How to fuck up a guitar

The NAMM convention takes place in about two weeks. This is a show for retailers, and a lot of new guitar gear debuts there. For me, it is like Christmas all over again, except all the gifts are out of my price range, and nobody else is celebrating. But I geek out.

Recently I was trying to explain the concept of “relic” guitars — high-quality new instruments that have been made by the talented luthiers at Gibson and Fender, then carefully “aged” (that is, “burned” and “sanded” and “scraped” and “damaged”) to make that minty0fresh guitar look like it has been through 30 years of abuse. White parts are artificially yellowed; heat guns are used to crack the finish; previously pristine metal parts become intentionally rusted. The craftsmen use such high-tech tools as car keys and belt buckles to “distress” the guitars in a “natural” fashion. No, I am not kidding. And since no expense is spared to make the guitar look like it was thrown into a dumpster and urinated on, collectors will pay thousands of dollars depending on the model and the person who does the aging. I’m talking $5000 easy.

I don’t get it, and I never have. I put my guitars in cases so they perennially look new. In a world obsessed with youth, only the guitar community is obsessed with looking as old as possible.

But this, like locking trems and the Eventide Harmonizer and jazz, is a guitar fad that will pass. I plan to set up my own business in about three years, refinishing these guitars that were old before their years, when people realize that a busted-looking guitar actually doesn’t look regal or interesting, but actually looks busted. And even if I do a lousy job repainting them and replacing the parts, it will still look better than it did when it was fake-old new. I can’t lose.

And like all fads, you know it’s almost over when a major manufacturer takes it mainstream. After delivering “Closet Classic” and “Heavy Relic” guitars through the Custom Shop for a few years, Fender will be offering new “Road Worn” guitars as a standard item in 2009. For instance, the classic 1960s Stratocaster…


Just look at that beauty! Zero miles and 40 years on her!

Fender will be rolling these out of its factory in Escondido, Mexico. I have been a big fan of the MIM Fenders; the value for the money is unbeatable. A new Fender Standard Stratocaster goes for $400 street. These “Road Worn” Fenders will cost $950 — twice as much for the same guitars from the same factory, only…artfully damaged.

I’m giving up music, then I’m giving up on humanity.

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