When you were a kid learning the guitar, which couple of albums did you play along to the most?
I learned my first chords playing along to Beatles songs. But when it came to learning lead lines, Rory Gallagher’s "Live in Europe" was the first album I owned. After that I moved on to Thin Lizzy. I had many Lizzy records, but the one I disseminated the most would have been "Live and Dangerous".
When did you get your first Les Paul – and do you still have it?
Yes, I absolutely still have it – 72987537 – the only guitar I ever knew the serial number to! I worked so hard to buy that guitar – months and months and months of hard, hard physical work. Aside from all the work involved, I also had to wait for the best part of a year before it arrived. Remember, this wasn’t your local Guitar Center – this was Northern Ireland in the mid-’70s! Bottom line is, I ordered a gold Les Paul Standard from my local music store and every day on my way home from school I’d stop by and ask if it had arrived yet. After many months of waiting, one day they told me “good news, bad news; we got a Les Paul in, but it’s not a Standard and it’s not gold…” Turns out it was a wine red Deluxe.
As it happened, Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy guitarist) had played a Deluxe with Thin Lizzy for many years, so rather than take the chance that a gold Standard might never arrive I took the Deluxe. As it wasn’t the color I wanted, and as Rory Gallagher – with his beat-up old Strat – was my first guitar hero – I had an aversion to shiny, new-looking instruments. So first thing I did was take sand paper to it and dull down the finish. A while later I went a few stages further and had it repainted matte black – the finish it still has today. I also changed out every single piece of hardware on the guitar from machine heads, to nut, to frets, to pickups (a long succession of humbuckers) to tailpiece, jack plate, volume pots, etc. Suffice it to say, it became a totally different instrument. I used that guitar on the first Dio album and tour.
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