Seems a bit gimmicky to me, and eerily familiar to multiple Philip K Dick plot points – creating fake industrial age artifacts for profit. Does spending an extra $12,000 on a beat-up guitar make it sound any better? No, not in the slightest. I could understand emulating custom electronics (changing the pickups, frets or whatever) to get a sound that a favorite guitarist might make, but mirroring Jimmy Page’s beat up guitar scars seems like a waste of money.
The Easy Way To Hard Rock: ‘Distressed’ Guitars – WSJ.com:
CORONA, Calif. — At the Fender guitar factory here recently, Mike Eldred carefully laid the freshly painted body of a baby blue Stratocaster on a workbench. He then proceeded to scar the new instrument’s delicate lacquer surface using a menacing leather strap adorned with belt buckles, nuts and other hardware.
Normally, even one of the resulting scratches or dings on a brand-new instrument would make a guitar enthusiast cringe. But in the hands of Mr. Eldred, they are the first steps in the process of creating a “relic” guitar — a brand new instrument that has been deliberately aged to simulate decades’ worth of rock-and-roll wear and tear.
… “I always use the pre-faded blue jean analogy,” says Tom Murphy, whose Guitar Preservation Inc. does antiquing work for Fender’s main competitor, the Gibson Guitar Corp. “We know what that’s all about: Why wait? Just buy ’em like that.”
Some relics are so painstakingly aged that the end result is scratch-for-scratch copies of legendary guitars owned by real rock stars. This even appeals to the rock stars themselves, who have put in decades of sweat equity to create the real thing. As their prized vintage instruments have become increasingly valuable and fragile, some have begun using replicas of their famous guitars, especially on long tours.
Mr. Murphy, a former professional musician who in the early ’80s played guitar in Marie Osmond’s touring band, has built replicas now played by Led Zeppelin’s legendary guitarist Jimmy Page and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, among others.
In a few instances, guitar makers have sold limited runs of replicas, with every nick, scratch and stain duplicated on new instruments made to look and feel like those made famous by Eric Clapton, Mr. Page and the Clash’s Joe Strummer. Fender is producing copies of Police guitarist Andy Summers’s 1961 Telecaster — which he bought used in 1972 for $200 — which are authentic right down to the broken bridge and quirky custom electronics. The 250 replicas are being offered at $15,000 each; dealers have already sold most of them, sight unseen, according to Fender and dealers.
This summer, Mr. Summers is using three of the replicas on his band’s reunion tour; he is leaving the original home in Los Angeles. The British-born guitarist says that visually and musically he can’t tell the difference between the doppelgangers and the original, whose battered paint job he compares to “a map of a foreign planet.”
When Mr. Summers was shown the first finished duplicate, at a recording studio in Los Angeles, he says he experienced “a quantum-physics moment. I said: ‘It’s back at my house. How’s it here? It’s an impossibility!”’
Such sentiments run counter to the emotional attachment many guitarists feel to their main instrument. In an autobiography published last year, Mr. Summers wrote about his Telecaster in deeply romantic terms: “Arriving at this guitar was a bit like having several relationships with the wrong women before finding the one you truly love and will spend the rest of your life with.”
Selling duplicates to potentially any hobbyist with a five-figure budget, then, spawned “a peculiar feeling,” Mr. Summers acknowledges. But he says, he doesn’t want to be “insane” in his possessiveness. “People love it and I want to share it.” The “reasonably substantial” fee Fender is paying him has helped him get over any lingering hesitation. “It’s like found money,” he says.
On the tour, Mr. Summers’s bandmate Sting is playing a replica of his worn 1955 Fender Precision bass. The company says it made just one copy for him, and hasn’t approached Sting about a production model of his instrument.
As for whether artificially distressed models sound better than comparable new guitars, most people who build them say one common method improves the instrument’s sound: Painting it with a thin but fragile coating of lacquer, which lets it resonate better than the thick, tough polyurethane varnish favored today in large-scale production. But how do the replicas compare to truly old guitars?
Aerosmith’s Mr. Perry says that while on tour, he uses both vintage guitars, which he usually hand carries, and replicas. “There are a lot of fantastic guitars being made now that can easily stand up to the sound of the vintage guitars,” he says. “However, nothing sounds as good as the real thing.”