MICK RALPHS, GOOD COMPANY
Article written by Neville Marten. Published in GUITARIST, August 1985.
Mick RALPHS, veteran of BAD COMPANY and MOTT THE HOOPLE, has a new solo Album out, which has been in the can for some Time. He?s also been trimming down his extensive Guitar Collection and Neville Marten had an excellent opportunity to look at some of them when they chatted recently.
Look at this. It?s a 1958 335, dot inlay, and there isn't a mark on it. I got this one of the Tours in America, a few years ago - before people were really into them. They?ve got the same pickups as the Les Paul - PAF`s. I got this and an all gold Les Paul - you know gold all over, not just the front - and P90?s. These two and an old Telecaster. I?d not long had this Hamer Explorer which I didn?t get on with, a black one that I?d had made. This guy wanted it so he brought all these great Guitars along and I said "fine" and I swapped it. I?ve sold some of the Guitars off, but I had quite a huge collection at one Time.
Over the last couple of years I?ve been using Strats. I have a lot of old Strats but I got one of the new VINTAGE ones, a black one. They sent me the Black one over and It was pretty good! Later on I went over to the Fender Factory and they gave me a TELE. When we used to tour round I used to make a Point of either going to the GIBSON Factory or the FENDER Factory. On certain days they make certain Guitars, and this day it was all TELE?s. There was a whole batch of them in a box, at the end of the line, and they picked me one out that looked nice. I asked if I could try one or two of the others, because of the weight, heavier ones seem to have a much harder sound. So I went for a lighter weight one.
They didn?t seem too keen on me trying them all out but they were all different; different weights, different sounds, Even the old FENDER were the same. It?s not necessarily true that all old one were good; you get some great old ones and some bad old ones.
When I went to the FENDER Factory, the guy there, John Page, told me this great story. They actually had to go out and buy an old STRAT for about 3.000 Dollars because they didn?t have one. They?d got no catalogues at the factory, no old stuff at all.
YES THEY SENT THE BLUEPRINTS TO JAPAN FOR THE SQUIER..
I?ve got a LES PAUL Standard here, but I?m not quite sure what it is. I don't think it?s an original, although it?s got an original number on it, but it happens to be a good Guitar so I bought it. I've got two Originals SUNBURST Standards but this is one looks suspiciously refinished. It?s a great sounding Guitar and it?s got a `59 on it, but you know how they used to get Gold Taps and redo them. They are definitely PAF`s because I?ve taken it apart and it looks great but I think it?s been refinished. Lately I?ve using the other Standards which are genuine a ?58 and a ?59. I tend to hang on to the GIBSON more than the others.
I always was a Fan of Sunbursts and then I started using STRATS in the Bad Company days and stayed with them all the Way through simply because the stay in tune better. Because we were basically a three piece Band it was so much more noticeable if the tuning was a bit suspect !.
I managed to get my STRAT sounding like a LES PAUL anyway, so I stayed quite happy with the FENDER and I stick with them, mostly. For Studio work I tend to use the GIBSONS. They?re great for certain things but I find I tend to play differently. A Fender?s a much "tauter" Guitar and it?s far more planks of wood in the Way it?s put together - much more purposeful. A GIBSON?S a more fine sort of instrument, you have to look after them and they are far more susceptible to damage. STRATS are great. You can tread on them and knock them over and they don?t seem to bother about it much.
I have a guitar that Ibanez made for me in Japan, which later became the Ibanez Artist. When we were in Japan, in 1975 I met the People from Ibanez. They?re called Greco in Japan, and they were very keen to get people to endorse their Products and they made me a double neck, like a Gibson.
The actually gave me a Les Paul copy and asked what I would change if I was given the opportunity. I said it would be better with two cutaways and generally just made some mods really. They put my name on it, tracked me down in America and came over to present it to me. It?s got an Ebony neck, which I don't like. They put that on, thinking that it would be nice, but I prefer Rosewood. It?s a nice Guitar though; it?s got Access to all the frets - which I asked for. Because I didn?t use it all the shows they gradually took my name off it and it later appeared as the Artist.
