out the door, early versions with the Super Flux single coil pick-ups, and all that characteristic lacquer checking on the colour models. Click further to see the full range of Jim Burns' guitars over the years. An absolute treasure trove curated by Black Guitars.
Vintage Guitar Tells The Burns Story: Nice piece from Vintage Guitar. Jim Burns' career and output, including some surprising parallels with that fellow innovator across the pond, Leo Fender.
Guitar Magazine On The 60s Heyday of Burns Guitars: Per Gordje at Guitar Magazine focuses on the early years before Hayman, the Burns philosophy - ‘mass produced one-offs’, with high standards of craftsmanship and quality" - and the rebirth of the brand in 1992, thanks to Barry Gibson (sic).