Friday, 8 June 2012

Shergold Marathon 6-string bass from 1978
Yesterday we looked at a vintage guitar made by an almost forgotten American manufacturer, and today I want to show you a guitar from an almost forgotten British manufacturer.

We've looked at Shergold guitars before here on Guitarz, plus related brands Hayman, Ned Callan and Shaftsbury. Of course there's a Burns connection too, as Shergold was founded in 1967 by Jack Golder and Norman Houlder who were both former Burns London employees; also in the mid 1970s Shergold would go on to produce guitar bodies and necks for the re-launched Burns UK brand with guitars such as the Flyte.

Shergold were always a forward-looking company, keen on innovation. They are famous for their "detachable" doubleneck guitars (as famously used by Mike Rutherford of Genesis), plus guitars with modular electronics which can be swapped and changed dependent on the sound desired. They were also the ONLY manufacturer (that I am aware of) who were producing a 6-string bass back in the 1970s. This was after Fender had given up on the Fender Bass VI and a LONG time before the advent of modern 5- and 6-string basses in the mid 1980s.

The Shergold Marathon 6-string bass pictured here is currently being offered for sale on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $4,500. I can't help but feel that this price is a little steep, but maybe that's because I remember when I was working in Summertown in Oxford, there was a music shop near the office that had a Shergold 6-string bass in white marked at £199 and it was in there for ages; obviously people weren't rushing to buy it. I thought it was cool, but it was still too expensive for me at the time. This would have been in the late 1980s. Only a few years earlier, Peter Hook of New Order had used a similar Shergold 6-string bass on "Blue Monday".

Stylewise, it is somewhere between the old-fashioned Bass VI (tuned as a standard guitar but an octave down) and the modern 6-string bass (which typically have a low B string and a high C). I believe the Shergold opted for the one-octave down from guitar tuning, but the neck and string spacing is wider than you'd find on a vintage Bass VI (Fender, Danelectro) - definitely more bass-like than guitar-like; even the tuners are large-buttoned dedicated "no doubt about it" bass tuners.

Whilst I'm sure the Shergold Marathon 6-string bass has gone up in value since the example I saw for sale in the late 1980s, I find it hard to believe that it's remotely in the area that this eBay seller is asking for. It's a very cool bass, but I think it's another one to file under "Optimistic sellers".

G L Wilson

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  1. The Marathon VI was a full octave-down tic-tac bass, but with a 30" scale. The neck was quite narrow too: it was much closer to a guitar than one of your modern B-to-C monstrosities. The last couple on UK eBay (only two in fact in the 5 years I've been watching) have gone for about £1300 each, so this is a little high, but does look outstandingly mint, with none of the normal Shergold checking. Bearing in mind there are less than 100 in existence (and Hookie has two of them) so it's not wildly over the odds.

    And now a confession: I know all this because I owned one, a red one I paid £120 for in 1983 which I sold a couple of years later to buy an Antoria SG. I have regretted that bitterly ever since.

    1. Indeed. I've been meaning to buy a replacement ever since but the prices are just rolling away into the stratosphere,

  2. I can remember watching a Joy Division video compilation (Here are the Young Men, Fact 40, which was mostly bad quality live video and an extremely no to low budget promo for Love Will Tear Us Apart) back in the very early 80s (I still have the video but I haven't watched in a million years because of its Beta-Max Format!) and, being American, not being able to figure out for the life of me what were those weird guitars they were playing (and I am not referring to Ian's 12 string Vox). The first time I saw a Shergold on Guitarz a light went off on the back of my head, but it is only now that I can thank you for clearly up that beguiling mystery, of at least the hardware component, of how one of my favorite bands of all time was able to make their compelling and completely unique sonic signature. Btw, I have always felt that New Order was a pale shadow of Joy DIvision, especially as they moved away from guitar based music after Movement which is essentially a Joy Division album (though they would on occasion show they could still do it, witness Age of Consent and especially Leave Me Alone from Power, Corruption and Lies) and became an yet another Electronica Disco band (now, I took E back in the day too, but not enough to make me abandon the guitar for a synthesizer, sequencer and a drum machine, THANK GOD).

  3. Another version of this (blonde not Burst)just went for US$2,300 on eBay today...

  4. You ought to do a feature on the Burns Barracuda. Another one of the 6-string short-scale basses. Not in production. But, can be had on the used market for quite less than the Shergold.

    1. I've got a feeling we already covered this one? Jet Harries signature model? It rings a bell.

  5. Well, the Marathon 6 is in great condition, however I don't think it is from 1978, I don't think they started 6 string basses until 80's because the trusrod design changed in Shergolds, the older models had a serial number plate on the back of the neck joint, which once removed exposed the trussrod for adjustment. The later models from early 80's on had a black triangle at the head stock, once removed, an allen key could be inserted.
    Shergold also made a Modulator 6 bass, with twin pickups can be seen here:

    Shergold 8 string Modulator seen here:

    Custom 6 / 8 Modulator twinneck seen here:

    People interested in Shergold Guitars 2012 should visit:

    Scott is an amazing luthier, and has all the data of parts, which he can reproduce identically to all Shergold models and will build to order.
    So, if you have a broken scratch plate lost knobs, need a new body, nut , pickups, turkey......he can fix it!!! He also builds custom Shergolds to order.
    He is "endorsed" by Norman Houlder and Peter Robinson, ex Shergold Guitars and is regularly on the Shergold Guitar forum.


  6. I have a Marathon Six which I bought in 1978 with the rounded rectangle serial number plate. Yes, tuned an octave down. Lovely to play, very flat action.



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