April 03 2010
When I was 19, I gave up on a tough gig less than a week into it. OK, since you ask, the gig in question was working on a kibbutz plop in the aftermath of a full-on Middle East conflagration. I’d been thinking of a gap year, not a gap war, and slunk back to London, tail between legs. “But I thought you wanted a bit of action,” everyone at home said. “I didn’t exactly want to do it,” I explained, “I wanted to have done it.” And I seem to have spent a good part of the intervening decades willing a variety of character-building experiences to end so I could say I’d done them.
One such wasn’t touring in a rock band. This may have had something to do with my guitar teacher being busted for drugs a few weeks after I started lessons. I was left frozen in time on House of the Rising Sun, which to this day I play quite well. I just can’t play anything else. But from what I can tell from occasional sojourns into the music world, it’s pretty repetitive, soul-destroying work: months of not knowing whether you’re in Cleveland or Cleethorpes, getting bored with the same band jokes night after night over late, congealed hotel dinners.
No, again, the smart thing, the enviable USP in polite society is to have been a rock star. And this genius guitar from the great Fender folks makes it possible for you to look and, most importantly, feel like a grizzled old rocker without needing to have gone through any of the boring if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Scunthorpe bits. The Fender Road Worn 50s Stratocaster is an artfully, deliberately aged machine. It comes fresh out of the box covered in desirable scratches, scrapes, scuffs and gouges. The screws look old and on the cusp of rusting. There are bits of manky label, knobs are worn and faded, the plastic on the fascia bit under where the playing hand goes is yellowed, the varnish on the fingerboard worn away.
I’d love to know how Fender’s luthiers pre-age this model. I’m also curious to know how a customer might go about claiming that their Road Worn Strat wasn’t delivered in good condition; could you complain if it weren’t sufficiently beaten up? Can a manufacturer really pre-install the precious patina of age? From what I can tell, given the confines of my House of the Rising Sun-only repertoire, the Road Worn Fender plays beautifully.
I can’t give a knowing comparison with any of Fender’s more conservative products from its 2010 range. Since I’m zeroing in on the eccentric one, I was asked to mention its American Special Guitars (from £840) and New Fender G-Decs (from £280), not forgetting the American Standard Series guitars (£1,114) and top-of-range USA Vintage and Custom shop guitars (price on request). So be it, but despite the stratospheric level of artifice used to half-ruin it, the Road Worn model is unexpectedly cool. I love it and everyone who’s seen it loves it too. Rock’n’roll! Etc.