I bought my first electric violin from an Antiques dealer in Camden Lock who’d seen me busking there. He left me his business card with a note saying he had a violin I might be interested in; when I called round to his shop and saw it I was truly amazed – it was an antique German Stradivarius copy, sprayed metallic purple and fitted with a Barcus-Berry bridge pick-up.
I knew instantly that I had to own it. The dealer told me he’d bought it from a friend of Jimi Hendrix, who claimed to have played it on one of the Electric Ladyland sessions (apparently it had been Hendrix’s suggestion to paint it purple!) who in turn had bought it from a mysterious guy called H.H. who had allegedly travelled with the notorious League on their legendary Journey to the East!
H.H. had become disillusioned with the League following a strange and tragic incident at the gorge of Morbio Inferiore, lost his love of music and decided to sell his precious violin.
Apparently this violin had a strange and fascinating history. It had been presented to the Emperor Nero by a two-headed guy called Zaphod, who had confiscated it from a wild-skinned sky-gypsy in Milliways restaurant. When he plugged it into Hotblack Desiato’s nuclear-powered amplifier, the resultant explosion destroyed half of Rome and set fire to the rest! Salvaged from the ruins by a time-traveller known only as the Doctor, it was transported to Georgia, where a country boy named Johnny used it in a famous duel with the Devil. Many years later, it was discovered floating in the North Atlantic by the great detective Sherlock Holmes, who believed it may have been played on board the RMS Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage!
Having bought it, I felt a strange compulsion to retrace the League’s footsteps, playing it on the streets of Europe for many years, its case serving as a pillow when I slept rough under the Ponte Vecchio and the Eiffel Tower. I played it at Glastonbury and Stonehenge during the legendary Free Festivals of the 1980s, under the Niagara Falls and in front of Ghiberti’s ‘Gates of Paradise’ in Firenze.
Sadly, it was stolen by some little bandits during a fight in the Melkweg in Amsterdam, and I had to hand-carve my Purple Electric Violin Mk III with a kitchen knife to replace it - but that’s another story!