The Sawn Off Strat

 

[Photo facsimile only]

Ollie used a 1961 Fender Stratocaster during his first stint with Kevin Ayers [and The Soporifics] in 1974 and on the subsequent Patto reunion gigs in. Shortly before the final date at The Toirrington North Finchley on 6th July 1975, he decide to remove the guitar's larger body horn [with a wood saw], "because it got in the way." Remember, it was a conventional right-handed model but played upside down with the strings reversed accordingly. Interestingly, he never moved the controls to the other side as he had done with the white 3 pickup Gibson SG Custom and, later, with his cherry red 1969 Gibson Sg Standard, but given that this woukd have been more comples on a Stratocaster, itt is hardley surprising. What is surprising, however, is why he suddenly decided on the drastic woodworking excercise. The clumsyness of the upside down body didn't seem to have bothered him up to then and, presumably, neither did it on the other Strats he played later in his career.

He’s left-handed, never listens to rock music and has two guitars - the one here, a £100 black 1961 Stratocaster, bought initially as a spare, and a white Gibson SG Custom. "Fenders are excellent guitars," he says, endorsing a hidden ad. "I think I prefer this one to the Gibson. I bought it as a spare but it looks as though I’m going to use it instead."

Pete Erskine, New Musical Express 16 November 1974

Photo: Nick Robinson

Possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of playing Ollie did on this guitar is the extraordinary Tojours LA Voyage from the Kevin Ayers album, Sweet Deceiver, 1975

Toujours la Voyage

 

Deborah Ellis [then wife of Boxer bassist Keith Ellis] with the sawn off, which Ollie eventually gave to her.

I loved Ollie, he was so much fun, so talented, an amazing artist. I wish I never gave up the sawn-off Strat from Ollie. He had thrashed the black and white strat to bits. Keith and I put it back together. I knew a handful of chords by then, I learned a lot from Ollies' songs. I wish he was still alive in his Earthly form to hear the progress I've made on my guitar journey. Gone but never forgotten. I was starving and needed money after arriving home from work one day and everything in my house was gone. First, the Gardner robbed me, he left his glove, went back to jail, then an awful boyfriend cleaned me out! He took my iron, ironing board and my recipe book I compiled. He left my guitars...I felt awful parting with the sawn-off Strat from Ollie. I had that thrashed strat that he inflicted demolition on! Keith put it together for me, and it became the guitar I played out with in LA, so many moons ago. It was straight through to the pickups, no controls, ah hahaha,I used pedals. Guitars come and unfortunately go at times.

Deborah Ellis 2022


Photo: Nick Robinson