Sunburst and unburst Les Pauls from the late 50ies

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

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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Guitar portrait: 1983 Squier Stratocaster JV pink metallic

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Vintage guitars

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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Guitar portrait: 1983 Squier JV Stratocaster, fiesta red

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Guitar in general, Vintage guitars

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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