I recently received some royalty payments for work completed years ago. It wasn’t heaps, but it certainly felt like moula from heaven. It was enough to be able to think about buying a nice (enough) electric guitar. How lovely.
And that’s when my problems started.
I know nothing about guitars…
The Problem Of Brand Snobbery
First there’s Gibson vs Fender thing. I include into that Les Paul. You have to KNOW which you like and why and to be honest I don’t. You start looking at your favourite bands and noticing what they play. For example, Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker plays a semi acoustic Gibson but they cost about two grand, so that’s out. Before that, he used to play a Gibson SG which are much more affordable.
I noticed that lots of glam bands, or odd bands that I liked also chose the Gibson SG. It seemed to have a raw sound I like.
Modern vs Vintage. So, guitar afficionados seem to prefer certain eras of guitar which again seems to make them expensive.
Epiphone and Squier. And then there a companies that make ( or made ) copies of more famous guitars. And whether or not these are “as good” as the original, or woeful rip-offs seemed to vary. There’s even the legendary Ibanez copy of the Gibson Explorer that was better than the original. I quite liked the idea of that. And it was cheaper.
There’s also the knowing the difference between single coil and humbucking pickups thing. Which, it started to seem, is the big difference between Fender and Gibson. It’s about the way the magnets work to pick up string vibration ( I think ) and humbuckers have more raw oomph and single coil ones more zing. I like oomph and zing.
The Problem of Tonewood
Fenders are a bit thinner, more jangly or trebley and Gibsons have more raw grunt. Some people claim that is due to the wood the guitar is made from. Other people call those people idiots.
The Problem Of Being A Bit Of An Individual
Like lots of people I’ve always had a problem with herd mentality. Sure a Gibson SG or a Fender Stratocaster are both so lovely that they are a waste on me… but I still think I wanted something a bit different.
The Problem With Ebay
I found the array of options available to me daunting, there was Fender Jaguar ( cherry red ) that was £400 delivered from Falkirk, or one for £380 but was pickup only from Birmingham. I’d have to go on the train. Once I was watching ten guitars, the matrix of possibilities fried my mind.
The Problem Of The Illusive Bargain
Ebay is a pain because sellers know the real value of things. I wanted to find a U.S made classic for £100 at a boot sale. That was not going to happen was it.
The Problem Of There Being No Limit
There is always a more expensive guitar you can buy. Always. Always. And even then you can start tinkering with it.
The Problem With Music Shops And Being Shit On Guitar
To say I can’t play is maybe over-doing it, but I definitely can’t play solos, or in public. Going into a music shop and cranking up a guitar and thrashing an E chord is waaaaaay too embarrassing.
But I did it. I went to three guitar shops and played lots of guitars.
The Problem With The Guitars Themselves
Squier Telecaster for about £100 played better than a £600 Telecaster. Can you believe that? The £600 one simply had been poorly set up and had string buzz.
Les Pauls are indeed ace but somehow, despite the Sex Pistols and Ziggy Stardust, don’t move me. And Flying Vs are a pain to play sitting down – they slip off your knee.
The Gretch was quite nice. The SG was undeniably beautifully adequate. The Epiphone was akin to being a recent Skoda owner after Volkswagon took them over.
I tried a Jaguar and was really surprised. I loved it. I decided I needed a whammy bar and hoped I wouldn’t regret not having humbuckers.
The Problem With Having Made The Wrong Decision In The Future
The problem with finding out about guitars was that it was stopping me buying a guitar. How crazy is that? Having tried the Jaguar I went to the pub to read about it in the hope of discovering that I hadn’t bought a complete turkey.
I found out that they were loved by the grunge scene ( Kurt even ) because they were unpopular but were great ( and therefore cheaper ). The Pixies used one.
By the time I got back to the shop, ready to buy, it had been sold.
The surreal shock to my system, at having actually made a decision was only made worse by being attacked by three piss heads with an inflatable sheep outside the shop. Really.
Making A Decision
So. I decided it was time to stop listening to the experts ( although this guy still makes me laugh ) and make my own choice. I’d got over the Fender ( thin sounding ) snobbery… and besides when you crank stuff up with 8 layers of fuzz, distortion and drive, does it really matter?
I then discovered a new version of old guitar from Fender called the Blacktop Jazzmaster. It’s a cousin of the Jaguar. It has a whammy bar. It has a humbucker pickup. It is made in Mexico. It has simple controls. Johnny Marr didn’t play one. It is beautiful. And absolutely perfect ( for me ).
I noticed Rowland S. Howard with something that looked similar ( probably a black Jaguar, but close enough ).
There’s probably a whole heap of “but am I worth it” lurking that drove this almost painful OCD that I’m not ready to look at yet… but that’s another story. Maybe one day.
I still now notice EVERY guitar that ever appears on TV ever but I’m no longer lost in an awful never-ending matrix of should I / shouldn’t I / What if I have done the wrong thing and regret this forever?
But at least I’ve escaped my lovely guitar buying hell. The only reminder of how big an idiot I am is the persistent adverts for guitars on the side of EVERY SODDING SITE I VISIT.