Sunday, 14 February 2010

A magical thing happened....

A magical thing happened to me tonight and I am still in a state of shock.

At 5pm tonight on my way home the following email arrived on my phone with the subject 'fender precision 57 bass'.

The letter read thus:

Hello Simon, I have been asked to contact you regarding a 57 Precision Bass that I believe may have belonged to you back in the 1990's.
Please can you contact John O'Connell (my other half!)

My heart was pumping so fast as I finished reading that I had to sit down.

You need to know this before I continue the story: In my previous life before bella union, I played bass in Cocteau Twins and during our 14 years together, I did accumulate some beautiful guitars and basses. From approx 1991 to 2001 we had the lease of Pete Townsend's Eel Pie studios and made our last few albums there, and ran the place as our own commercial recording facility, recording beth orton, hope sandoval, nick cave, dirty three, mark hollis, etc etc, as well as our own band broadcasting the world's first ever live-to-internet gig (which no one actually saw cos the technology wasn't up to it!)
With the constant turnover of artists and visitors at the studio during its heyday perhaps it was inevitable that some things would go missing. Yes you guessed it. As the break up of the band and the subsequent demise of our beautiful riverside recording studio swamped us over that period, and we lost nearly 15 years worth of recording studio gear, we at least salvaged all our guitars etc and yet when stuff got moved to a lock up I noticed that the flight case for the 57 fender precison was very light. Slowly I opened the case and the realisation began to kick in.

I searched high and low, at home, in garages, in studios, and I called friends in bands, managers etc and continued to do that for at least a year or two. Having used the guitar on tour, in the studio on many of our recordings, to be without it, did, laugh if you like, feel like being sparky without his magic piano. I never reported it stolen because I never had a clue WHEN it had gone missing or WHERE from, or even if it had just been borrowed. I do lend stuff out as most of my bands on bella union know well, but i knew I'd have never loaned THAT guitar out!

So fast forward to today some 8 or so years since I may last have seen it.

After reading Jan's mail, I call her husband John who it turns out runs a guitar shop in Edgware called rock around the clock.
A feller had gone into his shop with a couple of filthy, mouldy guitars that had been in a garage for years after a spell in a Crouch End Studio... They really were in a state. John had a quick look and told him that in this condition they weren't worth much at all. The chap mentioned that he'd been told that they may have belonged to the Cocteau Twins. John hadn't heard of the band so it didn't mean much to him. One was a Squier and one was a Precision. He paid a nominal fee to the feller for the pair and some old pedals. In the condition they were in John initially assumed the Fender was a Japanese reissue, and it was only a few days later when he was cleaning it up that he started to realise that it was a genuine '57 fender. He did a search on Google and after a few minutes came across a photo of me from 1988 playing that very guitar. It's very distinctive and John immediately realised that this may not be a simple re-sale. Further internet digging lead him to consider that this bass in his hands may indeed be stolen and so his endeavour to find me began. John is no fool and knows that the guitar, regardless of its rather sad condition, is a rare piece and highly valuable. He could easily have said nothing, sold it for several thousand pounds profit, and no one would ever be the wiser for it.
But John is not that man. He is that rare breed of human being who instinctively felt something wasn't quite right, and on discovering that, made the decision of karma over kash! As he said to me on the phone he "wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing it was stolen and that someone was still missing it"
That someone would dedicate all that time to trace the guitar back, (he even found the guitar shop where I had it repaired once) and to track down the owner, is a beautiful testament to the honour of musicians. A vintage Fender isn't a guitar to me, it's a piece of history, and a part of MY story. I will be re-united with the guitar next week and once I have it back home, I will lock it away!
Please take your custom to Rock Around The Clock in Edgware, and think of my story. I am making a 'donation' to the shop for their rescue and recovery operation which is the very least I can do to show my appreciation to John and the owners of the shop.


  1. Great story...Magical indeed! - Tim

  2. amazing story... hope you can bring it back up to scratch once you have it back :)

  3. These kind of things make me believe in humanity again. Not that I'd lost my faith at all but still.. this is just an amazing story!


  4. I know the shop. It's really great. They have some beautiful things, very reasonably priced. I also know how you feel. I had four guitars (a Fender & JHS acoustics, a Strat and a Westone bass which I'd used on recordings since '88) plus a drum kit and some personal items (including a jacket given to me by Billy Mackenzie) stolen from me by a well-known rehearsal studio in central London, where I had them stored. They claimed I owed them munny which I disputed. Held me to ransom! I couldn't pay & I really didn't owe them. They kept my stuff, even the non-musical personal items, such as letters and photos. Broke my heart. It is very sweet that your story has a happy ending. Hurrah for Rock Around The Clock!

  5. Unbelieveable. Awesome story.

  6. I love stories like this, and people like John O'Connell. That's a happy ending. Very well told.

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I'm honored!

    All the best,


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