Billy Corgan Stratocaster: Have Fender got the signature guitar right for a change?

A few years ago I was in a band with 2 brothers, they were (and probably are) as dysfunctional as Liam & Noel Gallagher, but only in a thoroughly polite sensible introverted and repressed middle class way….no fights at airports or lines of Gak for these 2. You were more likely to get a discussion on Radio 4 or the literacy of Hong Kong action Cinema than a real punch on the nose.

The music wasn’t very british either instead their tastes were mainly the gothicy end of American Alt Rock. Their hero was Billy Corgan. The elder brother actually bought a Fender Strat because Billy played one. If you said the words “Smashing Pumpkins” they actually twitched almost as if….. aroused even…..scary. When I went to see A Perfect Circle at Nottingham’s Rock City a few years ago, it was with some amusement that I saw them corner James Iha in a pincer movement after the show and gave him some serious intense fan worship. Poor James Iha looked like he’d had the shit scared out of him (the younger brother is 6′ 5″ tall and dresses like Jason Bourne)

The bods at Fender have obviously worked out that theres a huge demand for a Billy Corgan Strat. They’ve also worked out that the average Pumpkins fan has not the high disposable income of Fenders usual poncey Custom Shop Artist guitar customers (ie:over 40, Household income of over £65k, 2 cars, 3 children; 2 privately educated etc etc) so for once this is actually an affordable American made guitar.

Fender have based the Corgan Strat on the entry level Highway one American series guitars. For your money you get a fixed bridge strat with a nitro finish body, modern C profile neck with 9.5″ radius board and 22 Jumbo Frets, which will really make playability excellent. The pickups in the neck and bridge are single coil sized blade humbuckers custom wound to Billy Corgan’s tastes, they seem based on the excellent Chopper series by Di Marzio, and the middle pickup is a stock Chopper humbucker. Having used a Di Marzio Chopper-T in my Fender Kotzen Telecaster for the last 4 years I can vouch for both their grunt and versatility.

The oversized 70′s style headstock completes the retro-modern vibe.

The biggest shock of this is the price, its cheaper than an American Standard strat,but has £210+ worth of high end pickups on it as stock. It comes with a tweed case ala a vintage reissue Strat. The rrp is £839, but on the street you could easily get one of these for £679.00 which is a lot of guitar for the money.

Mad Bad Billy has been using these guitars on tour and from what I can see has tried to make them affordable and also an instrument that would appeal to a broader church than the average Pumpkins fan. He may have succeded which is a testament to an artist actually getting involved in an instruments design. The Clapton Strat is another successful signature guitar, but idiosynchrasies such as the 50′s style 1 ply scratchplate and vintage style bridge have always put me off buying one.

If I’m gonna be critical….I dont like the fixed bridge. I would have liked a tremelo option and maybe the black/white colour scheme is a bit off putting for some but these are shockingly good value for money.

As regular Jeztone readers will know I’ve been looking to buy a Strat for some time and my £500 budget will go quite far for a used Strat on Ebay, but its still a secondhand guitar, so the chance to buy a new US strat with modern rock upgrades at this sort of price is very very tempting.

Downsides…if you want to play Robert Cray or Mark Knopfler tunes then this guitar is probably not for you, it will be a bit fatter sounding than an American Standard but if you play what the record store Fopp would describe as “Modern Alternative Rock”. and require a S-type guitar with more contemporary tones, great feel and classic looks, this guitar looks like a good place to start as any.

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