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    Have you ever wondered why Mark Knopfler’s Gibson Les Pauls (he has a ’58, a ’59, and some replicas of late 50ies models) differ so much in their colour? And what is the colour called, simply sunburst, or is it cherry sunburst, or tobacco sunburst? Have you ever heard the term ‘unburst’?

    from left to right: Knopfler's '59 Les Paul Standard, a reissue, the '58

    The answer is simple: all those Les Paul Standards from that era (they were only built in this version from ’58 to ’60) were cherry sunburst, a sunburst which goes from red on the outer area to yellow in the center. However, the red paint Gibson used in those days was very sensitive to light exposure (especially UV radiation) and easily faded. This is a general problem of red, but it depends of the kind of laquer to which extend this might happen. Modern laquer is almost stable in this respect, but the laquer on the early Les Pauls has proven to be extremely sensitive, much more than the one of Fenders from that time.
    While there are old Les Pauls Standards that look like new – which means a bright red -, there are others which have lost all the red and seem to be completely yellow. These got the nickname ‘unburst’ – Peter Green’s Les Paul from the Fleetwood Mac days (later this guitar belong to Gary Moore who meanwhile sold it) is maybe the most famous example of these.

    Peter Green's Les Paul Standard - all red faded, an 'unburst'

    Peter Green's Les Paul - all red totally faded, an 'unburst'

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    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.

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    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.

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    One of Mark Knopfler’s most famous guitars is surely his National Style-O (read “style – oh”). This is the guitar on the cover of Brothers in Arms.

    AFAIK he bought this guitar from his buddy Steve Phillips long before Dire Straits, it was his second National (the first was a Tricone from the late 20ies which he bought from an old man in Wales).

    What makes a National unique is not only the metal body but the resonator – something like a mechanical loudspeaker so to say. The first National appeared in the 1920ies, at a time long before electric amplifiers were used for guitars. The resonator increases the volume of the guitar so that it was ideal for street musicians or everyone who had to compete with other instruments in a band. More general info on resonator guitars be found in the Wikipedia article.

    In this post I want to present some detail photos of a National, a 1936 model that is very similar to Mark Knopfler’s – which seems to be probably from about 1937 to me.

    This guitar sounds fantastic. I had a metal Dobro guitar which I bought in the late 80ies, thinking that all metal resonator guitars should sound pretty much identical (and there was only Dobro who produced them at that time). When I first heard this guitar however, I immediately decided to sell the Dobro because it sounded miles away from this one.

    The body is brass (some other Nationals like the Duolians were steel), and the neck might be mahogany (not sure). The neck is extremely fat. It has a V-shape with such a depth that many capos (e.g. my favourite the Shubb capo) do not open wide enough to be used here.

    The fingerboard is slightly curved what I prefer over the flat ones that were common a few years before.

    But now enjoy the slide show with a lot of pictures. I will report about some other details of this guitar (including pictures of the interior) in a future article.

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    Today something about one of Mark Knopfler most famous guitars …

    In 1980 Mark Knopfler started to play a red Schecter Strat on stage instead of the red Fenders he played before. Everyone knows this guitar – it was the guitar on the Alchemy live CD/video, on Live Aid, and on countless other TV concerts from the 80ies or 90ies. He still owns this guitar and uses it occasionally these days.

    However, rather overlooked is that there was a second red Schecter, one that looks almost identically to the first one. On stage it was played by rhythm guitarist Hal Lindes, e.g. on ‘Once upon a time in the west’ on Alchemy. I think that this guitar did not belong to Hal Lindes but to Mark Knopfler as well (possibly the blue Schecter that Hal Lindes played, too, while Lindes’ white ’59 Fender Strat definitely was his.)

    Two red Schecter Strats (middle), Mark’s main axe is the
    one with white pick-ups, the second one has black PUs.
    Left and right are the two red Fender Strats, far left the
    sunburst Tele Custom featured in the last post.

    All these Schecters – the ones mentioned so far plus a black Telecaster and a sunburst Strat – were bought at Rudy’s Music Stop in New York in 1980 (the red Telecaster of Walk of Life and the white Schecter Strat were later acquisitions).

    There is only one hint (the interview quoted below) that the 2nd red Schecter was Knopfler’s but I think it was likely that he ordered all of them together. This interview was from Guitar Player magazine in 1984:

    GP: Are your guitars heavily modified?

    MK: Not really. One Schecter has Seymour Duncan Vintage pickups, and another red one has heavier Seymour Strat pickups in it.

    We know that Knopfler soon (early 1981) replaced the original Schecter F500T pick-ups, note  the white PU covers from then on. These replacement PUs had staggered magnet poles (the Schecter PUs were flat) and are probably the mentioned “Seymour Duncan Vintage pickups”. I guess “another red one” is the 2nd red Strat (theoretically the red Schecter Telecaster of Walk of Life fame is another possibility ). See the following picture of that 2nd Strat and note the staggered magnet poles:

    Hal Lindes playing that 2nd red Schecter Strat

    So we have Vintage Seymour Duncans on #1, and heavier on #2. I remember exactly that unlike today Seymour Duncan’s product range was rather straightforward in 1981 –  five models called SSL 1 – 5. These were:

    SSL 1 : vintage Strat replica, staggered Alnico 5 magnets

    SSL 2: like SSL 1 but with Alnico 2 magnets

    SSL 3: hot wound, flat poles

    SSL 4: quarter inch magnets, flat poles (similar to the Schecter F500T)

    SSL 5: like SSL 1, but hotter wound

    The SSL 1 was by far the most common of these, and the SSL 5 was heavier but looked the same. For these reasons I claimed on my vintage Dire Straits Guitar Page that they were SSL 1 / 5 but there is no direct evidence for this (later there were Alnico Pros on #1 but these were not availabe in the early 80ies). But who knows, maybe he has SSL 2 in #1, or maybe everything is different from what we think.

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