By Rick Nielsen
In case any of you were wondering how beat-up a guitar would look if you played it on only one song a night but happened to do that for 3,000 or so shows in a row, you can now consider your question answered. This is my checkerboard Hamer Standard, which you can see on the cover of Cheap Trick’s 1979 Dream Police album. I’ve used it to perform the record’s title track at every gig we’ve had since the record came out.
My fascination with the checkerboard pattern, which is pretty much my signature, began when I was a young kid and the TV stations would go off the air at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night. I would sit there sometimes and just stare at the bug races or the Indian test patterns. I knew if you stared at them long enough, something good or bad was going to happen. I guess I could have gone with polka dots like Buddy Guy, but I always felt like there was too much empty space between them.
Hamer has always been cool enough not to build a checkerboard guitar without asking me first, so as far as I know there are only three of these Standards in existence. The first is the original real deal, which you see here. The second, which I recently found and purchased at a guitar show in California, was made for Paul Simon as a gift for his then very young son Harper, soon after Dream Police was released.
The third checkerboard Standard was built as the prize for a contest that was sponsored by Epic Records and the British rock magazine Melody Maker. Contestants had to write in and say why they deserved the guitar. The guy who won surfaced recently; he lives in Manchester and has kept the thing for more than 30 years. I told him, “I’d like to buy the guitar from you. And if I can’t buy it from you, I’m going to steal it from you.” He said, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t. My wife and I had a special mount made for it, and it’s on the wall right above our toilet.”
I though that was kind of appropriate—I’ve been to Sir George Martin’s house, and he’s got the Gold record for our 1980 album, All Shook Up, which he produced, above his toilet. As you can see, Cheap Trick stuff is in great spots all around the world.