A musical instrument dealer just sent me an email for the Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed Relic amplifier. A retro- throw-back model, it is new but looks like it was manufactured five decades ago and used every day since then. It has old-technology tubes and a Jensen speaker, but the capacitors and such are probably modern and longer-lasting. I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it lacks the authentic 60-cycle hum and scratchy potentiometers of a real old amp.
Old amplifiers were covered in tweed fabric, not vinyl, so coats of lacquer were added in a futile attempt to prevent wear. This brand-new “relic” is appropriately yellowed, tattered, and torn, as if it had suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous rockin.’
Your new electric guitar looks too shiny-bright next to your new-old Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed Relic? Relic Guitars will come to the rescue and “artificially replicate the natural wear that occurs over the many years that the instrument has been played,” providing what antique dealers would call distressing. Here’s how:
This procedure involves aging the hardware, and creating authentic looking wear marks on the neck and body of the guitar. Naturally, there will be some fretboard wear on the neck of an older guitar, arm wear on the upper body, belt buckle scratches on the back, and the usual nicks and dings that one acquires with age. Our objective is to recreate the look and feel that these vintage guitars have as closely as possible.
Three degrees of “Relicing” are available:
Light – Guitar obviously played out some, but not abused. Light dings and finish wear only.
Medium– Guitar has more dings, light fretboard wear, light pickguard wear, light hardware aging, cigarette burn, etc.
Heavy – Dragged behind a truck and thru a fire….
Why? Three reasons come to mind:
Cost. Real vintage guitars and amps are costly, and a target for thieves. They re too valuable to carry around, and vintage equipment take lots of expensive specialized maintenance to sound good. “Relics” are cheaper; you can carry them around on tour, like an heiress wears zirconium copies of the family jewels she keeps in a safe-deposit box.
Fashion. Tattered jeans cost more, right? People who don’t wear denim much don’t wear out their own jeans, and are willing to pay extra for new but worn or “destroyed” pants. Designers, customizers, and manufacturers comply by providing abraded, destroyed, distressed, frayed, ripped, sand-blasted, stonewashed, torn, whiskered, and worn garments. On the surface, tattered jeans say you don’t care about fashion; in reality, they are fashion. Is this a great county, or what?
The third reason is what I call the Johnny B. Goode Effect. Afficianados look at a beat-up guitar and see a treasure; most music fans just see a beat-up guitar. Beat-up guitars recall Chuck Berry’s humble country boy, who “carried his guitar in a gunny sack.” Play a really good solo on your fancy shiny guitar and the audience takes it for granted. Play an adequate solo on a beat-up guitar and they are amazed. Ah, show business — it’s my life.
Image by Mike Licht.
The word “Fender” is a registered trademark of the Fender Musical Instrument Company, and is used here to prevent brand confusion and because this post is about Fender products — what else are we supposed to call them? Jeesh, lawyers.