Ever since Andy saw the legendary instrumental rock group "Hank Marvin & The Shadows" when he was a teenager, he joined the rank of a million young guitarists obsessed with Fender guitars. Andy has always had various Strats and Telecasters at hand ever since his session days, like a very old 50's Telecaster that was stolen from him in the 60's, unfortunately. These are Andy's Fenders he used with the Police:
Does this guitar really need an introduction? Andy has been so closely identified with this Telecaster that entire articles in books have been devoted to it. He recorded mostly all of his studio tracks up to the "Synchronicity" album with it. It has a very interesting background . . . Eric Clapton was, in fact, the previous owner! As Andy explained to Vic Gabriani in the December '97 issue of Guitar World, "Clapton was a contemporary of mine back in the Sixties, and we'd share guitar information. He was very seriously into the blues, trying to play like B.B. King, and particularly Buddy Guy. He was playing a Telecaster at the time, and I convinced him to try my Les Paul, which he wanted to buy. So I brought it to this session he was doing, and he immediately started using it. That turned out to be the Fresh Cream album. So then I wound up with the Telecaster, which I played all through the Police and still use today. We were all playing variations on Black American music, and we'd jam with each other all the time at this club called the Flamingo, in London, which became the matrix for the whole British guitar scene at the time. I'd share a bill with Eric, Jeff Beck would come and go, Jimmy Page would drop in. That's where it all started..."
This guitar has a Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck, and a stock Fender pickup in the bridge. When Andy was in Los Angeles during the early seventies he had it customized to include a preamp (sellotaped into the back, removed around 1997) and an out-of-phase switch (which helps Andy obtain some awesome, "crispy" rhythm tones.) I believe he also had a new bridge fitted on at this time, since it looks too "modern" to be a '63 Telecatser bridge. Take a look at the photo at the left to see what I mean.
Another interesting thing about this guitar is it's finish. Fender changed their method of applying paints in 1964, so this '63 sunburst finish is less extreme and darker than present-day sunbursts.
Andy's elusive tone has alot to do with this guitar. The mere fact that the normally accepted positions of the pickups are reversed- from single neck, humbucker bridge to humbucker neck, single bridge- does alot. Alot of people who try to cop Andy's tone on a guitar with a humbucker in the bridge area are wasting their time; the bridge position will always be "too warm and not bright enough", and the single coil will always be "not loud or warm enough", no matter how much tweaking you do. Sorry, guys . . . As Andy's guitar collection grew he began using this guitar less and less for recording. However, he offered a reasonable explanation to Vic Gabriani in the January '94 issue of Guitar World: "I did use that Tele almost exclusively on stage and in the studio pretty much up until the Ghost album. The Tele was a great live guitar, but it was a little bit lacking in highs for recording. But every time I pick it up I remember why it was so great."
Even though he is using a '60 Gibson ES-335 now for most of his duties, Andy still plays this guitar around the house, using it even for a small gig in '97 with fellow Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Like a well-kept secret, Andy is always quietly speaking to interviewers about it as the best guitar he's ever played. He told James Santiago in the February '99 issue of Virtual Guitar Magazine: " . . .that Telecaster is one guitar that you can actually get a lot of that music out of. It just happened to be a phenomenal guitar. I just got lucky with that guitar. The size of it, the way it sounded. I had a Gibson humbucker stuck in the front position, the Telecaster pickup at the back. I could get a lot of color out of it. It always really worked for me. It seemed to cut it on so many levels. That's what you're looking for, a guitar that's versatile and comfortable to be with. There is something indefinable about it. Some guitars you never feel that comfortable with . . ."
Andy also offered these comments of it when he spoke to Guitar Magazine's John Dalton in March '80: "I had it customized years ago in Los Angeles when I first got it. I'm amazed that it keeps going on because the pre-amp is just sellotaped in the back. I'm always afraid the guitar's going to fall to pieces but it keeps going year after year. It beats every other guitar I've heard or had hands down. I have other guitars but I'm so used to playing the Police set with this guitar that to change would be very difficult. I'm sure it's true for most guitarists, that you get one guitar you really like and you always play it. It just has a great sound, and you can try to analyze it but l think it's beyond analysis. Some guitars are like that. It just is."
The body of Andy Summers' 1963 Fender Telecaster Custom. Notice: a) the added preamp and phase switch controls, b) the custom bridge, and c) the wonderful (but battered) pre-'64 sunburst finish!
1961 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster
(Photo by Merlyn Rosenburg)
Besides his '63 Telecaster, this guitar was Andy's other main instrument during the Police days. This one should also not be much of a surprise to Police fans and Andy fans alike, as he is seen playing it everywhere, especially live. Bought in 1979, this Strat would become an integral part of the band's sound on "Ghost In The Machine" and on. Since Andy's '63 Telecaster acted very dark and thick-toned in recording, he began using this brighter-toned Strat more and more for recording, even admitting to Guitar Heroes Magazine's Steve Gett in July 1983 that "it's tending to become the main guitar all the time now." Because it's a Strat, it has 3 single-coil pickups (Andy kept the stock Fenders it came with) that are known for their glassy and transparent qualities. Ever wonder why Andy's guitar sounds much more cleaner and brighter on Synchronicity? Well, Andy used this Strat for almost all of that album, even favoring it on almost all the tunes the Police played during their monumental tour in support of the album. (Check out "The Synchronicity Concert" video cassette to see what I mean.) Going by his "player, not a collector" philosophy, Andy still uses this guitar alot. He is even pictured with it in the sleeve of his 1991 Private Music release "World Gone Strange", showing once again his love for his instruments.
Andy can be seen with this Strat in the "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" video. The reason why he used this guitar in the video, and not his other more obscure or rare guitars, is probably because it was filmed in the studio they were recording "Ghost In The Machine" in, and being the main instrument for that record it was instantly at hand (knowing the Police's video-making style, the more spontaneous and chaotic, the better.)
Various Other Fenders Andy Has
Andy has so many other Strats and Teles it's hard to keep track of them all. Here's my attempt to do that.. . .
Any help would be appreciated in identifying these Strats. However, since you can't see serial numbers, neck joints etc., to help with identification, I'm pretty sure Andy is the only person who knows what years these guitars are from.
By Greg Danielak - 2000