The original John Birch 'SuperYob'
One of the most desirable guitars to a Slade fan would have to be the original John Birch 'SuperYob' guitar (below), which was a one-off guitar custom made for Slade's Dave Hill. The man who designed it was a schoolteacher in Scotland.
(from the March 2006 issue of Guitarist - well worth ordering or subscribing!!)
A true one off barking mad signature guitar, made for a true one-off barking mad guitarist, designed around the time of the 'Old New Borrowed and Blue' album and was used in the period from then up to the Flame film.
This guitar went through a couple of refinishes in silver and also in black before Dave eventually gave up on it as a dead loss, because it was so uncomfortable to play and didn't actually sound particularly good. It was of little use in the studio, compared to the trusty 'Dad's Gibson' and onstage, it was just horrible to play as the action (string height above the neck) was unbearably high. It's all very well a guitar looking great, but when it's painful to play, well...............
It was traded in unceremoniously against a couple of stock Gibson guitars and was left languishing in a Birmingham guitar shop window for a couple of years, as some sort of trademark, until Marco Pirroni from Adam and The Ants spotted it and bought it for £500.
It has since appeared in a couple of noteable promo videos - Slade's 'Little Sheila' (for which Dave borrowed it back) and Madness' 'Shut Up'. It also appeared in the original Slade 'My friend Stan' promo video, 30 years ago.
Framus made a pair of copies, the red one below now belongs to Paul Day, whose guitar collection is immense. The fate of the other (silver) copy is not known. Neither appear to have ever been used on stage with Slade.
John Birch guitars, less the late John Birch, started work on a number of 'replica' SuperYob guitars. These were based quite closely on the original Yob, which Marco lent back to Dave Hill and John Birch guitars while it was needed. I don't think the small limited edition ever got to the intended number of 50 copies, which can only serve to make the small number that were actually built and sold even more valuable. Mind you, you could still get one made...........
Ex-Slade bassist Dave Glover did talk to the company about a bass version of the SuperYob, but the body to neck proportions would have been all wrong. The idea was abandoned. No basses were made.
A rare picture of the first John Birch re-issue SuperYob 001 while under construction.
The finished reissued result, with illuminated neck fret dot markers - as on the deluxe version.
A further tribute to the Superyob (below) comes from the Slade tribute band Flamin' Slade, who sent me this photo.
I also remember the tribute band 'Cum on feel the noize' having a home-made Yob guitar. Are there any picture out there?
TV appearances featuring the Superyob guitar:
It features prominently in Madness' 'Shut Up' promo video from Stiff Records.
Another TOTP appearance for the Yob, on 'My Friend Stan'.
'My Friend Stan' promo video.
Also made by John Birch, specifically for Dave Hill, after he had seen the original made for someone else (see picture below). Not known for certain how many others were made, possibly only two. Dave's plain white model did appear in the JB catalogue. Dave's Bat was stolen before it was ever gigged and has not resurfaced. It has probably been used for spare parts for another guitar.
Dave Hill's glitter finish DeArmond guitar.
Dave Hill's Framus Nashville Deluxe guitar
Dave required a new and period guitar for the film Flame, which was set at the end of the 60's. He actually plumped for an authentic manufacturer, but took an up-to-date model guitar - The Nashville. This is the deluxe model, as it has edge binding stripes on the body. Nashvilles are quite scarce. No-one is sure where this is now.
The 'Flame' guitar.
Some more very useful info - from Ken Tait :
Hi there, I've just been browsing your excellent site, and being a guitarist as well as a Slade fan I was particularly interested in the pages about Dave, Nod's and Jim's guitars. I was surprised by the inclusion of the Flame guitars as they were only dummies.
Although I cannot answer the questions 'Where are they now?' what I can say is that when they were being 'played' I was about 4 or 5 feet from them! The place was the Hammersmith Palais during the filming of Flame. My friends and myself had answered a call for people to be in the audience at The Rainbow and the Hammersmith Palais. An offer like that is not to be taken lightly, so we quite naturally bunked off school and went.
At the Palais we managed to get in the front row right in front of Dave Hill. When they came onto the small stage I noticed that there was something strange about the Flame guitars. The strings on Dave's one (being the closest) were all the same width. Despite the screaming that was going one I managed to get his attention to ask about this curious feature. Because of the noise it took him a while to work out what I was asking, but the light dawned and he held it up and grasped all six strings between his fingers and waggled them around to demonstrate how baggy they were. At the same time he mouthed "It doesn't matter, it's not a real one". A few minutes later the fact that they were fake was confirmed when he tried to plug a guitar lead into it and discovered that the jack socket was in fact just a hole and the lead wouldn't stay in!
