10 Most Iconic Guitars in Rock History
Some guitars may sound great, some may look great. But this article is about those certain ones that incorporated both of the qualities and rose to become something more than just instruments. The following 10 guitars are a part of rock history and each have stories of their own.
10. Gene Simmons’ Axe Bass
Nobody could doubt that Kiss had a very powerful band image. One of the most memorable bass guitars is Simmons’ Axe bass. It was originally conceived to make his demonic stage presence more iconic and it went on to be a fine example of instrument shaped like an ordinary object.
9. James Hetfield’s 'EET FUK' ESP Explorer
James Hetfield has used several different Explorer guitars with Metallica, but one stands out. His 'EET FUK' white model from ESP, which was used extensively while touring behind And Justice For All.
After having its headstock broken several times, the Explorer was retired, though James picked it up again to record the track Suicide & Redemption on their album Death Magnetic. White Explorers went on to become an easily identifiable element of Metallica’s live image.
8. Kurt Cobain’s ‘Jag-Stang’
According to the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, he designed his own guitar by taking Polaroids of a Fender Jaguar and a Fender Mustang and cutting them to fit together. Fender began producing the guitar after Cobain's death, and Courtney Love gave her husband's powder blue prototype to R.E.M.'s Peter Buck.
7. Paul McCartney’s Höfner Bass
Paul McCartney’s violin-shaped bass is probably more remembered than any other instrument played by The Beatles. McCartney was reportedly pleased by how symmetrical the Höfner bass looked, allowing it to look like a regular left-handed instrument. He continues to bring it out onstage while touring, preventing pretty much any other bass player in the world from using the same model without looking like a hack.
6. Prince’s 'Cloud'
Prince was always known for his unique style. The master of funk and soul created a custom guitar, dubbed the 'Cloud,' to suit his unique style — it was marked by an extended curved edge. The original model of the guitar was crafted by Andy Beech, a local Minneapolis luthier, and later reproduced by the iconic guitar brand Schechter. Prince played the ax throughout the ’80s and ’90s, including in his famed Purple Rain movie.
5. Brian May’s 'Red Special'
The instrument responsible for most of Queen’s guitar riffs comes with a nice backstory to it. Brian May designed and built the Red Special with his father, in 1963, mostly using wood from an old fireplace mantel. It comes with a few peculiarities: though it looks solid, its pieces are kept together in a such a way that it’s semi-acoustic, and the hardware is wired in odd ways, having on/off switches for each of the three pickups. Brian still uses the guitar to this day, after a few restorations, though he commonly plays replicas as well.
4. Eddie Van Halen’s 'Frankenstrat'
The Frankenstrat came about as Eddie Van Halen’s attempt at combining the sound of a Gibson with the body of a Fender Stratocaster. After getting the body of the instrument at a discount price because it had a knot in the wood, Van Halen went on to build the guitar by himself, and eventually giving it the custom finish that became well-known and seen releases of official replicas over the years.
3. Angus Young’s Jaydee SG
Though the AC/DC guitarist had previously used the Gibson SG Standard – and contributed immensely to its popularity – his unique version of the instrument came thanks to Jaydee, adding lightning bolt inlays to the neck of the red guitar, something that carried over to later custom-built versions of the instrument. Regardless of which version of the SG Angus Young is playing, it’s become nearly impossible to picture him without that red guitar – and, in some ways, the guitar without him.
2. Jimmy Page’s double-neck Gibson EDS-1275
The unforgettable guitar that made the multi-part "Stairway to Heaven" a certifiable epic, the Led Zeppelin guitarist's double neck Gibson – 12 strings on top, six on the bottom – has spawned plenty of imitators.
1. Jimi Hendrix’s Monterey Fender Stratocaster
This guitar holds a spot in the list for a unique reason: the fact that it’s probably best-known for how it ended up, rather than its actual appearance. At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were closing their set with an extended version of Wild Thing, when Hendrix knelt next to his Fender Stratocaster and set it on fire, giving place to one of the most beautiful, memorable moments in recorded rock history.