The 80′s: Back To The Future?

Of late I’ve been taking many trips down memory lane back to the 80′s to be precise, my formative years as a guitarist and the decade that like it or not shaped me.

My own personal 80′s influences can be neatly divided into 3 categories

The Texturalists: Will Sergant, John McGeoch,The Edge, Jamie West-Oram, Robert Smith, Johnny Marr – Non of these guys were known for soloing,but they created atmosphere and dynamics with interesting ideas and use of effects,with Marr and sergant alternative tunings were often applied, with McGeoch just really mad ideas. They taught me lots about applying the guitar in a group situation and about using my imagination.

The Shredders: Vivian Campbell,Jake E Lee,Gary Moore,Rhandy Rhoads, George Lynch, John Sykes

A lot of fans of the first group of guitarists would probably be horrified that someone who owns a Smiths album would listen to someone like George Lynch, but thats just silly. Music is a broad church and a real player will see the good in most things. In particular this later group taught me about playing with fire and passion and also the fact that its actually quite useful to know your scales and modes. They also gave me something to aim for technically.

The in betweeners: Alex Lifeson, Reeves Gabriels – These guys could do both equally well and frequently did.

The hardware of the 80′s was in the main Stratocaster type guitars, not by Fender you understand. But by makers who in many cases started out putting together high quality components for the proffessional user like Schecter,Charvel/Jackson, Tom Anderson, Suhr, Buddy Blaze etc. The top selling guitar in North America from the mid-late 80′s was Kramer, followed by Ibanez with its high performance RG guitars. Every guitar was much the same, the usual components were

Basswood Body: Cheap, tonally neutral and had little grain so applying a mad paintjob to it was easy
22 fret neck with Jumbo frets
Floyd Rose locking Tremelo System or sometimes a Kahler
2 single coils & 1 Humbucking pickup
Flashy Paintjob

Now I’ve been thinking about a Stratocaster for a while and I’ve yet to find a guitar that really has everything I like, which has annoyed me. Back in the late 70′s many guitarists felt the same and thus the replacement part industry was born, which then gave way to the 80′s definitive guitar, the Superstrat, and of course the biggest names who made those guitars. Charvel/Jackson, Hamer, Ibanez,Schecter,Kramer, Valley Arts etc etc.

Of course Fashions changed and with Fenders reversal in fortunes comes the Irony that they now own Charvel/Jackson as well as Hamer as part of the massive FMIC group. Gibson own Kramer, Valley arts and Steinberger.

Now I’ve been thinking that as I cant find my ideal Strat, perhaps the time has come to put one together, take a used unloved guitar with a good neck and body and add the rest myself??

Hmm

Watch this Space.

Major US guitar maker in Economic Protectionist racket

The owner

Its been buzzing on the Guitarist magazine forums of late, due to a post concerning the new distribution arrangements of Gibson guitars. One posting was even taken down in whole by the moderators on there, so its clear that even the bods at Future publishing are scared of offending the US behemoth.

Gibsons mighty name had been in the shit in the 1980′s when basically a decline in quality coupled with them being out of fashion meant that flash bolt on neck widdle machines by the likes of Charvel/Jackson/Ibanez/Kramer ruled the roost. In the early 1980′s a Les Paul was as desirable as Herpes and not quite as freely available. I remember no one really stocking new ones in the 1980′s, especially outside of big cities.

But what goes around comes around & since the arrival of Slash on the guitar scene in 1987 and the arrival of new owner Henry Juszkiewicz at Gibson in 1988. Gibsons decline in fortunes since the 1980′s has been reversed in some style. Like Fender they are a mighty global concern owning and eating up their once nemisis’ of the 80′s Kramer, Steinberger, and Valley Arts

However unlike Fender who had brought in new managers and efficient Japanese style quality control to their American factorys. I’d say Gibson were just lucky that they came back into fashion and had to do nothing Quality Control wise and like all good global companies they have expanded their range of brands at every price point.

However from April longstanding UK distributor Rosetti will no longer be handling Gibson’s brands. Instead this falls unto the hands of Gibson Europe. The biggest change is how they supply guitars to stores and from what I can gather they’ve imposed a few restrictions that may contravene EU competiton laws as well as pretty much write off the chance of any smaller retailers selling Gibson guitars in general. According to a very nice chap on the Guitarist forums the following rules will now apply:

1:In order for a chain store to continue selling Gibsons they have to have £75,000 worth of Gibsons in each shop at all times.

2: This must make up 50% of their wall space.

As an example if Soundcontrol with 25 stores wanted to sell Gibson brand guitars, the total MINIMUM stock of Gibson product they must have at all times is £1,000,000 worth!

3: Gibson products must represent 20% of their turnover!!!

The numbers are scary, but I also imagine this will make Gibsons own highly unrealistic and excessive “Manafacturers Suggested Retail Price” a grim reality once and for all.
For the last 6 years the dealers have managed to give us the sub £1000 Les Paul Classic, wheras the MSRP is £1749 last time I looked, and we’ve got used to a Les Paul Standard being nearer £1500 rather than the £2000 it is on Rosetti’s books.

However I suspect those days are now gone, which will be a big blow to the bulk buyers such as Coda Music and Peter Cook’s guitar world who’ve always managed to price guitars way below some of the loftier chain stores.

However I suspect Gibsons own tactics to generate sales on their terms will backfire on them in the long run. The biggest winners will be people selling used Gibsons, but also the grey import market will thrive and once it does its impossible for the manafacturer to control,however they scare the retailers.

For example, despite a forced ban by Fender on sales of their Japanese made guitars to retail customers outside Japan (they even have a warning label on the Ishibashi website). A quick study of Ebay today found 52 new stock Japanese Fenders available & all at sensible prices. In addition there are numerous grey importers on the web who will furnish you with your J-Craft fender at an excellent price. Some are even keeping larger stocks of the more desirable models such as the Japanese Clapton Strat and Yngwie Malmsteen guitars.

In addition, with the global credit crunch looming, who are Gibson trying to kid? The Dad who wants to buy his kid the £380 Epiphone Les Paul, will probably baulk at it being £500 all of a sudden and simply go for one of the excellent Trev Wilkinson ‘Vintage’ brand guitars or god forbid a Korean Tokai. Which will all doubtless be better made and really all this scary stuff is about that at the end of the day.

Given that they now have a disclaimer on the back pages of their catalogs proclaiming that as Gibson guitars are handmade, their will be production inconsistencies from model to model. Perhaps Henry Juszkiewicz, the investment banker who owns Gibson ought to cease this madness & pull his fucking finger out and just make better guitars!

If the modern Les Paul was as consistent and as well made as the Yamaha SG1000 I recently bought perhaps I wouldnt haver sold my Les Paul in the first place, after all theres no cop out on the back of their catalog about production inconsistancies eh Henry ???