A week or so before that at the Rainbow 'concert', Nod, was talking to us (the crowd that is, not us personally), explaining
Of course you've only got my word for all this, I can't actually point at the screen and say "look, that's me!" I missed out
I think that I've blathered on long enough - keep up the good work.
Dave Hill's John Birch J2 guitar (natural finish)
This guitar later had white 'batwing' panels and truss rod plate added to it, to make
Then later on, it had the upper rear white plate changed to a black one. Keeping up here?
Then it went white again........
Dave Hill's JB J2 in sunburst finish
pictured here with the scratchplates that were added later......
A lovely white John Birch SG custom style guitar
Dave used this onstage and on TV with Slade several times at home
When ONE neck isn't enough...
Photo courtesy of Slade in England. This guitar was probably a 'loaner' from John Birch.
No-one is sure what happened to the John Birch guitars that Dave used. The Hi-Watts have been sold on as they were conking out on him after being stored in a Birmingham warehouse for ages and he doesn't ever use Hi-Watt amps now. Dave now mainly uses the old classic 'Dad's Gibson' guitar that he had previously retired from use due to fear of inflicting further wear and tear on his favourite aged guitar.
He has also been known to use a couple of stock Gibson Les Paul's, but these did not have too distinctive a sound, especially as Dave stopped using his Hi-Watt rig, depending instead on hired Marshall set-ups which never really gave him anything approaching his old sound at all. Dave would have been better off getting the Hi-Watts serviced. You learn from your mistakes.
Dave has also had a replica made of 'Dad's Gibson' - see below - but it has never really seen that much use.
As we all know, Nod's amps went at an auction at the Robin 2 in 2002.
The Watkins Rapier
Another classic 60's starter guitar. Used in the Flame film for the 'Iron Rod' cabaret scenes.
and a Hofner Club 40, used in 'Flame.
A mandolin used in an N'Betweens promo shoot.
Dave Hill's first guitar
I jest not. This is it.
And finally, probably the most recognisable and long standing guitar in the whole Slade story.......
Dave Hill's "Dad's Gibson" guitar
This guitar was used at the beginning. It is still there now, despite a brief lay-off in the mid 90's when Dave had a disasterous flirtation with Gibson Les Paul guitars. It is the one guitar that Dave Hill trusts to get his sound across properly.
The neck is from a Gibson 335 or 345. The pickup is a 50's Gibson PAF ('patent applied for'). The maple body is made by Sam Lee. The small rectangular 'CUSTOM MADE' plate behind the bridge does not relate this guitar to a Gibson model at all and this guitar bears no resemblance to any Gibson model available.
The neck pickup looks like it belongs on a Fender Strat. The bridge and tailpiece are typical Gibson style parts, however. Either Dave knew exactly what he was doing, or this guitar is made from whatever was lying about!
It has certainly been very good to him over the years.
Looking at the John Birch J2's above, one can see clearly why Dave Hill had the scratchplates fitted onto the bodies of them. It was to attempt to make them resemble this guitar. The lacquer on the upper rear bout of the body is worn away by forearm friction - probably from the sparkly jackets.
A replica of this guitar was made later on by Jaydee. It did not have scratchplates fitted and was heavily flamed.
Meanwhile, Flamin' Slade strike again, with another quite accurate replica of one of Dave's best known guitars!
............... not to mention the terrifying fringe and daft stage suit!!!
Nod's earliest guitars
This picture of Nod shows him twanging away furiously with what appears to be a Hofner V2 guitar. A not too expensive starter guitar. He appears to be surrounded by the Salvation Army. What's going on here?
This is a Hofner V2 (not Nod's original, though!!)
Gibson 335 (without and then with tremolo arm)
A Gibson 335 would have been beyond the reach of most teenagers back in the 60's, but Nod ended up with one somehow. He quite rightly looks very pleased with it and is doing a silly little dance to prove it. His chum in the above picture used what looks to be a Hofner Futurama bass.
Nod's guitar has had a Bigsby tremolo arm added at this point. His bandmates used a Harmony 12 string (ho-hum) and (gasp of envy) a Rickenbacker. (Thanks to Chris S for the Hofner and Gibson pictures above and also for identifying the model of the Hofner)
Nod's Fender Telecaster
For many years this was Nod's main guitar for stage work.
The Telecaster sound just dominated Slade's early records.
Nod's Gibson Les Paul
Nod has stated that he used a Gibson Les Paul in the studio quite often with Slade and that may be the guitar which appeared in The Grimleys TV show. Picture of that guitar to come shortly.
Nod's blonde Antoria jumbo acoustic
Nod used this in the 'Far far away' video and in the stage scene in 'Flame'. It is a replica of a far more expensive Gibson guitar. Nod probably went for the Antoria for its availability and more sensible price. They were also very comfortable to play with a creditably big warm sound.
