火曜日, 1月 11, 2005


by the neon

“WHAT?! You got yourself an eight hundred quid guitar? Are you out of your fucking mind?!!”

That was my then girlfriend’s initial reaction when I told her of, what I personally thought, the good news. Maybe to such a guitar-inclined audience, eight hundred squids for a guitar may seem like chump change. My purchase, however, managed to give meself a generous helping of scathing remarks and are-you-really-that-stupid? looks. It didn’t matter to me because I, sir, was in love. Yes.

Malam Temasya Pria Mambo 2, April 2002.

We’ve seen fads, both in music and musical equipment. Remember how, in the early nineties, everyone wanted a Ja(g)zzstangmaster of some sort because Cobain had one? And can you recall the time when every kid had some kind of patch-job, Marley-wannabe dreadlocks and slung a 7-string Ibanez as low as their knees (I can imagine Lmsn Rds shifting uneasily in his chair at the mention of this)? Or fairly recently, the image of Avril Lavigne smashing a PRS into the windshield of a car.

Is this rock?

Can we frame that moment alongside the immortal gig at Monterey where Hendrix lit his strat at the height of psychedelic orgasm? Or when Page whipped out a bow and used it to play his Les Paul, creating a sonic spin-wash cleansing our dirtied souls? Do we honestly think Miss Lavigne deserves a place in the pantheon reserved for The Gods of Rock after what she did to the PRS in that video?

“Hell, no! Don’t you dare call that thing by my name. Uh-uh!”, was what she said when I wanted to name the guitar ‘lissa, after her.

I wanted something pure. A guitar that carries the legacy. Of course, you have a lot of good guitars with technological fancy-schmancy and a bit of digital-age capability thrown in for good measure these days, but I wanted something basic, lo-fi and solid. So that I don’t have to think about what the countless knobs do, and concentrate more on playing the instrument. I thought only three classic designs made the cut – the Gibson Les Paul, the Fender Stratocaster and the Fender Telecaster.

While I like the LP’s easy-ish playability, sometimes it can get too comfortable. The reason it was ruled out was mainly due to, if nothing else, cost. hehe. It also weighed a ton. It’s an excellent guitar with a really fast neck, but if you were in a sinking ship, it’d have to be one of the first things to go. Moreover, LPs utilise a mahogany neck/rosewood fingerboard combination, and nothing is cooler than fretwear, man! Have a look at E.C.’s Brownie: the first to twelfth frets are completely destroyed!

“You sure I can’t call her ‘lissa?”
You’re talking as if it’s a real person.”
“Well, I like the guitar a lot. Her and that ’67 GT Shelby in that Nicolas Cage movie. That’s a classy car.”
What did he call the car in the movie again?
Name it that, then. That’s a good name.”

It wasn’t much of a showdown between the strat and the tele either. At the time, I was head over heels over the two Jonnys – 19-year old (now 23 - Ed.) blues prodigy, Lang; and the most creative, original and influential pop guitarist of my generation, Greenwood of Radiohead. They both swear by Teles. Greenwood does occasionally use a Starcaster, but he wouldn’t touch anything else other than his prized maple neck, three-tone sunburst American tele. that’s what I got for myself.

I didn’t particularly enjoy my first experience with Eleanor at the guitar shop. She was tough. Unforgiving. Cold. She didn’t sing at all. As I plucked her nervously, she only seemed to squawk all the wrong notes I was playing; an AC30 amplifying these mistakes by, what it seemed, a hundred times louder. Even the wrong notes had clarity. It was twangy, as teles are known to be. It had that chiming ring which gave arpeggios a glassy shimmer. It was my first time playing a tele and I rationalised that I was still adjusting. As I sat there strumming, and picking, and plucking, one thing was for sure – she was an instrument of outstanding, if not flawless, quality. Musical stagnancy would be a fault of my own, and not the equipment anymore.

Eleanor's last gig in Sheffield.

I still wonder how the shop owner could’ve let a man of my technical prowess, or lack thereof, to walk out of his guitar shop with such a lethal musical weapon. It was like selling a Maserati to a Datuk. A Ferrari would’ve been fair, but a Maserati should only fall into the hands of the initiated. I digress.

I had to bring her to work with me on the first day because I was already late. I was a part-time janitor at an office complex. Heh, it took me close to a year and half: fifty quid a month. I felt more like a full-time janitor/part-time student most of the time. In the words of Chris Martin: nobody said it was easy.

That said, along with scorn from the dilettantes, I got something else – respect. A lot of fellow musicians and music-playing individuals complimented her looks and voice. Others thought I had a matured taste, whatever that meant. I will forever remember kudo as the guy who questioned, “siapa upstart yang beli American Standard Tele tu?”. Lmsn Rds was a lot more condescending by saying things that were just fucking appalling, I honestly just want to forget. hehe.

Needless to say, both of them own a tele each now. If you haven’t had the privilege, and before you head straight for the strat/LP rack at your friendly neighbourhood guitar store, try a tele out. I think Fender got it right the first time, too.

eleanor is a three-toned fender american standard telecaster with a C-shaped maple neck/fingerboard.
go here for the specs of a fender american standard telecaster.