Welcome to the new Squire Fan Club newsletter where we listen to the vital input of the Rickenbacker guitars in the Squire sound and play some unheard Get Smart backing tracks!
First of all thanks to everyone who has entered the Jesamine White Label Test Pressing and Squire T-Shirt competition so far. Lots of people have found the correct answer, and we will pick the winner next weekend! So theres still a week to enter! The question is in last weeks newsletter, linked in the photo below.
Meanwhile, we can see the Competition has also inspired many of you to buy yourself a Squire T-shirt, just in time for summer to finally emerge in the UK!
The recent Squire & The Quarter Boys newsletter put us in mind of the original backing tracks of the Get Smart! album. With all the subsequent layering of instruments, vocals, and production embellishments during the various stages of recording, its easy to miss the original foundation of each song, the 'take' of basic instruments of drums, bass and guitar that the band performed in the studio and was chosen, not only as the best performance of the arrangement, but became the backbone of the recording. The tracks were all performed live, as if on stage, and later overdubbed and balanced into the final mix.
So it's fascinating to revisit and hear the energy and basic rhythm and arrangement behind the songs, without vocals, and in particular hear the guitars and the character they add to the sound.
Rickenbacker guitars have always been a key part of the sound of Squire. The opening bars of the first ever Squire single 'Get Ready To Go' features the small 3/4 size Fireglo Rickenbacker 325, made in 1964.
This guitar was used as the main live instrument throughout the the early days, and has a unique sound. It actually sounds 'smaller' than the larger more recognisable 330 version, and so is able to cut through a band sound, and makes for a perfect rhythm instrument as it seems to keep the definition of the notes whereas the Rickenbacker 330 often becomes dominant and distorted.
Nevertheless, a backup guitar was needed and a 1964 Rickenbacker Fireglo 330 was bought from Steve Brookes (the original guitarist in The Jam) guitar shop in Woking!
This guitar became the main rhythm guitar when Squire downsized into a three piece and needed the extra body of sound on stage, missing the interplay between two guitars. The sound of this guitar is exemplified by the opening chords of 'I Know A Girl’, in contrast to 'Get Ready To Go'. And it was used all over the Get Smart! album. You can see this guitar in the stage photos in California (above) and Germany (below), and it is distinctive because it was a UK Rose Morris model with the f-hole instead of the cats eye slash.
The guitar was sold in 1985 to the Irish band Instant Party, and we were reminded of it only last week as it came up for sale in Denmark and quickly sold again, for a lot more money than we could imagine! It was instantly recognisable because of the unusual tailpiece, a half moon instead of R shape.
Moral of story - if you sell your treasured Rickenbacker, it may come back to haunt you! The guitar was later replaced by a newer Fireglo 330, made in 1998, to recreate the iconic sound of the records on stage, and is still used today.
The next, and perhaps most recognisable guitar is the Azure Blue Rickenbacker 12-string 360-12 made in 1976. This guitar was first heard on ‘My Mind Goes Round In Circles’, and has dominated the Squire sound since then. It is similarly all over the Get Smart! album and is responsible for the jangly guitar character of the record session.
The final Rickenbacker, about to make its live debut, is a Midnight Blue Rickenbacker 620 solid body ‘cresting wave’ model from 2007, and also has its own unique sound. You will have heard it on ‘Circular Motion’ on the expanded September Girls album.
This guitar has become the 'songwriting guitar' as it is easy to play and seems to always be lying around, and the upcoming live dates will undoubtably find it on stage alongside the 330 and 360-12. This guitar was bought to replace the Rickenbacker 325 that now is perhaps too valuable to take on the road, so stays at home. We discovered quite by chance that this 325 guitar is one serial number away from John Lennon's actual one, which makes them twins!
Each guitar seems to represent different eras of Squire's sound, the small 325 is the Get Ready To Go and early 'mod' era, the 330 is the 'Hits From 3000 Years Ago' period, up to the Girl On A Train single.
The sound of Get Smart! was built around the dual Rickenbacker sound of the 330 and 360-12, (with the 325 making occasional inputs such as the Get Smart phase motif sound). The 620 makes its first appearance on the newer songs on September Gurls.
Two Get Smart! backing track examples provide the ultimate sonic contrast between the 330 and 360-12 guitars. The opening track 'The Life', features the six string 330, and with vocals, horns and harmonies, is a veritable explosion of life, like the moment of creation! But you can hear the energy is already on the backing track! The guitars are so loud in the studio they are feeding back and sound immense! The feedback is used as a crucial element in the song, as a signifier of power, chaos and danger, a 'going into the red' not only on the amp but in the room, as the loud volume forces the players to play harder and creates an 'on-stage' energy.
In contrast, the following song on the album, "It's Too Bad' is a gentle acoustic ballad. Behind the acoustic guitar is an interplay of subtle guitar figures to mimic the sound of a musical box in a childhood nursery, that underscore the lyric of lost innocence and yearning. Removing the acoustic guitar and vocal performance from the record exposes the backing track sound of the 360-12 12-string guitar, which shimmers as its own Baroque style instrumental counterpoint to the song.
Indeed, listening to the backing tracks overall, the 12-string Rickenbacker emerges as the key sound element in the original concept of the record, and has become the essential sound of Squire, as those who enjoyed seeing the band live can attest! Also, the way the guitars have been carefully arranged so not to dominate the soundscape but leave room for the horns, strings, keyboards and harmonies reminds us of how much planning went into the making of this album, and how those ideas were committed to at the very outset of the recording!
You can hear the backing tracks of The Life and Its To Bad here, and we may find time to play some more, as there are many instances where the instrumental versions of the songs display their own character, before being built into the final tracks.
You can remind yourself of the final mixes of 'The Life' and 'It's Too Bad' here!
All the best from Squire!