It’s an Incredible Jamboree With Immortal Guitar Axes

4 Dec

Immortal Guitar Axes is a perfect and heavy coffee-table book that’s sure to be an eye pleaser.It not only puts a lot of these beauties in the forefront, but also each instrument has a story too! Lisa S. Johnson‘s love for the six-string is very clear in the prose, and I suspect she did a lot of fieldwork to find out where some of them have disappeared to. Some were lost to history for one reason or another, and others thought destroyed.

For example, just when Peter Frampton (who played with many talents, ranging from David Bowie to Ringo Starr) thought he lost his beloved after the cargo plane crashed over Venezuela, it survived! Although not every guitar has a story like this one, what’s recounted is a look back about where it was either bought or made. Many artists’ instruments are profiled here, and while we already know everything about some axes, namely Brian May’s Red Special, others aren’t as widely known. I really appreciate the chapter about Suzi Quatro since it’s her music which got me to love that classic rock n’ roll all over again ever since I saw her on Happy Days.

While Immortal Guitar Axes is something that the staff at the Songbirds museum may baulk at, what this author writes about is its role in music stardom. She represents a different side of the coin when compared to the documentary and the interview I conducted a while back. I think this latest effort is perfect follow-up to Johnson’s previous book, 108 Rock Star Guitars, published in 2013. Both visually show off the patina to every rustic nut and bolt. Even though the body looks all bashed up, the whole combination somehow contributes to the sound that the guitarist is famous for.

Woodworkers know every type of wood, and how it’s cut and shaped contributes to its overall aesthetic, and when used on a guitar–the hardness defines the sound. They can also take the abuse. For example, Jeff Beck’s 1954 Fender Esquire has a lot of chips along its body. To say it’s junk is hearsay. Also, nearly all of Elvis’ guitars are profiled here, and no book can truly be complete without the profile of the acoustic instruments he’s played. A lot of various artists are featured, and even after looking at this book for the upteenth time, I’m always admiring another performer’s instrument.

Johnson’s photographic approach pays careful use of lighting, close ups and sometimes using a dutch angle to highlight what’s special with that axe. While half the book is about the images, the other half is rich with some informative bit of history regarding that guitar.

After looking at this compendium, I can’t help but wonder about what can lie in a pawnshop in towns off the beaten track. It’d be less about finding something affordable to play, but instead would wonder if I could be holding music history? Not every broker knows what they have, and doesn’t price an instrument accordingly. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I doubt discovering a music instrument in a junkyard is 100% salvageable. All the electronics obviously need replacing; If the body has not rotted, there’s no harm in trying.

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