When I was a lad the 2 guitars that fascinated me the most were the Yamaha SG1000/2000 and the other was the Ibanez Roadstar. The Roadstar was Ibanez’s second attempt at an original design based loosely on the Fender Stratocaster. The earlier Blazer model was just a plain attempt, but with the Roadstar they really went to town.
By 1984 the design had evolved into a plethora of variations offering unlimited choices to the modern 1980’s player and boy people used them, a mainstay of the early 80’s working musician even some Pro’s like Steve Lukather had a signature model, Gary Moore,Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet, Allan Holdsworth. No wonder Fender were on there knees. In Back to the Future, Michael J Fox’s character Marty McFly owned an Ibanez RS440. for an all American boy to be playing a Japanese guitar in a Hollywood movie really showed how successful the Roadstar had become.
In the mid 80’s the guitar to beat was not even Fender anymore. Charvel and Kramers S-type designs were being used by both 1980’s metal types and top session guitarists. Ibanez realised that the key was too offer an S-type guitar with a Floyd type trem.
By 1986 they had managed to secure a license to make the floyd and rechristened it the Edge trem.
As 1987 became 1988 Ibanez had secured the endorsement of Steve Vai and a host of other up and coming widdlers such as Paul Gilbert and Vinnie Moore, The Jem 777 and legendary RG series exploded on the scene and became the must have rock guitar of the day.
However 1986’s Ibanez Catalog is perhaps the most interesting. Stuck between the traditional and the widdly era’s one can see some interesting guitars evolve. The Proline
managed to bring together the Roadstar body and RG series headstock design with some really odd mini button pickup switching options.
The final incarnation of the Roadstar actually had RG model prefix’s and the first year of production the RG/Sabre/S series were branded under the Roadstar series in America only.
I’ve spent the last 6 months trying endless Strat type guitars and have been dissapointed, when in January I tried a Roadstar RG440 (like the blue guitar at the top of the page) it was a black one and besides the Floyd type trem it had an oil finished neck that was quite substantial, yet easy to play. However good old Denmark Street had priced it at around £300 yet it had the shit kicked out of it.
However a good guitar is always easy to track down and I’ve just bought a Roadstar RG440 off Ebay and its possibly the cleanest 22 year old guitar I have ever played. The pickups are nothing exceptional however the neck is……probably one of the best necks I’ve played, fast, yet with enough mass to dig in. I’d say it was more like the excellent Ibanez Joe Satriani Guitars in terms of feel and the floyd licensed Edge tremelo system is like new.
A few days after I bought the guitar I was contacted by a chap called Nigel who missed bidding and wanted to buy the guitar off me, I was tempted for a black one, but relented.
Nigel is 41 and plays in a covers band, owns lots of guitars, Fenders/Gibsons/Yamaha etc. However his main axe of choice is a black Roadstar RG440, he’s pretty much sold on the the 1986 incarnation of the Roadstar as the ultimate gigging S-type. Well made, easy to play with a great tremelo and above all….cheap as chips. He compares it to an early 80’s Charvel. I’ve never played one, but I did play a Musicman Luke (Steve Lukather’s current signature guitar) last year. The quality and feel of this Ibanez reminded me of a Musicman.
These guitars are seriously undervalued right now. A good clean 22-25 year old Roadstar can be had for around £180-£300. Thats less than a used Mexican Strat and a much much better made all round instrument that I suspect will increase in value.
As usual beware of guitars with knackered tremelo systems and hacked up bodies, also an unfinished neck is much more susceptable to damage and dirt. The Edge tremelo is still in production,so spares are plentiful however beware the 1983 pro rocker tremelo, it doesnt work well, also the pre floyd locking system popular on RS430/440 models from 1984 is impossible to find parts for, unless one gets lucky on Ebay.
A weekly scan of Ebay reveals a good 6-8 Roadstars on the market at any one time, usually 2 or 3 1986 RG models. If one wants to do the high performance tremelo equipped Superstrat guitar on a budget and own a future collectable to boot, there really is no better place to start.