Billy’s second Gretsch White Falcon is the one that he affectionately christened his ‘Sanctuary’ guitar and is indeed the one that has become synonymous with both him and The Cult.
After buying his first Double Cutaway in 1982 he soon realised that the single cutaway style was the one he really desired. With the advance from the record company after forming Death Cult with Ian in 1983 Billy finally was able to see his dream come true. As a centre piece in the stunning live performances and all recordings by band the White Falcon became an iconic totem. But Billy’s guitar of choice was yet to see its pivotal moment and that came in 1985 during the recording sessions for The Cult’s first single after the ‘Dreamtime’ album as he explains:
“We had this song, and we decided to record it at a studio in South West London called Olympic with producer Steve Brown. If you know your British music history you’ll know that it was where Free and Led Zeppelin and various other classic bands recorded in the late sixties. But by 1985, it had become very, very out of date as at that time everybody wanted their drums to sound like a robot or like the Thompson Twins or Howard Jones. But we just wanted to go where Zeppelin did their first two records to try and capture some of that old time magic. So we went into this extraordinarily expensive, old-fashioned studio that was basically used for orchestral movie soundtracks. The record company thought we were nuts but went along with it!
I remember we were kind of getting settled in this room, and I had my White Falcon, my Roland JC-120 amp and a little BOSS effects pedal board. I probably had a valve amp as well, either a Marshall, maybe an Ampeg. This was essentially my touring rig and every piece of gear that I owned. We cut the two ‘B’ side tracks ‘The Snake’ and ‘No.13’ live from the studio floor and then came to start recording the ‘A’ side song ‘She Sells Sanctuary’.
So I’m all ready to go and I looked down on the floor and saw a violin bow that had been left behind by an orchestra that had been recording in there. We’d all been talking about the ghosts of Zeppelin, because the house engineer had actually been around when they’d recorded there. For a laugh I thought I’d just mess around and do the violin bow thing like in their film ‘The Song Remains the Same’. I put on my delays and started doing the whole Jimmy Page routine, then to push it even more I just hit every pedal I had. I had the analog delay, the digital delay, a flanger, a phaser, and it was going through the chorus on the JC-120. After I’d been screwing around for a while doing this thing, someone asked me to play the the middle section to ‘Sanctuary’, so I dropped the bow and picked the riff but with all the effects still on and that was that, as they say. It was always going to be the middle section of the song and we just used it as the intro. That was the song that broke The Cult big time and this was the Falcon that did it with me, the record, Tops of the Pops, everything. So that’s how she be came my ‘Sanctuary’ guitar!”
Billy Duffy – January 2013