About God's Own Guitars: From This To That
Welcome to God's Own Guitars!
I'm Iain and I’ve been playing guitar for more than 45 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 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 rockstar lifestyle didn't choose 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.
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, takes you to a different place. 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.
Anyway, I decided to leave the corporate life late in 2017, took some inspiration from Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Work Week (a must-read!), and found myself with 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 tagline perfectly 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. Decluttering in exchange for experiences is on the up. And while renting stuff isn't a new thing, the growing number of new apps and platforms, specifically serving the experience seekers of the world, is making renting a whole lot easier and a whole lot more familiar. With the high expectation of an experience that goes with that rental 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 decided to give this a go back in 2018 because no-one else seemed to be doing it, and it felt 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. It's an end-to-end service with a simple aim: to give you a unique experience, something special that it would be hard to get anywhere else.
Iconic Guitars. The Artist Owned, Played or Made Famous By guitars that most of us would recognise as having been in the hands of a famous guitarist. Guitars and gear with a context and a story to tell - be that the history of the model, the guitarist that owned it or made it famous, or the new stories that they gain in the hands of you when you hire.
Professional Set-up & Maintenance. Not all of the guitars in the collection 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 guitar 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. Basically, doing everything possible to make sure that what you get is a guitar optimised for the greatest playing experience.
All You Need, As Part Of The Hire Package. It's not just a guitar in a case. With every hire, you get a pack of add-ons to help you get up and running quickly: a guitar stand, mini-tuner, strap, complementary plectrums. Basically everything to get you started short of plugging into an amp. If you need a particular make or gauge of strings, I'm happy to restring and reconfirm set-up for you. You can also hire from a small, but perfectly formed, line-up of classic amps and effects to round out the experience. 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!
Personal Service & On-Call Support. It's all about your experience. So, my aim is to deliver that experience in as simple, helpful and friendly a way as I can. If you're not quite sure what special instrument or gear you want to hire, I'm more than happy to talk through options and any comparative features to help you decide. I do the handovers and returns personally, at times and locations to suit. It's a small personal touch, but one that makes all the difference in creating a smooth start and end to your experience. And, during your hire, if you need any help - from playing advice to dealing with problems - just let me know. If we can't talk immediately, I'll be in touch as soon as I can (except during normal sleeping hours...).
Your Own 15 Minutes (Or More!) Of Fame: Many hirers share videos and images of themselves in action with the gear. I do all I can to share and celebrate what our hirers are doing, here on the website and through God's Own Guitars' social posts. To be honest, this is the most rewarding part of the service for me - seeing and hearing hirers making these guitars, amps and effects sing!
OK, 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. Whether it's something you've never tried before, or something you'd like to go back to from earlier days, I'm here to help. And if you're still not sure, check out what previous hirers have to say about the experience here.
Until then, here's something to make up for all that text. Straight Outta Brompton, with a tribute to Radiohead's Just. In all humility, a great band on top form: Steve McNicholas (Vocals), Mark Rendell (Lead), James Johnstone (Bass), Nuno Castilho (Drums), and me. Enjoy!