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In 1974 (almost 35 years ago), living in Sydney, at the age of 15, I bought my first six string electric guitar, a Blonde 1962 Pre L Series Fender Jaguar. I swapped my 1969 Baby Blue Fender Mustang bass (originally purchased second hand from Nicholson's in George St for $200) plus $100 in cash for it.

My next guitar was a 1966 Gibson Melody Maker 'd' (sunburst, double cutaway, one single coil bridge pick up, now worth too much to contemplate buying back). I purchased it from Harry Landis guitars in 1975 for $500. The Melody Maker became my working guitar until I sold it in 1986 for $1400 (a top price at the time). The Jag' had been relegated to 'third guitar' status as it was not conducive to the hard strummin' rhythm guitar rock style (Stones, Queen, Deep Purple etc) I was into at the time. It kept going out of tune...and the strings would jump out of the weirdo bridge grooves, and I thought it was crap!

My '2nd' guitar was purchased in the late '70s. It was a 1967 Gibson 'batwing' SG (also purchased for $500, now long gone). There was also a vintage Fender Telecaster in there somewhere as well. These were the days when, now collectable Japanese copies (Aria, Ibanez, Tokai etc) were looked upon as being for "pretenders" and scorned by me and my mates. We wanted Fenders or Gibsons. Period. A Guild was an acceptable (not really) compromise.

In the early eighties I decided to customise the Jag (misguidedly inspired by Eddie Van Halen and Paul Stanley). I ripped out all the original hardware, filled in all the empty holes with fibreglass resin (except for the vol/tone/jack and the rear Pick up recesses), had my cousin Tony respray the guitar black with a fine, almost invisible gold fleck, stuck a super-fat Fender brass bridge (drilled holes to feed the strings through the body, Strat-style) installed a brass nut, stuck a Hendrix Reverse Strat Pick-up at the bridge position (Bill Lawrence or Seymour Duncans - can't remember which), fitted Jumbo frets onto the neck (the old master, Nev Harland did all the work and those of you who ever visited his workshop would never forget it). I had a brass scratch plate commissioned (with my name engraved on the underside as a crude antitheft intervention). The guitar was put back together with fresh wiring and set up by 'English Pete', who was the studio manager at Fairlight Instruments in Sydney at the time (I was in love with his girl friend "Shoo Shoo").

After this radical overhaul, the Jag absolutely ROCKED! It looked like nothing from this world...an authentic custom hotrod...and became my working instrument for the next 14 years.

It was an absolute Howler and responded without intimidation (with the help of my 1979 Marshall JMP, 50 watt Combo) to the demands from working class punters for "Angels, Barnsey and Acca Dacca". Unfortunately the Jag's status as a collectible instrument was completely hammered into a vortex (that not even Jean-Luc Picard could save it from).

In 1995 I bought a '68 Les Paul Custom (personally autographed by Les Paul) from International Guitars, whilst in Memphis (for US $900) and within a year, I sold the Jag through the Guitar Emporium in Albert Park for $900 (although I didn't need the money...so, why why why?). In 2003 a forced sale of the '68 Les Paul (for $3,000!!!!) to make a house payment, left me electronically guitar-less.

Fast forward to 2008. I really wanted my Les Paul or Jag back (the Paul Reed Smith, Monterey Les Paul and J&D Luthier Tele left me a bit depressed after a lifetime of owning stunning vintage guitars). Guitar Emporium couldn't help me...too much time had passed and in this day and age of internet based guitar sales both the Jag and the Les Paul could have ended up anywhere.

July 2008. My musical compatriot of 35 years, Dave Hackett, who traded his 1969 Les Paul Gold Top (also paid $500 from Harry Landis) for an Ibanez Destroyer in 1977 and is now looking for HIS old Les Paul but is going to have to take out a second mortgage on the house to raise the $50,000 to get it back, emailed me a link to Grouse Guitars website where they had a Jag for sale.

As soon as I saw the neck, I knew it was my baby, despite the restoration, the neck was the first thing to catch my eye. The Nicholson sticker, the missing part of the Fender decal on the headstock and of course the serial number.

I then emailed Neil at Grouse Guitars and gave him the short version of this story. Not long after, the phone rang...

My black heart beats...my mind rushes...is it sold? Is my one chance to reconnect with my own posterity blown?

Neil utters the words that shot that day into the top 100 of my current incarnation..."It's still for sale".

We talk as he works on his vintage motor bike, I fill his left ear with my and the Jag's inexorable history. We agree on a (fair) price, close to the asking and arrange payment and pick up.

I hang up the phone. I cry. I look to the heavens. I thank the guitar Gods...Jimi, Stevie, Django, Dimebag and Bo (I would have looked to Les too, but the bastard looks like he's going to live forever!). I call my compatriot, Dave. I tell him he is a legend. He is a hero.

I now have 'The Jag', intertwined in my hands/life again. And I'm thinkin'...where is Nev? Who has the bits and pieces? Maybe I need to customise this old darling and get her rockin' again, but no. She's back to near her original state, not a dumb Blonde as in her youth, not a black hearted bitch, as in her middle age, but Gold!

I think I'll just give her a little set up and a fancy fret dress and leave her...then when the opportunities come around, I'll show her off. They'll Ooh and they'll Aaahh and I'll be proud and beaming. She's mine, she's my darling...back in my filthy, luvin' arms again.

Craig Mercer.

email: merk@hotmail.com

mobile/international roaming service: 61 (0) 421 344909


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