Kimberley Rew's 1989 Gibson SG 62 Reissue
1997. Happy days. The last time the UK won Eurovision . . . this guitar used by writer/guitarist Kimberley Rew on the recording of Katrina & The Waves' winning anthem, "Love Shine A Light". Many of us will remember the global hit "Walking On Sunshine" from the 80s. But this one puts Katrina & The Waves firmly into the pantheon of previous UK winners - Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Brotherhood Of Man, Buck's Fizz. "Love Shine A Light" was everything the competition used to be known for. Truly "A Song For Europe". Uplifting, unifying, inclusive, big-hearted and big-voiced. We live in different times today, which is one very good reason for some rose-tinted nostalgia for times past. The other reason is that President Reagan Is Clever, little-known Cambridge band, had the great honour of supporting Katrina & The Waves back in 1986. And to find out why that matters a jot to anyone, read The Story below!
Bought new by Kimberley in 1992, this model is from the first few production years of Gibson's now well-trodden classic reproduction lines. The one-piece mahogany neck and body, the early 60's super-slim, super-fast neck, the reduced footprint of the scratchplate, and the choice of subtler nickel hardware over chrome. As one forum member comments: "The older 62 reissue is probably the closest to a real early SG/LP as can be bought without actually buying the real item." And he should know. He used to work for Gibson at the time. So, not only a piece of Eurovision history, but a perfect Back To The Future guitar in its own right. Legendary!
See & Hear It In Action
The 1989 SG 62 Reissue Gets Some Sweet Blues In The Hands of Carlo Amberti: Happily paired with a Fender Blues Junior - nice one, Carlo!.
Love Shine A Light: And here's the song - a perfect example of the huge appeal of a great and uplifting Eurovision song winner. It's a real earworm - watch out! Mysteriously, Kimberley himself didn't appear on the Eurovision stage on the winning night. So, here he is with a colour-coordinated white SG on Top Of The Pops in 1997. The 62 Reissue may not have made it onto the TOTP stage, but it's in the studio mix. A piece of history.
Warning: Showing my age alert. Back To The Future. Step into the DeLorean, set the clock for the summer of 1985, accelerate to 88 mph, step out of the car, dust yourself down, and listen. I guarantee it will be only a matter of minutes before you hear the joyous up-tempo hit that is Katrina And The Waves' Walking On Sunshine. It was everywhere. Belting out from a passing car, an open window, a rammed bar, or getting you ready for (or at) every party that summer. Just about anywhere, in fact, that had a radio, a record player, a tape deck, or a TV (yes, those were the only technologies we had at the time). This was, hands-down, the feel-good hit of the summer of 1985, and one that still fills floors today. The impetuous rush to the dancefloor may be more of a careful shuffle, the moves may be less adventurous, and the search for a seat at the end of the song a bit more urgent. But, once you've made it to that seat, you, just like the song, can proudly proclaim, "Still got it".
Forward one year, and I was in my second year at university. Doing a degree that I loved (English Literature, one lecture attended in three years, otherwise reading), and in a band that was going places, President Reagan Is Clever. If you haven't heard of the band, you must have been in different places. Also, we never got quite as close to those places as we thought. We did release a seminal if not entirely influential EP in 1986 - which for reasons none of us could fathom did really well in Luxembourg. Check the EP out here: President Reagan Is Clever. And, no, not a self-indulgent digression. OK, partly. But just stay with me here.
Riding high on the crest of their eponymous waves, Katrina, Kimberley and the gang were a firm fixture at venues and college summer parties across the country. And President Reagan Is Clever was in the happy place of supporting them at one of those many summer parties. Being the support act was a pretty good deal in those days. You were on early, the crowd, however small or large, were still broadly on their legs, and you had the rest of the night ahead of you - plus all the free entertainment, food and drink, and chance meetings, that goes with that. So, I remember dancing myself down to my knees when Katrina And The Waves took to the stage. And I remember Kimberley Rew, cranking tone to die for out of a magnificent cherry red Gibson SG. Never got to speak to him by the time the set was finished though . . . legless in all senses.
Happily, you can nurture dreams throughout your life. And, they can come true. In late 2018, Kimberley put this 1989 Gibson SG Reissue up for sale. I studied English, so may be slower than my mathematician compadres, but I also spotted that the guitar I saw him with in 1985 was not this one here. Thank you to Kimberley, who was just amazingly helpful in filling in the story behind this (and that) SG. And so . . .
