2005 Burns/Brian May Guitars BMG Special
Made during the transition period from Burns to Brian May Guitars, the utterly unique Red Special that has powered Brian May through the Queen years and beyond.
The story behind Brian May's hand-built Red Special is legendary - and if you don't know it, type "Red Special" into your search engine and you're bound to come straight to Brian May Guitars and Wikipedia, where you can read all about it. As far as official replicas go, Guild guitars produced a couple of runs of Red (and Green) Specials in the 80s & 90s, and then it was over to Burns, who produced the guitar in their Korea factory from 2001 to 2004. The Burns model won Guitarist Magazine's 2001 "Best Electric Guitar Of The Year" award. Since then, Brian May Guitars (appropriately enough) has taken on production of the full official range of Red (and other finish) Specials, from entry-level to as-near-as-perfect match to the original. Through all, the exponential range of tones you can get from this guitar's 3 pickups, 3 pick-up on/off switches and 3 pick-up in/out phase switches is staggering - and gives you plenty of options to recreate the sound, if not always the God-like dexterity, of Brian May himself.
See & Hear It In Action
Don't Stop Me Now: A very challenging spot-the-difference test with one of Brian May's finest sounding solos and, spoiler alert, the closing credits track to the very wonderful film Bohemian Rhapsody.
Brian May Guitars
Number of Frets
24 (+ zero fret)
Grover Mid-Size Rotomatics
Burns Custom Tri-Sonic Single Coil
Burns London Deluxe Vibrato System
This particular guitar was released in the transition period between Burns and Brian May Guitars. So, it's developed to the spec that Burns were using up until 2004, comes with a Burns "BHM-" serial number, but not the Burns signature on the headstock.
Brian May built his original Red Special with three Burns Tri-Sonic pick-ups - in the years when Burns produced components rather than guitars in their own right - so it's fitting that the Burns Red Specials come with those Tri-Sonics.
That said, the Burns models are not the most faithful replicas of the original you can get. Black slider switches versus white, plastic versus machined metal volume and tone knobs, the lack of a half-moon scratchplate behind the bridge, amongst others. All small things, but if you really want to get closer to the original, the top-end Brian May Guitars models are the ones for you.
Ultimately, though, it's all in the sound and playability. And the Burns model comes up trumps in that department. With its wide fretboard, 24 frets, and incredibly low action, it's a lead guitarist's guitar, with a sonic palette that no other guitar is going to give you. It really does rock you.
Sources & Links
The Burns Red Special (2001 - 2004): Courtesy of Trevor Midgely, a Burns guitar expert - in his own words "I just rather like their guitars". A compendium of data, insight and curiosities for all Burns guitars from 1992 - 2010.
A Tale Of Three Red Specials: Mark Barnett at Brian May Guitarworld gives an outstanding comparison of the three models of Red Specials produced by Burns.
Early Reviews of the Burns Red Special: On the Official Brian May Website, some great early insights into the look and playability of these Burns Red Specials.