What was it like being a genuine musical innovator?
You’re flattering me.
No, you’re being modest.
The Shadows started by trying to copy American rock’n’roll. But in 1959 I got the first Strat, that Cliff Richard bought for me, and an echo box. It all came together by accident. The whammy bar gave me something different, and I could put a vibrato on the notes, which led us to [1960 hit single] Apache. Instead of copying the Americans, I was developing my own style.
Did you realise how influential you were?
No. It probably took until the seventies, when people like Brian May, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck came out of the woodwork, and even a few heavy metal guys.
How does the popularity you experienced compare with the celebrity we know today?
Pre-YouTube and internet the industry was very different. Besides all of the TV shows, we also made films; The Young Ones and Summer Holiday were extremely successful.
Were you comfortable with fame?
It helped that we had some good people around us. Our manager, Peter Gormley, kept our feet on the ground. On one occasion when Bruce [Welch, guitarist] said: “Listen, man, I’m a star,” our tour manager replied: “Well, twinkle twinkle.”
Were the sixties an innocent time?
We weren’t choirboys – far from it. Let’s just say there were plenty of girls around.
The Shadows opened the door for the next wave of rock’n’roll bands. What did you think of The Beatles?
Bruce and I went to see them in ’63. They’d just had a big hit with Please Please Me and were supporting [US pop singer] Tommy Roe, and Chris Montez of Let’s Dance fame. The theatre was half-empty and no one screamed during their twenty-five-minute set, but afterwards we hung out with them at Bruce’s place playing acoustic guitars.Through the years we got to know them.
And the Stones?
They made some cracking records. And Mick, of course, was a great performer.
Did you ever envy their lifestyle?
Not really. It all sounded a bit hazardous to me. I was always scared of anything to do with drugs. Life was too good to mess it up.
Were you aware of bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in the seventies?
Of course. Jimmy Page played harmonica in a film we did called Finders Keepers in 1966, and we considered John Paul Jones as a replacement for [bassist] Brian Locking. I’m glad things turned out that way, or he might never have joined Zeppelin.
What about punk?
At the time of the 20 Golden Greats album  some people came to our shows who looked really out of place. When we asked why they were there they replied: “We love the economy of your music. It’s like early punk.” I didn’t quite understand, but it was a nice thing to say.