Here is a picture of Slade in the studio (circa 'Old New Borrowed and Blue') where Nod holds a darker sunburst Gibson jumbo acoustic with block inlays on the neck. This may have been the property of the studio or could have been hired in for the studio sessions. Nod has not been seen elsewhere with it. At the front of the picture is the late Tommy Burton (pianist on 'Find yourself a rainbow')
Nod also used an Ovation 'balladeer' acoustic guitar in the video and TV promo appearances for 'Universe'. This guitar may be the same one used in the video for 'Do you believe in miracles?' and the Grimleys TV show - which strongly suggests that Nod still owns it.
Another Ovation- this time it's a Deacon - as used by Nod around the 'You Boyz' period.
And when Slade played together live for the last time in the UK .....
Nod's Gibson Les Paul TV / Junior
Pictured - possibly - outside Pebble Mill TV studios 1977. This guitar also appears on the sleeve of the bootleg 'Short hair EP' It is not known whether this is the Gibson Les Paul guitar that Nod used for many of Slade's studio recordings. He has also been seen to use a goldtop Les Paul on The Grimleys. Nod used a large bodied Gibson archtop guitar around this same time for the 'My baby left me' video. That was likely to have been either hired in or borrowed for the shoot.
Nod's Gibson SG Junior
Nod had a couple of these over the years. One was stolen by someone helping the roadies carry the band's gear after a gig at Barbarella's in Birmingham in 1979. The guitar didn't reach the truck. Nod was utterly incensed. This guitar was fitted with John Birch pickups and bridge.
CMI SG replica
Nod is pictured with a CMI SG styled guitar here on a US TV show. This looks fairly like a Gibson SG except that it does not feature an upper cutaway. It was far cheaper than any Gibson would have been at the time. If I remember correctly, Nod used this in Flame for the earliest 'Iron Rod' scenes.
The Gibson Thunderbird bass, Gibson Flying V and Gibson SG custom guitars used in the 'Radio Wall of Sound' video and the following TV slots were all hired for the occasion.
Jim's John Birch bass
This bass was Jim's main instrument onstage with Slade from the late 70's through to Slade's demise. And where did this most desirable bass in the world rest after its nightly ordeal at the cruel hands of the once-mighty Jim Lea?
These photos are courtesy of the case's new owner, somewhere in America.
Jim Lea's Gibson EB3 - refinished in white
Hmm. A nice bass indeed. A double scratchplate of a style that isn't that common for a Gibson, may have been added by John Birch when it had his pickups fitted. Here you see it in white, instead of its original cherry finish. This was not what was actually intended. It went away to have a few small things done and came back a different colour. Jim had previously mentioned a refinish in passing to John Birch and the great man did it while Jim had it in to have something else done. Jim was apparently mortified. Ooops!
Where is it now?
Jim with cherry finish EB-3
Standard Gibson bridge and controls.
Jim and a J1 and J2
The J1 was a basic instrument. Pictures of Dave playing this also exist.
Another sunburst JB J2 bass, possibly on loan to Jim as a spare.
Jim Lea's Jaydee bass with tremolo arm
Jim used this for a couple of TV appearances (Miracles on 'The Krankies' and 'Superstore'). It also was carried on several dates on the final UK tour, but never plugged in, that I ever saw anyway, during a show. Jim took it back to John Diggins in 2003 to have it serviced.
The Framus Flame bass - smashed during a backstage row in the 'Flame' film
It looks hideous to play....... and it broke like it was made out of cardboard. Well, it practically was. The guitars, I am assured, were dummies (see Dave's guitar page). The bass made for Jim for the 'Flame' film was totalled during one of the grim backstage scenes where Jim had a proper bass player's hissy fit at the rest of the band. It didn't survive, as you will note, if you watch the film. Nothing as embarrassing as filming a bass smashing scene - for the third time!
The Framus Star bass used in Flame
The promo video for 'Thanks for the memory'
Jim has also been pictured with a Fender Precision and also a Fender Jazz bass (below) and a Rickenbacker 4001 and a John Birch SCDR (Ric style) bass around the 'Nobody's fools' period.
It is possible that the Fender Jazz below was a studio instrument. Jim has never used one of these basses of his own on stage to my knowledge. It has been common for Slade to use TV studio-owned instruments for mimed appearances, rather than take their own with them.
John Birch 'Rickenbacker 4001' type bass
The Gibson Thunderbird bass Jim used - as well as Dave's Flying V and Nod's SG guitar used
From the days of Nick and The Axemen !
To be identified!!
Jim's all-black Fender Stratocaster ....
Thanks to Sonic, Stu Rutter and Chris Selby for their help with a couple of things on this page!
2004 Guitar and Bass magazine article on Jim Lea!
For the bass exercises, buy the magazine!
Thanks to Agent S for the above article!
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