Wuthering Heights guitar sells for £21k at Wiltshire auction

The guitar heard in the solo of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights debut track has sold for £21,500 – including fees – at auction.

The 1974 Les Paul Custom was expected to attract bids of up to £10,000 at Gardiner Houlgate auctioneers in Corsham, Wiltshire, but went under the hammer for £17,000.

Guitarist Ian Bairnson – who died last year aged 70 – played the piece with a broken arm.

Auctioneer Luke Hobbs said the price in the end “was quite deserved, in my opinion”.

Explaining how much the background of a guitar can change the price, Mr Hobbs said: “The guitar itself – in original condition – is worth probably £5,000. With the modifications that it had, probably more like £3,000-4,000.

“That guitar has done significant work over the years,” he added.

A tribute to Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel, Bush’s debut song Wuthering Heights surpassed all expectations when it was released in 1978, becoming the first UK number one to be written and performed by a female artist.

It was at number one in the charts for four weeks.

Ian Bairnson was a highly successful musician in his own right, working on albums by artists like Joe Cocker, Mick Fleetwood and Neil Diamond. He also toured with Sting and Eric Clapton.

He was part of the band Pilot as well, which produced the song January that hit the number one spot on the UK charts.

Mr Hobbs said he was “very respected by his peers”.

Mr Bairnson’s family has been selling his equipment, including 12 of his guitars.

Mr Hobbs described the guitarist as “quite a trooper” for playing the Wuthering Heights solo with a broken arm. He said: “I couldn’t even play like that with a functioning arm and I’m a keen guitarist myself.”

The auction house – Gardiner Houlgate – has a specialism in selling instruments and said: “It really is an honour to put guitars like Ian’s to market.”

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