Junk Shop Guitars

The antique shop can be many things. Often now it’s a locked-door premises with King Louis, Wedgewood, Queen Anne – all things I don’t understand. But for people our age, the word ‘antiques’ has come to mean the sort of furniture, objects and technology we grew up with. Wander round your local antiques market and listen to the over-40s saying, ‘My Nan had one of those’, ‘That’s exactly the same as we used to have’, ‘I loved that when I was little’.

But today we’re talking guitars, second-hand guitars in a second hand shop. Not the genuine 1960s Fender Stratocaster in a specialist guitar shop where they know what they’re talking about, but finding a guitar amongst a load of old junk. If you wanted to buy a cheap guitar today, you’d look at the online marketplace sites where you could browse hundreds of £20 acoustics or £75 electric guitars. But in 1978, if you were persistent, lucky and had all the time in the world, you could pick up a cheap guitar from a junk shop. A shop that was so crammed with bits and pieces that you might not even spot that they sold musical instruments.

I lived in a small town which had about three antique shops and one junk shop. Back then there were hardly any charity shops, so checking out the junk shop was one way of getting a cheap guitar.

As complete novices to guitar buying, my friend Clare and I could recognise a guitar when we saw one. Better still, we knew how an electric guitar looked different to ‘the other non-electric sort’ but beyond that was a little hazy. We didn’t want to take a man with us; we wanted to look like we knew our stuff, so as soon as Clare spotted an electric guitar in the window of the shop on her way to school, we discussed how we were going to act in the shop before we obviously bought the £10 thing.

The patter was established with some borrowed half-truths, some guesswork and a lot of flair. It went as rehearsed, like this:

Vim: Hello, we’re interested in the guitar in the window. Could we have a look?

Man: The guitar? ………Yes, this is it.

Vim: (reading the headstock) Oh, it’s a Hofner, is it? Hmmmmm.

(Girls look at each other and nod sagely).

Man: It’s ten quid.

Vim: Can you tell us about it? Where’s it from? Does it … um … work?

Man: It’s an electric guitar. Um … a …(counts) six string guitar …. in white?

Vim: We’d better check the action. (She stares closely at the strings)

Clare: And don’t forget to check it’s straight.

(Vim holds the guitar and looks down the neck looking uncertain)

Vim: That all seems to be fine. Yes, we’ll take it.

It was a month later before anyone told us that we needed an amplifer and a lead.

However, with time, money and experience, it all gets easier for girls with guitars!

2018 Lene Cortina and Vim Renault in a favourite guitar shop

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