Kimberley bought his first good guitar, that SG, in 1972. It was a 1969 SG Special. with those lovely black single-coil P90s. In his view, not a technically great guitar, but one that he still has to this day, so it can't be that bad. He bought a few other SGs over the years. This SG 62 Reissue he bought in 1992, from Coda Music in Stevenage - happily still there and in business today. Ever since then, and up to 2018, it's been well-loved and well-used in the studio and touring the world. And, not just that, but also the guitar that he recorded Eurovision Song Contest winner "Love Shine A Light" on. It may not appear in the videos for the song - colour-coordination taking precedence over sonic fidelity - but it's the one.
Kimberley also made a couple of changes to the guitar over time. The SG 62 Reissues were faithful to a tee. Which could be as problematic as it was accurate. "It had the contemporary style of tune-o-matic, where the strings hold the six bridge pieces in place, so if you break a string, the bridge piece falls out, probably onto a darkened stage . . . which I don’t recommend. I replaced the bridge with one where the six bridge pieces stay in place. The only one I could get at the time had a gold finish."
And the three distinctive screwholes on the body top? "In 1997 I bought a Roland VG-8, a guitar synthesiser-like gadget with a pickup and control unit that you screw on to the guitar, hence the extra holes." Which explains the two screwholes in between the bridge and the bridge pick-up (for the synth pick-up), and the screwhole above the jack socket (for the control unit). And which was intriguing enough for a YouTube search. Check out this nice video from Franky Payne, exploring the infinite possibilities of the VG-8. Though, to be honest, I'm happy enough without the synth ;-).
And that brings us back to today. A beautiful SG 62 Reissue, now some 35 years old, itself harking back nearly 60 years. From the hands of the very lovely guitarist and songwriter, Kimberley Rew. We may hear less of Katrina And The Waves today, but in their heyday in the 80s, and then again with Eurovision in the 90s, they led the way for infectious guitar-based pop and power ballads. And I know that the next time I hear Walking On Sunshine, I'll be out on that floor again. There are some songs that are with you for life, that help you remember, and then tell the story of your life. The best bits, the worst bits, the average bits. No matter. It's what makes you what you are - or at least put together the jigsaw.
Gibson unleashed the SG onto the world in 1961. They didn't actually call it an SG until 1963. They called it a Les Paul. Sales were flagging for the single-cutaway Les Pauls in 1958 - 61, so Gibson changed the shape (and weight) dramatically in 1961. A moment of historical significance for two reasons:
The SG, in all but name, was born - according to Gibson their biggest-selling guitar ever
And those 1700 or so Les Pauls produced from 1958 - 61 have now been catapulted to holy grail collector status, fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars in the rare case they come up for sale.
In 1986, under the new and reinvigorating ownership of Henry Juszkiewicz and Dave Berryman, Gibson turned their talents from one-off to production-based recreations of some of their most beloved earlier guitars. The first SG Reissue was released in 1986, renamed to the SG 62 Reissue in 1988, and then relaunched as the SG 61 Reissue in 1993, the Reissue still in production today. Check out the forums and it's the 62 Reissue that commands the greatest adulation.
This one shares a birthyear with our Gibson Les Paul Standard, as owned and played by Robert Young. And so comes with the same Bill Lawrence "The Original" pick-ups as that. Bill had worked at Gibson from 1968 - 1972, and returned for a brief collaboration from 1987 - 1989, designing and building these unique circuitboard pick-ups. There's a fair amount of Marmite "Love Them/Hate Them" once you dig into the forums. We're in the Love camp. Great warmth and sustain, higher than average output on the HBR-L, with bags of attack.
Like many great guitars, it carries its history on its body, with the distinctive marks and dents that come from over 25 years in the studio & on tour. Especially so the replacement bridge (yes, gold), and the three distinctive screwholes on the body top. See The Story below.
And, it comes with another of those cases that seem not just to have travelled the world, but to have orbited the moon, and survived re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere. All the while retaining a beautiful pink plush interior, with connected cover shroud.
All in all, a superb recreation of those early glory years of the SG, totally living up to the super-fast playability that has bewitched rock gods ever since.
Sources & Links
Gibson's Own 50 Essential Facts About The SG: Sadly no longer available (Gibson's new leadership don't seem to be that bothered about all the wonderful history they used to share). Whatever they do, there will still be ardent enthusiasts, so thanks to Henry Hill on My Les Paul for sharing the same. A fantastic compendium of facts about the SG from Gibson themselves, including the story of the man from Dayton, Ohio, who dying wish was to be buried with his favourite SG. He was.
A Great Thread From Members Of The Everything SG Forum: Including that balance of adulation towards the 62 Reissue versus the later 61 Reissue. And Another One to seal the deal.
The Original 1986 and 1989 Gibson Catalogues: Featuring, among many other beauties, the SG-62. Great contribution on the My Les Paul Forum.