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!