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The Strange Story Of The Quad Guitar

The Strange Story Of The Quad Guitar

Because the guitar is an exceptionally versatile instrument, there have been countless modifications and accessories for guitar that make it more comfortable to play, allow it to make nearly any conceivable sound and allow for various types of playing styles.

There are many unique and strange guitars out there from the one-of-a-kind Red Special played by Brian May to a myriad of guitar organs and synthesisers to guitars made from every type of material possible.

However, one of the strangest guitars ever made appeared in the most over-the-top music video during a peak period for over-the-top music videos and was used in just two live performances before disappearing for nearly 20 years.

Here is the story of the guitar with four necks, as well as the story of the extraordinary guitarist who invented it.


Four Necks Jeremy?

The Quad Guitar, a guitar with four necks that could be rotated around on its strap, was the invention of Michael Angelo Batio, the man who also invented the double guitar and developed an ambidextrous playing style to go alongside it.

An accomplished guitar prodigy at the age of 13, Mr Batio was highly inspired by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a jazz saxophone player known for playing multiple instruments at once, and wanted to duplicate that style first by having a guitar fixed in place to play alongside his main guitar, and later with the double guitar.

He was an accomplished session musician not long after graduating from college and whilst initially joining a band in Chicago set up by Tommy Holland formerly of Steppenwolf, he would quickly move to California and start a project with the banshee-voiced Jim Gillette.

This project became Nitro and by 1989, the band had released O.F.R., short for “Out-F’ing-Rageous” and featuring the peak of music excess only found prior to the release of The Decline of Western Civilisation Part II.

There was no hair metal with bigger hair, there were no vocals as high nor as shrill as the glass-breaking heights of Jim Gillette, and no guitar playing as audacious as Michael Angelo Batio’s quad guitar solo.

The top two guitars of the Gibson-built Quad Guitar had seven strings, whilst the lower two have five, which is why Mr Batio plays them in different ways in the video.

He also, when playing live, uses a string-dampening system that stops the two guitars from creating feedback loops when played together, which is necessary given that playing both guitars necessitates a tapping style with no strumming.

Unfortunately, the original run of the Quad Guitar lasted only a few weeks. On the band’s second date of their tour for O.F.R., it was stolen in El Paso Texas, and only half of it would ultimately be found and returned in 2004.

Nitro took off right at the end of the hair metal boom, with their second album releasing as late as 1992 after much of the excesses of the musical landscape had been wiped out by the rise of grunge and much of the fanbase had been disgusted by the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilisation Part II.

Mr Batio himself became an accomplished neoclassical guitarist, producing several albums and instructional videos as well as performing for bands such as Manowar. However, he will always be most linked to the guitar he perhaps played the least in his career.

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