Back in the dark ages of Australian punk rock a pop band dragged themselves out of remote and isolated Western Australia and inadvertently started a sludgy, swampy movement that influenced a million bands along the way. They still play from time to time and are doing an Australian tour starting tomorrow in their "home town" of Perth.
The early seeds of the Scientists were planted in earlier bands but came together in the classic sense in 1978 and played around Perth for a couple of years touring the east coast in late '79 and early '80 and would appear on our national network music show, Count Down, before moving to Sydney in '81.
I only mention Count Down because when they appeared "live" on the show, guitarist Ben Juniper is playing a modified Fender Coronado, which was owned by Kim Salmon. They thought the guitar looked better than Ben's Gibson L6S for their debut TV appearance.
This Fender Coronado was one of Kim's first "proper" guitars that he'd used in Perth playing in bands and trying to get session work, along with a Selmer Twin combo. The Coronado had been a good guitar but the lack of bridge pickup and hollow body made it almost unusable in live situations. The guitar has a humbucker fitted to the bridge position in the Count Down appearance showing Kim had already started making modifications to use it more.
In 1981 Kim went to local Perth luthier Scott Wise and asked him to make the Coronado into a "solid body guitar like a Fender Jaguar" so Scott took the neck and all the hardware off and cut an offset body to attach everything to. The body was painted Coral (I prefer Salmon ...) pink and reassembled and set up.
The guitar served Kim well in Perth and when they moved to Sydney later that year.
Kim used it, and a 60's Tele he owned as his main live guitars during this period but sold the Tele to fund going to the UK so ended up with the pink offset being his only guitar.
It was used extensively for everything Scientists during this period in the UK.
At some stage in the UK Kim took the scratchplate off and carved flames into the plastic with a knife heated over a gas stove and then painted the cut outs with modellers enamel in a bright yellow and red. From this point on this guitar would be known by friends and Scientists as "the flame guitar".
Very few photos of this guitar exist today but my friend Joe Presedo, who played in the Scientists in the UK in the mid 80's managed to track down a couple of grainy live pics.
The guitar was also used, by Tony Thewlis in the Solid Gold Hell filmclip because, they thought it looked better than Tony's Strat.
The band returned to Australia in March '87 and played a few tours before breaking up. Kim had already started a new project called Kim Salmon and the Surrealists with Brian Hooper on bass and Tony Pola on drums.
During a Surrealists tour in '88 the band had played a show at a Sydney venue and the guitar was ... lost, after the load out that night. Kim stops short of saying the guitar was stolen as he had entrusted others to pack the gear and the guitar was not loaded and subsequently never seen again .... ever.
The guitar has never surfaced, at least not to anyone who knows it knowledge. It's a pretty recognisable guitar with it hand made body and Coronado neck AND that hand carved, hand painted scratchplate.
So it was with all this history and nostalgia that I thought "you know what would be cool?" ....
I had decided to make some guitars again this year for my 20th anniversary but, as usually happens with me, I just can't find time amongst trying to keep this place going. I'd even come up with a plan to make them less time consuming for me than my old completely hand made by me guitars by getting necks made to my specs and getting my friend Mick Brierley to make pickups but alas, I still don't have time. I have made some prototypes and demo models for the shop, and have started 8 or 9 that will get done, but, well, I decided I was just going to make some for friends to start with.
This is made the same as my other TMI guitars with the body being hollow or chambered and made from 100% sustainable renewable plantation timber. Kim wasn't sure about this at first but came around after I explained what I was trying to do. It's 42mm thick and has a "spine" running the length inside the body. It's traced directly off an offset body (which I assume Scott did) but has a slightly angled neck pocket to accommodate the wraparound bridge.
The neck is hard maple with a rosewood fretboard. I asked Kim early on if his Coronado neck was an early dot or later block inlay one and he said he wished it was block, which led me to doing him a block inlay version. I am making myself one of these at the moment (Kim kindly hand carved and painted two scratchplates) with a dot marker neck and a slightly thinner body.
The pickup is a custom made Brierley P-90 wound just a little hot from vintage spec. Kim is a big fan of P-90's and wraparound bridge tailpieces (a man after my own heart) so rather than making an exact copy of the original flame guitar, which Kim describes as "kinda ordinary and I just made it work for me" we decided to make an updated version that Kim would like better.
Kim called it the EXPERI-MENTAL so Tony did a headstock logo for me to put on the Coronado headstock shape. I actually enlarged the headstock slightly as the original looked "too small" on the offset body for some reason. I cut the body to put a switch on the lower horn but decided at the last moment it looked wrong with the flames.
So, if you come to see the Scientists play in Brisbane next Saturday (check your gig guides for shows) you will probably see Kim give this a whirl? I made it as much as a homage to the original and to the Scientists as an actual guitar for Kim to play. If it hangs on his wall and reminds him of good times, my work is done. Kims been very kind to me and Tym guitars/records and I believe in giving something back.