About Us: From This To That

President Reagan Is Clever From This To That
Straight Outta Brompton Covers Band

Welcome to God's Own Guitars!

I'm Iain and  I’ve been playing guitar for over 40 years - some 32 of those years book-ended, with a sharp intake of breath, by the pictures above.

Once hopeful of the big breakthrough, with 80s band President Reagan Is Clever.  Guitar/synth pop with an indie twist - the type of thing that has come full circle today with bands like Editors and Blossoms.  We were pretty popular in Luxembourg, for reasons that weren't entirely clear.  We never played there, those were pre-digital days, this was vinyl, and everything was managed by the indie distributor of the day, The Cartel - a name that has not quite the same meaning today.   However it came about, we happily sold out of our first debut EP, From This To That.  And then, just as we were on the brink of global superstardom, we chose steady jobs over the rockstar lifestyle - or, more honestly, the steady jobs chose us.  So, we never made it quite far enough to take our place today in the "Where Are They Now?" rack.  Not at all a case of dashed hopes and dreams.  A lot of life in between - definitely From This To That.  All good.  And today, I'm totally happy with playing at home, jamming, and occasional gigging with rock/indie covers band, Straight Outta Brompton (check us out on Facebook!).  

Over the years, like many guitarists, I bought more guitars than I sold, which at some point takes you from having some guitars to having a guitar collection.  Each one has its story to tell, and each one, plugged in and played, is a joy, a revelation, and an experience.  So, God's Own Guitars is for me the latest chapter of that lifetime spent in awe of great guitarists and the great guitars they play. 

Which isn't really a defining feature.  There are so many guitarists, so many guitars, so many experts, so many enthusiasts out there.  Hardly unique.  And so many collectors of these wonderful instruments.  Including me.

Even so, early in 2018, I had a decision to make.  It was time to think about what to do with the guitars.

Sell them?  Probably the easiest answer, but the hardest to do.  Yes, part of the motivation behind building a collection of any sort is to end up with things that appreciate in value over the years.  So selling is always an option.  And selling also puts the guitars in the hands of others who will hopefully get the same joy you got from them.  But a guitar collector is just like any other collector.  There are some emotional bonds at work.  Each guitar in the collection has some significance, some story, some connection to your life that makes a sale feel like a giving-up of something that means something to you. Unless you're in the business, each guitar you buy is a one-off, whether considered decision or emotional impulse.  It's hard to shake off the reason you bought it in the first place.  It seems it's more often only big life changes (sometimes only that most significant of life changes) that put a collector in the position of selling off their guitars.

Keep them?  The obvious alternative.  This is the way collecting works.  You add more, the collection expands, you need to find a bit more space to store them, you need to find a bit more time to look after them, but you always find a way.  At some point, you have to come back to the "Sell them?" question.  But guitar collectors are inventive and resourceful and will come up with any number of reasons to maintain the collection.

Sell some to buy others?  That definitely works, as long as the connection to an owned guitar is out-played by the appeal of an alternative - or you're part-funding to trade up.  Back to the inventiveness and resourcefulness of guitar collectors to limit the outflow and increase the acquisition.

Share the experience?  This was the question that got me thinking - and not just because it helped me stop thinking about the "Sell them?" question:

  • Guitars are meant to be played.  Keeping them cased, under a bed, hermetically sealed, or stored in any other way, only to make rare appearances, is definitely one way to retain their value.  But it just feels wrong.  They were crafted to be played, to be heard, and to bring joy to players and listeners alike.  It's all in that perfect tagline coined by the Musician's Union: "Keep Music Live".

  • Social is more than social media.  I love the ease of access of images, videos, forums, blogs, tutorials and websites, shared by and dedicated to guitars and guitar players.  But there's something missing.  And it's the obvious thing about real human interaction.  Creating the opportunity for like-minded enthusiasts to bridge the virtual and real worlds - not just posting into cyberspace, but creating a way to play the guitars posted - that's something worth doing.  More than that, there's the opportunity to get guitarists together live, part of a community, enabled by social technology.  As one of the Gods, Keith Richards, put it so neatly, with a small diversity add-in: “There’s something beautifully friendly and elevating about a bunch of guys [or women] playing music together”.

  • It's all in the experience.  Yes, someone has to own a thing before it can be experienced by others.  But the well-publicised trends and platforms that collectively power the "sharing economy" are creating opportunities to experience, at fractional cost, rather than to own at full cost.  This isn't just the case for the millennials, Gen Z, the iGeneration, or whatever the latest demographic tag.  And renting stuff isn't a new thing.  But the expectation of an experience that goes with that rental is stronger than it has ever been.  Which is what fuelled the idea for "Iconic Instruments, Shared".

All of which may sound like a justification to keep (and expand) the collection.  And partly it is.  But I'm giving this a go because it feels like a crying shame to let these beautiful instruments lie dormant for whatever rainy day may come.

My aim is to make this more than just a hire business, and more of a unique experience:

  • Iconic Guitars.  The As Played By, As Owned By, As Made Famous By guitars that most of us would recognise as having been in the hands of a famous guitarist.  Whatever your level of proficiency, you will definitely look the part.

  • Professional Set-up & Maintenance.  Not all of our guitars are in mint condition - with good reason.  Many bear the dents, nicks and ageing you'd expect from instruments that have been played with purpose over many years.  Naturally relic'd.  But in terms of playability, each of our guitars has been professionally set up, either by me (yes, I've got my certificate) or, where more advanced work is required, by a professional guitar tech.  What you get is a guitar optimised for the greatest playing experience.

  • Support Pack.  With every hire, you get a pack of useful accessories to help you get up and running quickly: including a clip-on guitar tuner, a cleaning cloth, a guitar stand, a strap, and, for you to keep, a set of branded guitar picks.  There's also a small line-up of amps, leads and guitar effects that you can hire to expand the experience.  And if you have any special requests or needs, just let me know.  Even if I don't have what you might need, I'm getting pretty good at suggesting alternatives!

  • Support. If you need any help - from playing advice to dealing with problems - just let me know and, if we can't talk immediately, I'll be in touch within 4 hours (and that's an absolute maximum - except during normal sleeping hours...).

  • Community.  As the number of hirers grows, there's always the opportunity to build the community.  Other guitarists that would like to share their guitars, one-to-one introductions for those with similar interests, jam nights, and more.  Taking this from the individual experience to the collective experience - in Keef's words "something beautifully friendly and elevating".

With all of this, only one word of caution.  There's no guarantee that you'll end up playing like your chosen guitar god.  That really does depend on you.  But there's every guarantee that you'll get to enjoy some of the finest and most iconic of the gods' guitars, in your own hands.  And that is the experience that is "God's Own Guitars".

I hope you like what you see here - and look forward to sharing some of these great instruments with you soon!

In the meantime, here's something to make up for all that text.  Straight Outta Brompton, with a tribute to Radiohead's Just.  A great band on top form: Steve McNicholas (Vocals), Mark Rendell (Lead), James Johnstone (Bass), Nuno Castilho (Drums), and me.  Enjoy!

Straight Outta Brompton, covering Radiohead's Just