Pre-Distressed Guitars: Like Pre-Distressed Jeans, Except … No, They’re Pretty Much The Same Thing

Aug 27th, 2007 // 7 Comments

If you’ve got a couple hundred thousand dollars laying around and an urge to make people think that you’ve been slinging an axe for years, the new market of “pre-distressed” guitars–guitars that are nicked, dinged, and messed up so they can look like you’ve been taking them on the road for the past 20 years–is for you, just like it’s for Andy Summers of the Police, who’s taking replicas of his old guitars out on the road with him this summer. It’s half-security-blanket clutch, half-ad for the replicas of his replicas that you can buy for a mere $15 grand:

Fender is producing copies of Police guitarist Andy Summers’s 1961 Telecaster — which he bought used in 1972 for $200 — which are authentic right down to the broken bridge and quirky custom electronics. The 250 replicas are being offered at $15,000 each; dealers have already sold most of them, sight unseen, according to Fender and dealers.

This summer, Mr. Summers is using three of the replicas on his band’s reunion tour; he is leaving the original home in Los Angeles. The British-born guitarist says that visually and musically he can’t tell the difference between the doppelgangers and the original, whose battered paint job he compares to “a map of a foreign planet.”

When Mr. Summers was shown the first finished duplicate, at a recording studio in Los Angeles, he says he experienced “a quantum-physics moment. I said: ‘It’s back at my house. How’s it here? It’s an impossibility!”‘

Such sentiments run counter to the emotional attachment many guitarists feel to their main instrument. In an autobiography published last year, Mr. Summers wrote about his Telecaster in deeply romantic terms: “Arriving at this guitar was a bit like having several relationships with the wrong women before finding the one you truly love and will spend the rest of your life with.”

Selling duplicates to potentially any hobbyist with a five-figure budget, then, spawned “a peculiar feeling,” Mr. Summers acknowledges. But he says, he doesn’t want to be “insane” in his possessiveness. “People love it and I want to share it.” The “reasonably substantial” fee Fender is paying him has helped him get over any lingering hesitation. “It’s like found money,” he says.

On the tour, Mr. Summers’s bandmate Sting is playing a replica of his worn 1955 Fender Precision bass. The company says it made just one copy for him, and hasn’t approached Sting about a production model of his instrument.

A move that’s probably for the best, all things considered. Fender wouldn’t want to turn off that tap too early, what with the economy being as topsy-turvy as it is right now!

The Easy Way To Hard Rock: ‘Distressed’ Guitars

  1. loudersoft

    now if only the assholes who buy this crap could make some music worth listening to that sounded like it came from the era their guitars look like they came from

  2. AcidReign

        Unbelievable. So, all those paint touch-ups I’ve done over the years devalued my guitar? Who knew?

        I got in trouble recently in an Old Navy store, for asking them if they had any jeans for sale that didn’t look “used.” Hey, if they look worn, I should be paying thrift-store prices, not Old Navy prices!

  3. FionaScrapple

    A fool and his money…

  4. beta.rogan

    the AVH Fender is more expensive, by almost $10K I believe….

  5. beta.rogan

    Sorry, I meant “EVH” (eddie van halen)

  6. beta.rogan

    @lucasg: Yup, they look like absolute garbage. I can’t even look at those things. I wonder if they come pre-stained with the smell of booze and cigarette smoke?

  7. lucasg

    yup, those EVH guitars are 25 grand. have you seen one? man, do they look like shit! i was in a music store locally, and a hair-appropriate older shredder who worked there was demoing one side by side with another evh-looking guitar, possibly an older kramer. i thought to myself, ‘wow, that crappy old van halen copy is one of the best sounding guitars i have ever heard!’

    then i got a piece of mail from guitar center a few days later and saw what it was.

    the ‘relic-ing’ of guitars and basses is pretty popular all over, there are some companies (like nash guitars) that specialize in making stuff look old. i disagree with this practice, and definitely prefer to wear it out my damn self. of course, with the finishes they put on them these days (polyurethane, instead of nitrocellulose lacquer)they are going to stay looking new for the long haul.

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