I Don’t Trust Pretty Guitars

     I don’t trust pretty guitars. Especially my go-to designs, Strats and Teles. Any honest axe is battle-scarred, walks with a slight limp on cold mornings and has the experience to deftly handle whatever deranged suggestion has just been floated by whatever miscreant brain hired you.
     Anything glossy and sparkly and virginal can’t have been broken in, hasn’t experienced the delight of protecting its master from errant vocal entrances, bad drummers, crooked venue owners, rowdy bikers and bad breakups. These things build The Voice.
     If it hasn’t been tweaked for gigs a thousand times in your lap with sub-optimal tools in every condition from dust storms to blizzards, it’s just going to sound and feel uptight.
     These things build The Voice.
    The paint needs to crack so the wood can cure and the thing gets exposed to the world and its lessons, from hundreds of vermin-infested band houses to 5-star accommodations all over the world, from playing the rattiest, smelliest dive toilets to stadium concerts where from the fog of war, you watch your notes fly out across tens of thousands of heads during a solo—these are the things that deflower an axe, creating The Crew of Two, and yes:
     These things build The Voice.
     I passed a beat-up old Harley yesterday, parked on the street. The frame was spray-painted flat day-glow yellow and spattered with oil, the headset and tank were oxidized black, the seat was cracked, the engine and rims looked like they just climbed out of a grave. It was fueled by hope and faded-glory Americana, and was the kind of bike you see a grizzled old dude in grizzled old leathers troubleshooting and repairing with pliers on the roadside in the most desolate reaches of Arizona, cussing prodigiously and wishing he had enough duct tape to get him to the next town, where he can grab a beer at some juke joint while ZZ plays on the system.
     For me to trust it, an axe needs to be more like that Harley than a shiny new Mercedes.
     Coddle your axes and smother them with paint and polish if you must, but give me a proven veteran from the front lines; I don’t care if it has warrants for its arrest in several states. As long as the frets are good and the neck is straight, I’ll take an old beat-to-hell Strat over a shiny, unproven piece of glitter any day.

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JOYThe Will to Shine