Tailpieces: A Cornish Story...
Along with the reproductions of Brian May's guitar - plus the new models featured elsewhere in this issue - Guild are offering a Brian May Booster Preamp too. Priced at 99 pounds, an accompanying press release states it 'was originally designed and built by (UK electronics expert) Pete Cornish to allow Brian to drive multiple amplifier inputs in parallel without loading down the guitar's high impedance circuitry', and goes on to say that the pedal is a 'faithful reproduction of Brian's original in both circuitry and looks'.
However, this is a rather misleading statement according to Cornish (who has no involvement with the Guild pedal in any shape or form). He made the original treble boost for Brian in November '75; John Deacon, Queen's bass player, had made Brian a treble boost copied from a Rangemaster - an early treble booster.
'I improved it to get rid of the noise and make it more reliable,' says Pete. 'From your description of the Guild circuit it's not the one I designed; that had only one transistor and not two. It's certainly nothing to do with multiple amp driver systems. Around that time (late '75) I made Brian a system in seperate boxes - no one knew about racks at that time - to drive his multiple amp system which then consisted of nine AC30s.
'In June '82, I built him a proper rack system and pedal board, virtually a copy but in a single large rack 5U 19" case with 12 amplifier outputs: three clean, three via Delay I, three with Delay II, and three with chorus.'
The Guild unit, then, is a buffer preamp that converts the guitar's signal to low impedance, retaining the top end of the guitar's tone often lost by long cable runs and effect lines. Then we have a simple footswitchable treble boost, and it's all housed in an unfinished die-cast box, with single input and single output, rotary level control on-off footswitch and red status LED indicator that comes on when the boost function is kicked in. It's powered by a single 9V battery.
How close it replicates Brian's original pedal TGM can't say but the Guild unit certainly provides a lot of treble boost, though at the expense of the low end, even with the level control set at minimum. If you're really aiming to replicate Brian's tone (complete with your reissue Brian May guitar and 12 Vox AC30s!) then it may help, but as a stand-alone unit it certainly doesn't produce - nor is intended to - anything like Brian's hallmark tone and frankly it's little use for general-purpose guitaring. Maybe a combined treble boost/ distortion unit that approximates Brian's gutsy, smooth sustaining voice would be a more useful effect for most of us.
However, it's important to point out that Pete can replicate, exactly, Brian's original booster (he still has the original circuitry and currently makes three versions) and of course can, as he did with Brian, incorporate it into a hi- spec, roadworthy pedal board, or inded build you a proper setup for driving a multiple amp system. Pete has of course designed highly roadworthy effects boards, routing systems and racks for a huge number of pro-touring musicians, including The Pretenders, Paul McCartney, Sting, Pink Floyd and Robert Fripp while recent clients include John McLaughlin, Jimmy Page and Lou Reed. To contact Pete - he's just moved from his long-time London base to East Sussex - call 0825-873033.