Gear Rundown: Blur

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Gear Rundown: Blur

Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Their blend of grunge and punk became something else entirely, putting a uniquely British tongue-in-cheek spin on it all.

Blur defined the 90s for a lot of people. Their blend of grunge and punk became something else entirely, putting a uniquely British tongue-in-cheek spin on it all. One of their most famous songs, “Song 2” was famously played to their record label as a joke, the explosive guitars capturing the execs’ attention immediately, and then skyrocketed Blur into the history books.

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Led by Damon Albarn on lead vocals and occasional guitars, who went on to form Gorillaz, Blur is a guitar-heavy band with the backing of Graham Coxon on guitar and Alex James on bass. Blur are uniquely jangly, Britpop and grunge guitars combined, with a solid foundation for Albarn to sing across.

Graham Coxon Guitars

Guitarist Graham Coxon has played a lot of guitars over the years, though seems to gravitate toward a select few Telecasters and Les Pauls, having used them extensively on stage in the 90s as well as more recently at Primavera Sound in 2023.

Fender Telecasters

Coxon played a few different variants of the classic design, often with standard Tele neck pickup and a slanted single-coil in the bridge. A few aged natural, butterscotch coloured Teles litter live performances, alluding to a ‘52 style Tele re-issue, this year specifically because it was the first year of the “Telecaster” after a period of Fender Esquires, Broadcasters and Nocasters. The ‘52 re-issues have a famously fat, round neck referred to as a “baseball bat” neck.

For a fatter sound, Graham Coxon has also played 70s-style Telecaster Deluxes, their humbuckers offering a larger and more modern sound, and reducing noise from high gain pedals, while retaining the Fender aesthetic.

The early 2010s saw the release of the Graham Coxon signature Telecaster, an amalgamation of both of these Teles, featuring a humbucker in the neck position and angled single coil in the bridge. The best of both worlds, perhaps!

Graham Coxon Tele

Gibson Les Paul

The lighter, more controlled sound of his Fenders sometimes make way for a more heavy-set Gibson sound in the shape of a Les Paul.

Primavera Sound in 2023 saw Coxon playing a Cherry Sunburst Les Paul Standard, as well as swapping to a 50s style Les Paul (identifiable because of the P90s that pre-dated the humbucker), and a Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul Custom, which he also played throughout the 90s.

Hayman 3030H

This is an odd addition, though used in the now famous video clip for “Song 2”. The 3030H is a UK-made solid body electric with two Hayman Re-An Humbuckers. Constructed from Obeche hardwood, it’s a unique design and body shape, taking cues from a bunch of classic designs, all of them colliding in this slightly offset, hourglass shape.

Pro Co RAT 2

The Pro Co RAT 2 is a distortion pedal that’s verging on the edge of fuzz, its thick, forward sounding distortion making just about everything sound massive. Coxon has used a variety of RAT variants over the years, but always because of his love for the original.

Marshall Super Lead

The brittle, bright sounds on a lot of Blur records are thanks to his penchant for Marshall, particularly the Super Lead, a.k.a. the “Plexi”. Coxon can often be seen with a pair of them to power his riffs.

Graham Coxon Marshall

Damon Albarn Guitars

While primarily frontman and singer, Albarn slings a guitar across his shoulder from time to time. Oftentimes it’s an acoustic, and when it’s an electric he’s paying homage to his bandmate.

Graham Coxon Telecaster

Albarn plays super clean chords to back up Coxon and add texture to Blur, and he does it with a Graham Coxon Telecaster, the neck humbucker settling back into the fold when needed, while the single-coil bridge helps him to poke through.

Taylor GS Mini Acoustic Guitar

The small-bodied, American made Taylor that Albarn can be seen playing from time to time is a Taylor, and he’s used this for quite some time now. Smaller bodies offer a more controlled sound, while larger acoustics like a dreadnought or jumbo acoustic can have feedback issues. The punchy tone can be heard across a lot of Blur, and surely some Gorillaz too!

Damon Albarn Taylor

Alex James Bass Guitars

Holding down the bottom end is Alex James, who has almost exclusively played the same style of bass throughout his time in Blur.

Fender ‘58 Precision Bass re-issue

The late 50s saw the introduction of the Precision as we know it, the “P Bass” departing from earlier incarnations with a single-coil pickup in favour of the modern ‘split’ single coil. 1958 was the first year with more rounded edges to the body, as well as an anodized pickguard that gives the bass a little extra clank and brightness. James’ are finished in classic sunburst, retaining the ‘tug bar’ near the lower horn of the strings.

Alex James Precisions bass

The ‘tug bar’ was a Leo Fender addition, intended to be used to hook your fingers on to while your thumb picked the strings. Leo was not a bass player, and the 60s and 70s saw it relocated to the more practical ‘thumb rest’ position, on the upper horn for you to rest your thumb on while walking with your fingers.

Keep up with Blur here.