Rickenbacker Electric 12 String Cover

The Story of the Guitars, the Music, and the Great Players
by Tony Bacon

Marty Willson-Piper is featured in this book from the bottom of page 96 through most of page 97 (with excerpts from a July 24, 2009 interview with the author), and is pictured on page 99 playing his 370/12 McGuinn model Rickenbacker.

Press Info

The definitive history of the world's most famous 12-string electric guitar. When the Byrds recorded their hit version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," they popularized a new sound in pop music: the electric 12-string guitar. Rickenbacker is the guitar maker that brought the electric 12-string to market and has since been almost single-handedly responsible for establishing what such a guitar should do. The California company gave one of its earliest 12-strings to George Harrison of the Beatles on the group's first tour of the United States in 1964. He immediately used it live and in the studio and showed off the sound of electric jangle to the rest of the world. This book tells the story of those heady days in the '60s, of the competitors who tried and failed to match the sound, and of the instrument's continuing production by Rickenbacker and use by many modern guitarists. Complete with high-quality photos and exclusive interviews with many of the 12-string's leading players, this is the best guide yet to the history of the sound of jingle-jangle.


Marty Willson-Piper Text

  Another band whose work makes good use of 12-string is The Church. The Anglo-Australian outfit's biggest hit would come with 'Under The Milky Way' in 1988, but from their first album, 1981's Of Skins And Heart, to their latest, 2009's Untitled #23, guitarist Marty Willson-Piper has always looked for new settings and fresh voices for his electric 12s. "A lot of people use the Ricky 12-string in an arpeggio sense, and that's what it's famous for," he says. "But that's just not how I use it."

  The electric 12 should not be an instrument you pull out for the odd song, according to Willson-Piper. "A lot of people use it like that. But it's something else. I don't say 'oh, now it's time for the novelty song! Let's get the 12 – let's do the jangly one.' I do songs that I have to play intricate or interesting or melodic arpeggio parts. It's not necessarily a 12-string part – I play that part on the six-string. The 12 is for songs where I need the 12. Not just for jangly arpeggios."

  His favourite for some time has been a Rickenbacker 370-12RM Roger McGuinn model. "I use it as a rock guitar. I throw that thing around and play power chords on it and do screaming solos on it. 'Tantalized', for example, is a crazy, indelicate song. You'd think I'd be using a Les Paul or something, but it's Rick 12. For the solo at the end, live, I use the 12 for a ripping solo with a wah-wah and a fuzz box."

  Not your avereage Rick sound – and more examples of Willson-Piper's broader intentions for electric 12 include the glorious sheets of sound on 'Columbus' from Heyday (1985) and 'North South East And West' from Starfish (1988). "On that, Peter [Koppes] plays the intro rhythm part, and then I come in with a fuzz box playing this scale run, not an arpeggio at all. The solo is double-speed fast stuff with a fuzz box. So yes, I think the Rickenbacker 12 is such an underused instrument."

  His first electric guitar was a Rickenbacker six-string, but when he joined The Church in 1980 he got a mapleglo '65 330/12. Willson-Piper – who was born in Liverpool, lived in London for a while, and moved to Australia for The Church – switched the string pairs around on his 330 to non-Rick style, with the heavy string 'underneath' the octave string. He's had other 12s – a Burns Double Six that can be heard on songs like 'Is This Where You Live' on Of Skins and Heart, and a Shergold double-neck – but mostly his heart is Rickenbacker shaped.

  "When you play a Rick 12-string," he explains, "it isn't workmanlike: it's got finesse, it's subtler, it's more aesthetically pleasing, it's got quality about it. It's like getting out of a Ford and into a nicer car. The Gibsons and things are like the BMWs and the Mercs, where the Rick is more like an Aston Martin. A higher level.