What I decided to do was just phase out the guitars I wasn?t really using. They were all sitting around in cases. I?ve got a Les Paul Heritage there, the reissue. That?s got an unusual finish on it. I?ts been redone cherry because I think this one was a sunburst and it wasn?t a particularly good one, so somebody refinished it. I quite like that.
GEORGE HARRISON USED TO HAVE ONE. That?s right, then Clapton had it. I don?t know if this was done in the factory or not, or even if its a Gibson color. The other of these that I?ve seen weren?t very nicely sunbursted, but I saw this one in LA and it had a nice sound and feel to it and I liked the look of it, so that was it. I replaced the back plates, which were brown and I put cream ones on and changed the tailpiece for an old one - Nickel rather than Chrome. I sort a mess around with a lot of these guitars - take them apart and swap things over.
Poor old things. Since I?ve been moving house the?ve been planked off the wall into cases and into a shed. But once I get more organised, I?m going to get them all sorted out again. I?m still on the trail of the ultimate sunburst Les Paul. I?ve got two really good ones and I've had about six altogether, all different colours. Sunbursts have always been my favourite for years, ever since the Clapton area. I like lots of guitars but I was a sucker for a nice sunburst. I gave up buying guitars, though, when the prices started getting silly in America, a few years ago. I think the most I ever paid for anything was about 2500 dollars and now they change hands for ridiculous Money. The last time I considered a Les Paul was at Frank Lucido?s Place in LA, California Guitar, for 7000 dollars. Recently though I?ve been looking to find modern Guitars which are as good, if not better. But I?ve only really found it with the Fenders the occasional Strat like that white one of Dave?s. Mind you, now they?ve moved to Nashville, Gibson are making some great guitars. I saw one in New York, a few weeks ago, in Manny?s, it was beautiful.
They?d got the suburst nice and everything was like the original. The days of the bargains are gone though. There are guys who just go around buying up all those guitars and they turn up on the tour with them, asking ludicrous sums for the things.
This Martin?s a nice Guitar. I?ve used it a lot for recording. It?s a great recording Guitar. I?ve also got an old Gibson acoustic that I bought in a junk shop somewhere. It?s got a small body. I don?t know what it is. I must get it restrung. I think it?s a B something or other. It?s supposed to be pre-war because of the old style logo. It?s got a really nice light bright sound. It?s not in very good nick; I bought it like this with a crack in the back. But it?s a nice little guitar. A pretty little guitar.
ARE YOU CONSCIOUSLY WHITTLING DOWN YOUR GUITAR COLLECTION?. No not really, I must have had about 35 guitars at one time, but i?ve probably still got about 25. But no, I just found that I was getting such a good result with the reissue Strats, for sound and playability. I?d been totting around about 10 Strats and not even using them; I was only using that one. I had a very nice ?63 black one and a white one that was really good and an old ?54 Esquire. I just decided to prune the fleet. I was going round with Dave, while we were on tour, checking out all the new vintage reissues to find the good ones. You know you find the odd really good one.
DID YOU FIND THAT WHEN YOU WERE AT FENDER ? YES AND GIBSON.WE USED TO DO A LOT OF QUALITY CONTROL IN ROTTERDAM, AND YOU?D GO THROUGH THOUSAND OF GUITARS AND SUDDENLY OPEN A CASE AND GASP IN AMAZEMENT, CALL THE OTHER GUYS OVER AND WE?D ALL PAW, OVER IT. IT WAS THE SAME WITH Dave Gilmour?s WHITE REISSUE STRAT. I?D FOUND THAT GUITAR THAT MORNING AND IMMEDIATELY TOLD THEM I WANTED IT . THEY SAID "Dave Gilmour coming down today to look at a few, so can you get that one out as well". I KNEW THAT WHEN WE SAW IT , HE?D HAVE IT - AND OF COURSE WE DID. Yeah he told me he?d found a really good one when he was up there. LOTS OF PEOPLE BOUGHT THE REISSUE Strats TO AVOID TAKING THEIR ORIGINALS ON THE ROAD.
Yeah that's what I did and then I ended up really liking them. But I also had a couple of Squier Strats which were really amazing. One of them was just hanging on the wall and it was a cracker. It played well and it had a great sound. That was like under two hundred quid. There?s something about an American fender though, I must say. I think because it?s an American idea. It?s nice to have the original and get a good one. it says a lot for the original design that it?s hardly been changed after all that time.
