I still fondly remember the day I bought my boyfriend a new Gibson Les Paul Guitar. He had asked for a swanky case for his rather low brow second hand instrument as a birthday gift but once in the music shop I simply couldn’t resist investing in a guitar that would properly grace the case. I will never forget the look on his face when he opened that case to examine the interior only to find an expanse of cherry sunburst looking back at him.
How he loved that guitar and his gratitude at the gift did not extend to allowing me to touch it! Anyone who had inflicted even a microscopic level of damage to the instrument would have incited an unseemly fit of rage. He wanted that guitar to remain perfect but that was many years ago and today he may have adopted a completely different attitude.
He was, if nothing else, a slave to fashion. When hot hatches were de rigour he had the hottest model with fat wheels, lowered suspension, an exhaust that emitted sonic booms and a sound system that filled the entire boot. His fashion choices were always right on trend too which means that right now he would be investing in ripped jeans which brings me back to that guitar.
Which Side of the Fence
There is now a trend for distressed instruments. Guitars that are deliberately made to look battle worn. It is a move which has divided opinion as so many fashions do. The question is would my ex be in the distressed is cool camp or the have you lost your marbles brigade?
The trend started when Fender launched a range of custom guitars with vintage specs which were artificially aged. NOS (New Old Stock) instruments were made to 50’s and 60’s specifications but not aged then Relic models were given the ageing treatment to look like they had been played for years and years. Now many manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon. These guitars are more expensive than a conventional model being more costly to produce but not as pricey as truly vintage instruments which can require a new mortgage to buy.
Some brave souls are even ageing their instruments themselves with varying degrees of success. Guidance is available via YouTube tutorials but I have seen guitars that look like earthquake victims or the result of an accident with a wood chipper. There is distressed and then there is wrecked!
My Side of the Fence
It would appear that were jeans go musical instruments will surely follow. Distressed jeans have experienced several periods of popularity and all things vintage never really go out of fashion. It is easy to see how distressed guitars have grabbed the imagination. However, I am a fully paid up member of the have you lost your marbles movement and have never quite wrapped my mind around the concept of deliberately trashing something especially when it costs a small fortune, which incidentally that Les Paul did.
At the end of the day a hard life breathes character into things, a character which you cannot mimic by accelerating the process. In any case the artificial distressing of a guitar is only skin deep, it doesn’t affect the sound and therefore the soul of the instrument. Only time can do that. A new guitar should be nurtured not dragged behind your car!
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and music lover who cannot play the guitar but if she could would not play the distressed variety.