Fender Van Halen Frankenstein guitar unveiled at NAMM
(photo by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com)
Eddie Van Halen and the master builders of the Fender Custom Shop have teamed up to introduce EVH brand guitars, amps and musical products, beginning with a recreation of Van Halen’s famous red-black-and-white striped Frankenstein guitar. Priced at $25,000 each, the limited run of 300 sold out in 15 minutes.
Seldom in the history of guitar playing can monumental change be attributed to a single guitarist; a musician whose contributions amount to nothing short of a re-imagining of the instrument’s possibilities, and whose playing abilities and innovations are so utterly dazzling as to be considered truly revolutionary. Such is the case with Edward Van Halen.
Eddie Van Halen exploded onto the music scene in the late 70s and, seemingly overnight, rewrote the book on rock guitar as few had done before. How did he play like that? How did he get those sounds? And what was that weird guitar he was playing? This was something new; a wild, ambitiously swaggering rock band from Los Angeles that boasted a skinny, smiling 20-something kid who was so utterly musically ferocious that you were left with no choice.
On Feb. 10, 1978, when Van Halen’s debut album was released, nobody had ever seen or heard anything like Eddie Van Halen. Nobody had ever seen or heard the strange guitar he worked his magic with. With this striking black-and-white striped guitar, he dazzlingly swooped, dived and blazed his innovative way through one of the most original and most famous debut albums in history. No overdubs. No huge pedal boards. No fancy and expensive custom gear.
A lucky few knew what was coming because they’d seen Van Halen in the band’s early days, with Eddie routinely reducing Sunset Strip nightclubs to smoldering piles of rubble. Some established guitar heroes laughed at his duct-taped-home-made stage setup, but they weren’t laughing when the show was over and Eddie had left audience’s jaws somewhere around their ankles.
But Eddie was no mere acrobat; whatever he did with his guitar was always for the song. Jamie’s Cryin . You Really Got Me. ’dance the Night Away. Beautiful Girls. Cradle Will Rock. (Oh) Pretty Woman. Jump. Hot For Teacher. Panama. Eruption. Why Can’t This Be Love? When It’s Love. Finish What Ya Started. Right Now. The list goes on and on.
A New Kind of Guitar
The guitar pictured on Van Halen’s debut record looked familiar, but it was different. What was it? Where did he buy it? He didn’t. Twenty-two-year-old Eddie Van Halen, you see, had the mind of not only a great musician, but also of an inventor a constant tinkerer who was always messing with his gear; always trying this and that’sometimes destroying this and that and always after something different.
No off-the-shelf guitar had the features Eddie really needed to let his playing take off, and he knew it. He’d tried a few staples in his formative years, but eventually found them all lacking in one way or another. So he took matters into his own capable hands.
The guitar that appears on the cover of Van Halen was Eddie’s first ’super guitar. He bought a factory-second guitar body for $50 and a neck for $80, made in 1975. This new guitar body came pre-routed for three single-coil pickups, so Van Halen took up a chisel and soldering iron to install a fat-sounding humbucking pickup from an older semi-hollow body guitar, rotating it slightly to accommodate the wider string spacing of the original Fender bridge.
In an unintentional stroke of genius born out of necessity, Eddie conceived of the idea of dipping the humbucking pickup into an empty Yuban coffee can full of molten paraffin wax to reduce feedback once the wax cooled and solidified, a technique now known as potting a pickup. He also adjusted the vibrato bridge plate to lie flat against the body, preventing upward bends while increasing tuning stability. Also to his preference, the unfinished neck was wider and flatter; Eddie also replaced the original frets with larger fret wire.
It was this guitar body that first received the distinctive and soon-to-be-iconic striped paint job; Van Halen sprayed it with black and white Schwinn acrylic lacquer bicycle paint. He cut out and mounted his own homemade black pickguard, covering the neck and middle pickup routings, and installed a single master volume knob (although the knob itself, famously, was a Tone knob), brass nut and an original Fender tremolo tailpiece.
Although it didn’t take long to build, and although the whole shebang cost him less than $150, this was the guitar that would change the world. It became Van Halen’s main instrument for the first several albums and tours, and he soon striped it one last time and added a top coat of red; with the addition of orange and red truck reflectors, Eddie was now complete in creating one of the most iconic guitars in rock n roll history.
During Van Halen’s second world tour, he replaced the original tremolo with an odd device a prototype locking tremolo system built by Seattle designer Floyd Rose. To fill the gap between the top surface of the guitar body and the bottom side of the tremolo plate, Eddie’s modest-but-efficient solution was to permanently mount a quarter under the unit’s top-back side. A succession of replacement necks all maintained the use of Schaller tuners after Van Halen broke the original neck.
Fans loved the guitar and what he did with it. They even gave it a nickname Frankenstein . But to Eddie, it was simply My baby.
Sharing the Legacy
Like all true innovators, Eddie Van Halen has continuously evolved. His playing is as amazing now as ever, but his devotion to artistry, musicianship and songcraft has grown and matured all along the way. Now, at this point in his magical career, Eddie has decided to share his legacy of innovation with guitarists everywhere.
Although Eddie has before developed various guitar models with various makers, there has never been a faithful, first-rate recreation of the iconic Frankenstein instrument so revered by his fans and so dear to him personally. And there was only one company who could do it right. Fender.
The company that has brought the rock world signature models from its greatest guitarists now introduces a painstakingly accurate rendition of what is widely regarded as the world’s most recognizable electric guitar: the EVH Frankenstein replica. This red, black and white ash-body guitar has a bolt-on maple neck and has been aged to precisely match the original, complete with every scratch, ding and cigarette burn.
The maple fingerboard has a 12 to 16 compound radius, with 21 Dunlop 6100 jumbo frets. The guitar features a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop EVH humbucking pickup, with a single master volume knob (that says Tone ) mounted on a single-ply partial black pickguard, identical to the original. Other features include Schaller tuners, aged chrome hardware, and a limited edition, fully ’relic-ed EVH road case. Leaving no stone unturned, the guitar is complete with a non-functional three-way switch and single-coil pickup that occupy two of the three pickup routs.
The EVH Frankenstein replica guitar is a phenomenally crafted piece of rock history of guitar history, period and it could only come from Eddie Van Halen and the talented resources of Fender . This guitar simply must be seen, heard and felt to be believed. Much like the first time you saw, heard and felt the incredible musical power of Eddie Van Halen.
Fender mini guitars on display at NAMM
(photo by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com)
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Wow, nice post. I found some videos of Eddie talking about the new Fender Frankenstein http://guitarheroesgear.blogspot.com/search/label/Frankenstein – said gamhulcol on Jan 01, 2009