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT GUITARS DO YOU SEE THEM AS A TOOL OF WHAT ?. No, I like them. I like them to look nice and I like them to play well. The trouble is that you get one that looks nice but plays badly and so on. It?s very hard to get the ideal combination, so I?m forever looking around trying to get the ultimate guitar that would do everything.
IF YOU FOUND THE ULTIMATE ?58 SUNBURST LES PAUL WOULD YOU PAY THE PRICE FOR IT ?. I don?t know - probably. If you want it you have to don?t you. well I?ve got two really good ones at the moment and I?d probably swap two for one. From the sublime to the ridiculous, how about this plastic Maccaferri. They look a bit cheap and horrible but they?re quite good fun and it?s quite loud. Dave always laughs when I show him, it?s a real odd ball; it?s a bit like those cheap Elvis Presley guitars but it works quite well. It?s not as bad as you?d think it would be really. It?s the only one of my Guitars that?s in tune.
AS YOU MENTION RECORDING, HOW DID THE NEW ALBUM COME ABOUT?. Well I did the album several years ago and it?s only just coming out now. It was done in about 1982. We?d come off the road with Bad Company and finished the last studio Album and the band wasn?t functioning any more. So, as a result, I found myself with all these songs and nothing to do. So I was encouraged to do a solo album and I went in the Studio, The Town House, and did it, with Simon Kirke on drums and Mickey Feat on Bass. I did all the writing, arranging, producing and singing myself - I even did the cover. Then we got a band together and did some gigs in London with Mickey Feat and Chris Slade on Drums, who ended up being with us in Gilmour?s band. He came to see my band and liked the bass player and the drummer! We went on the road last year with Dave starting off here and went all through Europe and America, which was good fun. On that tour I just used the vintage Strats the black one and a candy apple red one which is not here at the moment.
What happened with the album was that Swan Song the record label, was being folded up and we didn?t know, so I was spending all this money but the project was all shelved. Robin Greatorex approached me and wanted to put it out but I wasn't too sure whether I should or not. Anyway in the throes of moving house, I found all the tapes and cover details and I thought "What a waste of time and money, I might as well put it out". So, he?s agreed to do that now. A lot of the songs I?d written for Bad Company , so it will have that sort of feel to it. There are other sorts of songs on there as well - there?s a sort of jazzy instrumental thing and Country and Western song - quite a variety of stuff. generally, I was very pleased with it when I did it but, later on, you think you could have done various bits a little better. really, though, I?ll just be pleased to get it out. We?re in the midst of putting a band together at the moment, myself and Simon Kirke, and that?s all looking good. We?ve got lots of songs for that project.
LUTHER GROSVENOR - Under Open Skies (1971 LP, Island ILPS 9168) UK
BRONCO - Ace of Sunlight (1971 LP, Island ILPS 9161) UK
GERRY LOCKRAN - Wun (1972 LP, Polydor 2383 122) UK
AMAZING BLONDEL - Mulgrave Street (1974 LP, DJM DJF 20443) UK
IAN THOMAS - Long Long Way (1974 US LP, Janus JXS 7005)US
THE WHO - Tommy Original Motion Soundtrack (1975 LP, Polydor PD 29502)UK
LONNIE DONEGAN - Puttin On The Style (1978 LP, Chrysalis CHR 1158) UK
MIDNIGHT FLYER - Midnight Flyer (1978 LP, Swan Song SSK 59412) UK
JON LORD - Before I Forget (1982 LP, Harvest 064-64803) UK
WILDLIFE - Wildlife (1983 LP, Bronze 790078-1) UK
JIM CAPALDI - Some Come Running (1988 LP, Jaws CNR 551-1) UK
ROCK MACHINE - MACH 3 `Take This? (1984) UK
Main Bad Company Page
Bad Company (GW)
Mick Ralphs (DL)
Mick Ralphs (TCG)
Run with the Pack
Bad Company Lyrics
Photos from the
Concert, July 1996
Concert in Dallas
Texas, August 1996