How Scuffed Should a Stratocaster Be?

How Scuffed Should a Stratocaster Be?

guitar strat black and white

I got my first Stratocaster when I was nine years old. It was a "Hank Marvin Copy". It came with a 10 Watt amp and a book that told you how to play all of Status Quo's greatest hits. It had a big smily picture of Hank Marvin stuck on its shiny black paintwork. It was far from cool and it sounded (through that 10 Watt amp) like a small rodent having a protracted attack of the farts. I tried to decipher the strange diagrams in my Quo book to play "In the Army Now". It took about 10 minutes for me to decide that playing guitar wasn't for me.

That would have been it, if it wasn't for the fact that my brother Mike sold that set up and bought a new, more expensive Stratocaster and a 35 Watt Laney Linebacker amp. That Laney had "Overdrive", "Reverb" and a thing called "Distortion" and it sounded hell cool when Mike played "Night Train" by G'n'R through it. And so, because I can't let my brother be better than me at ANYTHING, I started to learn. The first song I worked out from start to finish was "Polly" by Nirvana. Cobain saved me. I wanted to be Kurt Cobain. And, thankfully, as playing guitar also got me laid (I wasn't nine anymore) I persevered with it.

All this is context. Knowing where I came from will help you to understand where I'm going to go next. I grew up with Grunge bands (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr). Those guy's looked so, well, distressed. They had ripped jeans, holey jumpers and, most pertinently, really knackered guitars. I looked at those guitars, then at my brothers shiny shiny Strat and realised what I had to do. I don't think Mike appreciated the results.

From that day to this my guitars have always looked lived in. From the odd dented acoustic I play everyday, to the bent out of shape Strat I play each night. I have set guitars on fire (yay Hendrix), bled all over them, dropped them, thrown them and, on one memorable occasion, thrown up on them. However, it turns out there is another way.

Some folk revile beat up guitars and think mis-treating your instrument (fnar fnar) is like beating your wife. They polish and care for their Strat like my neighbour Ken polishes his Porsche. They stand back and look at the shiny shiny paint and smile. Even more extreme are those folk who play what I can only call "Space Strats", those weird clear plastic monstrosities with neon blue bits. In my mind you may as well play the Keytar.

However, I am if nothing else, a tolerant individual who tries to understand other peoples points of view. To walk a mile in their shoes. To strum their strings. I have sought to understand and I have learned. And this is what I know:

(1) The Instrument Must Fit the Man (or Woman)

If you look like Justin Beiber you can't play a beat up Strat. Your Strat must gleam like your smile. If you look like Seasick Steve you can't play a shiny new guitar. People will think you stole it off Justin Beiber.

(2) The Instrument Must Match the Sound

If your songs burn with lovelorn remorse and clang and rumble like worlds colliding, well then a battered Strat is fine. If you just recorded a song called "Yay! Whoopee! Isn't Summer Lovely" and you plan to appear on Top of the Pops dressed like Wham, well go polish that Strat. Or buy a Keytar.

(3) We Wear the Scars we Earned

If you dropped that guitar, knocked out a guys teeth with it and set it on fire in front of your screaming fans (all eight of ‘em), then you earned the right to play a scuffed Strat. If you just bevelled your brothers axe with a power sander you’re a fake. And you owe him two hundred quid.

One Final Note...

If you buy a ready distressed, brand new, "Vintage" guitar to try and look cool get on the losers bench dude. But don't worry, you'll be joining me there coz I have one too. But the jokes on everyone else, coz my "Vintage" plays like The Fucking Bomb.

Writeen by The Always Unprofessional

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