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Instruments: Jazz / Live Killers Tour [28.10.1978 - 18.08.1979]

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This is possibly the peak of the band’s gear in terms of amount of instruments used. Or maybe not ... it’d be nice to actually do the maths. Again, Roger used a different bass-drum logo for the North American and European legs. For Japan, he used the same as in Europe. This is also the first tour without John Harris, as he fell ill in California at the end of the American leg of the News of the World tour. Info on their Saarbrücken concert on 18th August 1979 (long after the tour had ended) is included here as they kept using Jazz-era equipment. At the end of that concert, Roger trashed his kit.

'39 was performed in a unique way during these concerts: instead of standing up and playing bass-drum and tambourine, Roger sat down on a scaled drum-kit, began the song on tambourine and bass-drum and changed to drums for the penultimate chorus. That is, until 17th November 1978, as from then on he'd only switch on the last chorus. Useless but fun trivia!

John had a new bass which his technician got for him during rehearsals in Dallas: a 1955 Fender Masterbuilt Precision. John used it as his main for the first sixteen concerts but then only scarcely, and in 1979 the only documented instances are Hamburg and Paris (the latter only on Dreamer's Ball). The Japanese leg featured the inclusion of Teo Torriatte, for which Brian would play piano instead of guitar (and instead of Freddie).

Roger's Ludwig kit Roger's Ludwig kit Roger's timpani Roger's Gretsch kit Roger's Gretsch kit

Main drum kit

Ludwig 26" x 14" bass-drum.
Ludwig 14" x 7.5" maple snare drum.
Ludwig 18" x 18" and 20" x 20" floor toms.
Ludwig 14" x 14", 13" x 13" and 12" x 12" rack toms.
Remo 16" and 14" rototoms [Get Down Make Love].
Paiste 12", 10", 8", 6" and 4" splash cymbals.
Paiste 18", 15" and 2 x 16" crash cymbals.
3 x Pollard Syndrum pads.
Zildjian 15" hi-hats.
Zildjian 22" and 15" crash cymbals.
Zildjian 22" ride cymbal.
Zyn 20" ride cymbal.
Ludwig Speed-King pedal.
Ludwig stands.
Premier sticks.

Bass-drum logo: NOTW robot [USA/Canada]
Bass-drum logo: Jazz cover [Europe]

Small drum kit [Dreamer's Ball, '39]
Gretsch 18" x 14" bass-drum (UPDATE: maybe this was actually a Ludwig 26" x 14" bass drum).
Gretsch 14" x 5" snare drum.
Gretsch 12" x 8" rack tom.
Gretsch 14" x 14" and 16" x 14" floor toms.
Paiste 14" hi-hats.
Paiste 16" crash.

Timpani [Roger's Solo]
Ludwig Ringer 28"
Ludwig Ringer 30"

Gong [hit once at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody]
Paiste 60" symphonic.
Bespoke beaters.
Paiste stands.

Tambourines & maracas

Bass guitars
Fender Precision '67 Fender Precision '68 Precision Fretless 1955 Precision

Electric bass guitars
Fender Precision 1955 [e.g. 28.10.1978-20.11.1978]
Fender Precision 1968 [e.g. 22.11.1978]
Fender Precision 1965 [spare]
Fender Precision fretless [´39]

Bass rig
5 x Acoustic 371 amplifiers.
3 x Acoustic cabinets.
2 x Gauss 4" x 12" cabinets.
1 x Cornish (?) bespoke control.


Electric six-string guitars
BHM bespoke [main]
Birch bespoke [spare]
Gibson Les Paul Deluxe [second spare]

Guitar rig
Cornish bespoke effect [trebe-booster]
Eventide harmoniser
fOXX foot pedal [phaser]
2 x Maestro tape-delay
9 x Vox AC30 amplifiers
Vox foot pedal [wah-wah]

Acoustic guitar ['39, Love of My Life, Dreamer's Ball]
2 x Ovation Pacemaker 1615 twelve-string

Brian's Red Special Brian's John Birch copy Brian's Ovation

Freddie's Steinway

Steinway 1972 D concert grand 8 ft 11.75 in.

Piano rig
Helpinstill magnetic pick-ups.
Clair Brothers bespoke mixer.
SAE Stereo amplifier.
2" x 15" cabinets.
2 JBL 2440 horns.

What about the recording sessions?

John definitely did not use the 1955 model for the Jazz album, as he only got it after the sessions were finished, when they were ready to start the tour. The piano at the studios in France was a Bechstein B (6 ft 8 in). The piano used at Mountain Studios (possibly in Let Me Entertain You) was Freddie's Steinway. By the way, Freddie didn't write Bicycle Race in France - he wrote it in Switzerland. The Tour de France, despite its name, is not only in France: it included brief stages in other countries like Netherlands and Switzerland, and it was in Switzerland (on 19th July, Brian's birthday) that they passed by the band's hotel and Freddie thought about writing that song. Bicycle Race and Crazy Little Thing are possibly the only songs we know the exact date when they were written (Crazy Little Thing was the day of a massive strike in Heathrow, which by checking newspapers from the time corresponds to 22nd June 1979).

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