Brian May’s John Birch Red Special Replica

This is the first replica ever made of the Red Special. The guitar was made by John Birch in 1975 and became widely known after its appearance in the “We Will Rock You” music video.

The John Birch RS Replica guitar as seen in the
The John Birch RS Replica guitar as seen in the “We Will Rock You” music video.

Not as good as the original

Unfortunately, Brian didn’t really warm up to the guitar, because it didn’t sound like the original one, despite the fact it had the exact same pickups which he kept as spare. He did use it for a while as his backup guitar, until around 1982 when he threw it out of frustration and ended up damaging it.

I met John through Tony Iommi, and at that point, I had no proper spare, which was a very difficult situation to be in, because if I broke a string I’d have to pick up the Stratocaster or Les Paul, which would sound totally different from my guitar.

So we came up with the idea of making a replica of my guitar and I had three spare pickups that I’d bought as back-ups, so he built it around those. There were problems [laughs] – it turned out that the pickups didn’t have the warmth that mine had and the guitar was made of different materials, so it really didn’t have the sustain.

Brian May on 9 Queen guitars that aren’t his Red Special (plus his Vox AC-30)

After the guitar was damaged, with its neck and headstock completely broken apart from the rest of the body, Brian sent the guitar to John Page, who at that time worked for Fender.

John proposed to Fender that they should build a replica, but apparently, no one from Fender was very keen on that idea. Regardless, John kept the guitar and told Brian that he would work on a replica in his spare time, which he did until he got fired from Fender during the CBS era transition.

From that point on, things slowed down, and the guitar remained at John’s for over 20 years. Eventually, in 2004, John got in contact with May and sent him the guitar back, in the exact shape it was in 1982.

May then had the guitar restored by Andrew Guyton, who glued everything back together, but realized that the guitar’s design was flawed and that it didn’t make sense to try and make it “play worthy” again. He simply decided to just piece it together, so it could be kept as a history piece. To see the photos of the guitar restored, see Guyton – Brian May’s John Birch guitar.

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Rodd Wilson
Rodd Wilson
13 days ago

John Birch apparently made two repo models and the other sold to someone in South Africa. It ultimately made it’s way to the U.S. and was discovered in a small shop in Arizona. A friend of mine spotted it and bought it and still has it today. It is green and NOT broken.