Sometimes they come from very unexpected places.
There's an interesting article in this morning's Wall Street Journal that talks about the growing market in "Relic" guitars - new guitars that are made to look like they were created in the '60's and then distressed, beat-up, gashed, and nicked over years and years of rock-and-roll touring.
It turns out that you can buy these faux guitars in high-end guitar shops. They aren't cheap. A handmade replica of a distressed '60's Stratocaster costs $3,600 with the money going to "powerful industrial solvents to create worn spots in the paint, and the subfreezing accelerant from aerosol cans to mimic the subtle "weather checking" cracks that spider across old lacquer surfaces."
The Journal story includes terrific details like - "With sandpaper, workers simulate finger wear on the fretboard. They dull the chrome plating on brass fittings in a vibrating electric "tumbler" normally used by lapidary artists to polish rocks, then further degrade the metal using nitric acid, which also is used to rust screws and other steel hardware. Furniture dye and grease pencil imbue exposed wood with the nightclub-appropriate hues of tobacco smoke and spilled whiskey."
So how big a business is relic guitars?
Fender's Relic line is pulling in more than 12% of the $5 million Fender makes each year in sales.
Reading the story in Journal, nothing about Relic guitars really bothered me all that much. I thought it was interesting. Kind of like buying torn jeans for hundreds of dollars.
But then I came to a section in the article that really got me pissed off.
It turns out that not only are wanna-be rock stars and hedge fund managers buying these fake guitars, but real rock stars are buying and using them too.
The article states that musicians like Sting and Andy Summers of The Police and Steve Perry of Aerosmith are actually using replica guitars on the road, not than the real ones from their past, when they come out on stage for their reunion tours that people are paying hundreds of dollars to see.
I know that this may sound silly to some but it absolutely infuriates me to think that the guitars these guys are playing, that look like they've been used for years, are actually fake.
As a fan of classic rock films like The Last Waltz, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock, and tons of others, there's something exciting about seeing that shot of the roadie handing the guitarist his classic weathered beat up Strat. The film then inevitably cuts to a close-up of the guitarist absolutely killing it on the gutar. It's what makes a rock concert a rock concert. For me seeing a shot of the guitar stand and thinking how many cities and concerts those guitars must have been played in, is part of the experience. There's an authenticity to knowing that when Keith Richards picks up his old beat up guitar that it's the one that he's been touring with for years.
It's guaranteed that there will be a concert DVD of The Police's current reunion tour. To know that when that roadie hands Sting and Andy Summers their old worn Strats and the camera cuts to a close up, that's the guitars are actually fakes just, well, pisses me off.
My response as I put down the article - "Fuck these guys"