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WIRED FSOORUND

© Beverly Lebarrow/Redferns/Getty

UK ROCK’N’ROLLERS WERE FORCED TO CUT THEIR TEETH NOT ON GIBSONS AND FENDERS BUT GRIMSHAWS, WEIRD GALLOTONES, WATKINS AMPS AND CABINETS CREATED IN THE GARAGE. BY MICHAEL HEATLEY

Ever wondered why Paul McCartney played a German-made Hofner and not a shiny American Fender Precision? Why Bill Wyman plucked a Vox and not a proper Jazz bass? Why the Shadows’ hallowed Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch – pictured left, alongside Cliff Richard – started out clutching a cheap Ibanez and a Grimshaw? And what exactly is a Watkins Dominator?

The answers to all these questions except the last lie in one word: embargo. Britain may have won the war in 1945, but it was at a cost. Money was badly needed to pay for reconstruction and to help the country adjust to peacetime. America offered a loan of $586m (about £145 million at 1945 exchange rates), to be paid off in 50 annual repayments starting in 1950. As payment was deferred on six occasions because of economic or political crises, the last instalment of about $83m (£45.5m) was made to the US in December 2006.

History books tell us the ’50s was the decade of Elvis and Rock Around The Clock, but everyday life in Britain was certainly unglamorous. Not only were there the last vestiges of wartime food shortages – rationing was only finally abolished in 1954 – but the government was understandably trying to encourage the sale of home-produced goods to help the war debt. People were heavily dissuaded from buying import goods, especially luxury items – and that included guitars.

‘We just stood around looking at this thing. It was out of this world HANK MARVIN

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About Vintage Rock

Vintage Rock: Winter issue 2011 features: 50 Greatest Rockabilly tracks - Prepare yourself for the greatest party tape in history with our essential cuts. The Roots of Rock’n’Roll - The definitive lowdown on how it all began The stars - Fantastic features on Elvis, Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and many more Rockabilly Hair - Tope stylist Mr Ducktail tells all, ably assisted by Levi and Bernie Dexter All Mama’s Children - News, reviews and events for the incorrigibly beat-minded