All Hail the 70s!
Sometimes the 70s get a bad rap; the Beatles broke up, Disco came to town and with Saturday Night Fever came the first (of many!) false proclamations that guitar music was OUT and the Bee Gees were the way forward.
Saying that on closer inspection the truth is it was the decade where the guitar became King and the foundations that ensure it is, and forever will be, the worlds favourite instrument were set in stone. A quick reflection reminds us that:
- the Isle of Wight festival broke the Woodstock attendance record with a jaw dropping line up including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Doors and Free
The Isle of Wight Festival over 600,000 Festivalgoers, photo by Peter Bull
- whilst Iron Maiden released their debut album and heralded in an era of hard rock that was to steam roller through the decade
- Eric was back with Layla, Led Zeppelin climbed the Stairway to a heaven with Led Zeppelin IV (Black Dog, Levee Breaks amongst others pushed them to the height of their fame with arguably their best album ever) and this was just 1970 itself
- laying the foundations for a new wave of guitar legends such as Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen whilst David Gilmour produced perhaps the most iconic guitar solos of all time with tracks such as Shine On You Crazy Diamond (‘75) and Comfortably Numb (‘79).
So a guitar players wasteland it certainly was not. And how were these legends getting these sounds; new and improved tones that to do this day people are desperately trying to emulate? no surprise the guitars played an important part!
Bearing all this in mind we’re having our own 70s Renaissance here at Art of Guitar and having just let you in on exactly why, guitar wise, it’s a decade that just shouldn’t be ignored, we’ve assembled an array of 70s classics from Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and Martin to name a few. All certified original guitars no less.
It’s true that pre CBS Fenders and late 50s and 60s Les Pauls command eye watering prices and whilst there’s some value to be had for ‘player’ condition models (what that’s not an original pick up on the neck? Knock another 20 off (Dirhams, USD, Yen.. :), value in the true sense of the word is practically impossible to find.
And that’s exactly why we feel it’s the 70s where the real eagle eyed player/collectors are finding their feet right now and here’s a few reasons why:
- Well first off many of these guitars are hitting their 50th birthdays and if that isn’t a ‘vintage’ milestone we don’t know what is. Want to grab a bargain knowing a year a two from now and it’s an awesome sounding and looking guitar that’s just hit the magic 5-0? - well we’ll help with where to find the best value guitars in the market and how to grab them before they take that step up
Fender - Musicmaster Bass Custom Blue (1971)
- Couple to that some classic vintage tone - and we’re talking breathtaking, this sounds like the real thing, tone. Guitars that have survived completely intact with original pick ups (unless there’s a very good reason why there were changes to original specs and we’re always transparent and point it upfront) all our 70s beauties are ‘all original’. This is more important than you may think; there was a lot more variation in quality with manufacturing techniques in the 70s making each guitar essentially still a one-off; this means that if the pups are still in place then they were pretty awesome to start with. It’s like survival of the fittest and part of the reason we spend so much time and effort seeking out fully original guitars. And like a well broken in speaker or fine Burgundy they just seem to improve with time.
- Looks to die for! You can spend a small fortune getting a Masterbuilder, team of pros or the latest boutique wunderkind to spend literally months trying to replicate the exact look and feel of the instrument you’ve just picked up. And unlike relic’d new (new relic’d?) these looks are for real. Bumps and bruises, eye catching neck wear and buckle rash are all part of the package and usually indicate a guitar that’s been loved, used and played all these years for the right reasons. Knowing those battle scars are a result of hours of playing the guitar itself is just, well, right, and believe me we’ve some amazing looking 70s Teles, Les Pauls, SGs & Strats in our vintage room right now.
- Quality- here’s an interesting one and will cause a lot of debate. Stratocasters in particular got a short shrift in the 70s with comments like ‘Fender has really taken its eye off the ball this time’. But is it even true? And does the marginal, sometimes debatable quality difference between a 71 and 69 Strat justify a 100% price hike? Well we’ve found that some of our favorite sounding and highest quality guitars come from, you’ve guessed it, the 70s. The Boss was pretty darned upset when we lost the ‘75 cream Strat recently and anyone who had chance it play it would know exactly why. It was the decade of the hardtails and it’s laughable the comments you read about these awesome guitars - Our view; the enhanced tone, sustain, lighter weight and general lack of that bat thingy that most of us aren’t too sure what to do with (ahh a tremolo bar I hear someone say) is nothing to mourn and has resulted in some of the best sounding and easiest playing guitars of the last 50+ years
And as for Les Pauls check out Randy Rhodes creating magical sounds out of his 1974 early Les Paul Custom. Some of our staff prefer the Customs of that era to the late 60s for pure ease of playability and monster tones yet they’re around half the price of guitars from just a few years earlier - and they don’t even have a CBS type takeover to justify the collectability and price hikes. But this is changing, and quickly, as musicians and collectors alike are finding some fantastic guitars from this era at ‘less than a new Custom Shop’ price.
So if you’re looking for that cast iron investment quality rarity that can supplement the pension (but what goes up when you’re playing the BIG numbers can sometimes come down) then no the 70s guitars aren’t where to play, not quite yet. But want a great looking, amazing sounding, veritable piece of history; awesome looks and tone to boot - a guitar that you can play for a few years while being pretty certain it’s going to be worth more when you’ve finished with it than when you bought it - then this is the decade to find that super special guitar you didn’t even realize you needed!
Note of caution and buyer beware in the vintage market - there’s no shortage of ‘too good to be true’ deals from someone you may never meet, and no matter how many photos accompanying guitars labelled ‘sold as seen’ you’re pretty much on your own. Unless of course you’re not; Part of the Art of Guitar service is to independently validate and guarantee the authenticity of your guitar including a certificate providing such info - with prices comparable to the EU & US without troublesome imports and nail biting waits, a full pro set up (to fit the customers playing style) and trade in options to boot, heck even a warranty period on a 50 year old guitar, there’s all the reason in the world to check out our ever growing stock for this often overlooked decade.
But word is getting out; excitement is building (and with excitement prices are sure to follow) so don’t hang on too long! If you’ve got the chance swing by our flagship Gallery to try out some of these rarities, alternatively drop us a note or a call and our pro musician customer team will be happy to tell you more
What have you got to lose? Just going to squeeze into those bell bottoms…
Art of Guitar - Middle East’s largest bespoke guitar gallery showcasing rare, custom and vintage guitars, amps, pedals and authentic memorabilia in a humidity controlled environment staffed by guitar fanatics, recording musicians and collectors alike.