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Posted in: Vintage guitars by Ingo on December 06, 2008
I already wrote three articles about Japanese vintage Strats, an introduction and a portrait of the fiesta red and the pink metallic Squier JV. I noticed that a lot of people surf into this site because of these articles, so I want to release a fourth one, this time about the almost legendary Tokai Springy Sound Strats.
Many years ago I had on of these myself. This was about 1980. I was already a huge Dire Straits fan. Mark Knopfler was still associated with his red Fender Strats (although in fact he had just started to play Schecter that year). Red guitars were rare in the guitar shops – or rather non-existent. Fender had dropped fiesta red eleven years before, in 1969, and in fact I had never seen a fiesta red Strat at all until then. One day I visited the local guitar shop – something I did regularly, just to see and to play as many guitars as possible. And on this shelf there was this elegant looking fiesta red Tokai Stratocaster. But besides the cool colour, there was something else that was unique: it was a replica of a 1964 Fender vintage Stratocaster, it really looked like a pre-CBS Fender. The regular Strats still had that ugly large peghead that CBS had introduced in 1966, and at that time they all had black plastic parts. But this Tokai had the classic small head, a white pickguard with white knobs, staggered vintage style pick-ups, a separate tremolo block, the correct kind of pickguard screws, a light alder body, and even a decal that looked like the old Fender spaghetti logo see pictues below) – in short, it was exactly like those legendardy old Fender Strats at a time when Fender was still building those infamous 70ies style Strats that were so heavy that they got the nickname boat anchor.
No question that I had to play that guitar: it also sounded much more like a vintage Strat than the contemporary Strats. I had to have this guitar, which was priced at 825,- German Marks (the equivalent of 420,- € /US $ 540). I was fourteen, and that was a lot of money (especially after I got my first guitar only one and a half year before, a 2nd-hand Fender Strat from 1976), much more than I had. Fortunately this was about two weeks before Christmas, and I somehow got it managed that I got this guitar from all the money coming from different aunts, uncles and grandma’s.
I sold that guitar about six years later when I got a great old Fender Strat – something I regret today of course because meanwhile these guitars have a legendary reputation, and conesequently they are highly sought after, and prices went up (about 900 – 1,500 €). I have often noticed a certain trend for Japanese vintage Strats over the last few years, I guess this is because noone can afford vintage Fenders anymore, but those Japanese guitars from the 70ies or very early 80ies were not only – at least in the case of brands like Greco, Tokai, Fernandes, the Squier JV series – of excellent quality and sound great, in addition they are about 30 years old which means the wood dried and became extremely resonant, and they often have that authentic relic look. (If you want an advice what to do with your money: buy …)
Those Springy Sound Strats were available in different variations: first there were copies of the maple neck Strats from the 50ies, and of a 1964 Strat, both in many different colours. And – depending on the quality of the wood and the kind of laquer – there were models called ST50 to ST100. The number was also the price in Japanese Yen (the ST50 cost 50,000 Yen, the ST80 was 80,000 Yen)
By the way, soon after the release of these Tokai Strats, Fender won a lawsuit so Tokai had to change the design of the spaghetti logo decal. The series after the Springy Sound is also great but less sought-after than the ones from before.
I still have a rare vintage catalogue from those days, and the following pictures are all from this source.
Created with flickr slideshow.
Posted in: Vintage guitars by Ingo on October 28, 2008
After the portrait of the fiesta red 1983 Squier Stratocaster, today’s article features another Japanese vintage Squier, this time an ultra-rare model in all original pink metallic finish.
Since all important facts about that great JV series that was available in 1982-83 only have been mentioned in two previous articles (the mentioned portrait of the fiesta red 1983 Squier Stratocaster, and the article about Japanese vintage guitars), I will not repeat these things and concentrate only on this particular guitar.
It is the only one in metallic pink I have seen, and before I did not even know that this colour was available. In fact the first Squier Strats were all sunburst, and in 1983 fiesta red, black, and white were added. These were all the colours those Squiers for the world-wide market (the export models) were produced in, but there were a few more for models for the domestic (the Japanese) market: California blue, candy-apple red (CAR), and pink metallic (which replaced CAR in late 1983). There are a few rather small differences between the domestic and the export models, with the most striking beeing the pick-ups which were not the US made Fender pick-ups but Japanese pick-ups called SQ-5 which are excellent and should not be considered as inferior.
The finish is thick glossy poly, just like on the export Squiers. Another difference however is the fretboard curve which is probably 9″ as compared to the 7.25″ of the export models or a Fender vintage Strat. I personally like that 9″ radius because it allows a lower action without string buzzing but still feels like a typical Strat. It seems most CAR Squiers had a shorter scale but this guitar has standard scale length.
It sounds great (like most of these JV Squiers) and I like it a lot."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Posted in: Guitar in general,Vintage guitars by Ingo on October 02, 2008
Some general info about Japanese vintage guitars from the early 80ies was subject in one of the last articles. This time I want to feature my fiesta red Squier Strat from the almost legendary JV series.
It was simply the overall quality of these guitars that left such a deep impact when they appeared on the scene in about 1982. These Squiers were copies of vintage Strats, to be precise, of a ’57 or ’62 Stratocaster. Other companies like Tokai or Greco had started to copy vintage Strat in detail at a really high quality shortly before, and the Squiers were Fender’s reaction to this trend: if we cannot stop the others, we can do the same ourselve, so the made a deal with the Fujigen Gakki company (who built Greco guitars). The very first guitars had a decal saying “Fender Stratocaster” with a small “Made in Japan” but this was soon changed to “Squier Stratocaster made by Squier”.
