The New Vintage by Tommy Colletti
According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of vintage is “a period of origin or manufacture” (ie. a vintage 1960s Mercedes) or “length of existence: age.”
Regarding the collectible guitar market it seems we often refer to eras such as “The Dawn of Rock and Roll” or “The British Invasion”. They spawned the popularity of the Les Paul, Stratocaster and Telecaster. There is no disputing a Gibson 1959 Les Paul’s legendary tone as well as its place in contemporary music. But there may be some new vintage on the horizon.
If you were to “Wikipedia” the term “Vintage” it provides a definition of any object over 20 years old including clothing. So with that terminology in hand let’s do some quick guitar math, shall we? Therefore anything produced in 1993 or before would be defined as vintage. But wait…Your 1991 Applause round back acoustic may not be able to be cashed in for the deposit on your dream home but it’s interesting to note some of the musical movements and eras since the 50s and 60s and their importance to the guitar and the people who played them post 60s.
There are so many notable players in the seventies that we’d need to list hundreds of bands and players so if we skip over them be assured, we’re thinking of them. The Hard Rock and Heavy Metal era of music produced some great music, guitars and players. The one thing that most players shared in the 70s with the players in the preceding decades were the guitars, except for just a few people. Brian May and Edward Van Halen come to mind, most notably because they didn’t play store bought off-the-rack guitars but hot-rodded guitars made just for them by them. Interestingly both guitars were born in separate garages on separate continents.
The doldrums of the 70s era Gibson and Fender corporate guitars heightened a player’s need to find a Gibson without getting a Gibson. Huh? Almost like when that girl that you liked in high school tells you, “I want to find someone just like you, only not you” … what?
Hamer guitars’ “Gibson explorer” dubbed “the standard”, Dean Zelinsky’s “Gibson V” and the “Z” were all guitars built to be better than the company they emulated.
The era of guitars was born for players who couldn’t get the sound they were looking for and needed more high gain. In the seventies people were taking their PAF pickups out of their then almost vintage Les Pauls and installing Dimarzio super distortions. A picture of Randy Rhoads and his black 3 pickup 59 Les Paul Custom comes to mind with the installed super distortion in the bridge position. Hot-rodded pickups, finishes and necks all made to go louder and faster than what preceded. We needed more, more of everything. Faster, Louder, Bigger, much like the excess of the times….
It was 35 years ago when Warner Brothers Records released Van Halen l debut album by the California rockers. The band instantly grew in popularity and sales and introduced a new sound and new style of playing. The second track on the record, an instrumental solo called “Eruption” had millions of kids emulating Eddie’s two-hand tapping technique in music stores, garages and bedrooms all over the world and also playing the instrument that was preferred by Ed, a Charvel.
At the time Charvel was a parts / repair company, owned originally by Wayne Charvel. Wayne had earned his reputation by repairing guitars for notables like Richie Blackmore, Billy Gibbons, Edward Van Halen and Michael Anthony. Wayne sold Charvel manufacturing to Grover Jackson too early to see the success of the brand brought forth by the success of Edward.
Lightning struck twice for Grover with the union of Randy Rhoads and the development of the “Concorde”, the Jackson flying V-esque guitar made for Randy during his all too short career with Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz band before his tragic demise in March 19, 1982.
Eighties guitars are now what Webster and Wikipedia term as Vintage. Brands such as Hamer, Charvel, Jackson, ESP, Dean and BC Rich born in the eighties all now have a vintage status as well as value. Just as the collector-guitar player appreciates the 59’ Les Paul because of players like Jimmy Page and Keith Richards, the person who was inspired by the “shred-ocity” of Edward Van Halen appreciates a Charvel.
Please note these new vintage guitars won’t likely ever take the place of the old vintage — they just add to the demographic and age group of the fans that admire them. Baby boomers have such an affinity to “Muscle Cars” as the next generation may be drawn to the next collectable car. It may be the vehicle you are unassumingly driving today as your “everyday driver”. It’s a brave new world where the Kardashians are the new Brady Bunch and 80s Charvels and BC Rich are the new vintage.