Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Robert Smith's custom Fender Jazzmaster

custom jazzmaster robert smith

Robert Smith is famous (amongst guitarists) for his versatility in his guitar choices: for about twenty years - until he finally got his signature guitar by Schecter in 2004, the very appealing Ultracure - he's been changing guitar regularly (Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, National, Hopf, Ovation, Guild, Vox, Mosrite..., all of them black or refinished in black), and from one tour to the next you can see him changing his sound sometimes radically with a different instrument - also in one set he could switch from solid body to semi-hollow to acoustic to 12-string... He's been faithful though to the Fender bass VI that have been essential to the Cure's early sound, but it seems (I'm not sure and I'd like to know more about this) that he's been using lately a one-off Ultracure baritone instead.


But I've been interested lately in his early sound and I realized that his best music (I belong to the people who think that the Cure's best drummer was Lol Tolhurst but this makes sense only for Cure's old school fans) has been composed and played on a customized 1965 Fender Jazzmaster - with the addition in middle position of the neck pickup teared off a plywood cheapo - the Silvertone 313 sold by Woolsworth as the Top 20 (Smith's guitar until 1979, on the picture on the right). I really love this kind of spirit, and laugh at all these tone fetishists who would purchase high-end pickups to upgrade already expensive guitars just to reproduce a vintage sound heard a million times, when one of the most influential musicians of our time created his sound with the lowest grade material!

Originally there's been two of these custom Jazzmasters, the backing one was beige and became the main one, refinished first in white, then in black, and used to record Seventeen Seconds, Faith, Pornography and The Top... I could tell several anecdotes, like Smith chose the Jazzmaster because he saw Elvis Costello playing one on TV, or that he paid his first one 100£ after his producer claimed that he couldn't record an album with his Top 20, or that the guitar was used again for the Trilogy concert in 2003 to play Pornography extensively with its original sound - but if you want this kind of details, you can pick them on impressionofsounds.com or wikicure.com (in French).


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