Generally, the term copy was redefined with these guitars because it is probably fair to say that their quality was better than of the normal American Fender Stratocaster of that time.
The featured guitar is from the second year of mass production, from the last months of the JV series. The name JV stands for Japanese vintage, it was the prefix of the serial number (this guitar is JV74356).
It is an export model which means it was built for mainly the European and American market. There were also domestic models for the Japanese market which were available in more different colours (candy apple red, california blue, or metallic pink) but these did not have US pick-ups like the export models. In fact the export guitars had the same pick-ups that Fender had introduced with their own vintage Stratocaster model that appeared about the same time.
This was a clever marketing idea because on the one hand it made people assume the sound quality was comparable to the much more expensive American guitars (which it was anyway), and on the other hand this was a logical explananation for this. I don’t think that the models with Japanese pick-ups sound noticably worse, but this way Fender had not to admit that their guitars did not really sound better than cheaper copies, they simply could argue this was because of their US pick-ups.
The beautiful light fiesta red (which does not really equal the original fiesta from the early 60ies, it has a tendency towards orange) was not available when the series was launched, it was introduced about 1983, together with black and white. Before there was only sunburst (2-tone for the ’57, 3-tone for the ’62).
This guitar is the ’57 model. The differences to the ’62 model are: one-piece maple neck (’62 has rosewood fingerboard) , white one-layer pickguard with 8 screws (’62: three-layers, 11 screws), no pocket shoulder in control cavity (this is for one of the additional screws of the ’62).
The body wood is probably basswood (earlier models had ash elder). Basswood is not original Fender vintage style but has nevertheless good acoustic properties. The sound of this particular guitar is great, it has that slightly nasal twang but sounds very warm. It is very light but resonates well.
If you are interested in more detail info about these JV Squier guitars, the best source for it are the Squier JV Pages.
Mark Knopfler never owned one of these, however he played the same model as this one in a German TV show called Bananas in the 80ies when they filmed a clip of So Far Away."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Posted in: Guitars,Mark Knopfler gear,Vintage guitars by Ingo on September 29, 2008
When I started playing the guitar in 1979 (after hearing a certain Mark Knopfler playing Sultans of Swing) I wanted a Strat of course. At that time Fender made exactly one model – the “Stratocaster”, no Deluxe, Standard, Hot Rod, Super, Extra, and the like – only and simply the “Stratocaster”.
On the other hand you had Japanese copies by a zillion of manufacturers it seems. At that time nobody knew that there were actually only a few Japanese companies who produced them and that they were marketed under many different names here in Germany or in the rest of the world.
My first Strat was a 2nd-hand Fender Stratocaster from 1976 in sunburst with a black pickguard and white knobs. It was very heavy but looked pretty much like Mark Knopfler’s guitar – well, it was a real Strat – and differed only in details like the bigger headstock or the bigger Fender decal.
Prices for a new Fender were about 900 – 1200,- DM (would be 450 – 600 €), while the Japanese copies were about 175 – 350 €.
My first Japanese Strat was a Tokai: I was in a guitar shop and there was this fiesta red Strat (you never saw a red guitar because Fender had discontinued all red colours in the late 60ies !!), it even had a small headstock like an early 60ies Strat (this was a sensation, all Strats and all copies had the big head), and it was feather light, played and sounded really cool. Even the decal with the Tokai logo looked like a Fender script logo! It was the perfect 1:1 copy of a ’64 Strat. Fortunately this was shortly before Christmas so I got this guitar (which cost the equivalent of 420,- €) for Christmas. It became my number one Strat then and sounded much better than my Fender.
Soon after Fender reacted to these high-quality copies of vintage Strats in two different ways: a) they copied the ’57 and ’62 Strat themselves (the birth of the “Vintage Stratocaster” model) and b) they made a deal with the Fujigen Gakki company (who built e.g. Ibanez and Greco guitars) to produce a Japanese version of the vintage Strats for Fender. These were marketed under the name “Squier”.
Both appeared about the same time in the shops here in Germany. I remember that we all were surprised that the Japanese Squier guitars did not sound inferior to the US versions, in the contrary, in many cases I liked them better. The first Squiers were available in three-tone sunburst (’62 model with rosewood fingerboard) and two-tone sunburst (’57 model with maple neck), but a few months later they were available in white, black and fiesta red as well.
The fiesta red was too light and rather orange compared with the original, but it looked great! I bought a ’57 Squier Strat in fiesta red in 1983 which I will feature in one of the next articles.
Mark Knopfler himself also got one of these Japanese vintage copies: a blue Fernandes Strat which he used for some stuff around the time of Love over Gold. John Suhr said that this guitar was one of the best-sounding guitars Mark had.
Fender took legal actions against these copies and won, so about 1984 the period of ultra-close copying came to an end. In the last years prices for these guitars have gone up more and more, but with prices about 500 – 1000,- € they are still affordable. There are more and more websites dedicated to these Japanese vintage guitars, a sure sign that they are becoming cult guitars themselves. If you want a real 30ys old vintage guitar, look out for the Japanese Greco (“super real” series), Tokai (“springy sound”), Squier JV (JV for Japanes vintage, later Squiers came from Korea or other Asian countries), or Fernandes. I am sure it is not only a good investment but also a good chance to get a perfect sounding guitar."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)