Reliced guitars, hmmmm, I’m not even sure where to begin on this little horror story, is the verb ‘relic’ even a real word?
Option 1:
Option 2:
A bargain at £8000

I’d go for the first option, at least it’s cheaper and I’d have some change left for a guitar and an amp. Maybe even a car.

Now that I have firmly nailed my colours to the mast, I should explain to those of you who are still blissfully unaware of ‘guitar world’s’ shameful little secret, and I envy you, that a reliced guitar is one that has been artificially aged to look like a guitar from the alleged golden era of guitar music. Whether there really was a ‘golden era’ is another discussion entirely, one that you can read here , but let’s for the sake of argument assume that there was such an era.

The problem guitar makers have is one that is shared with makers of products such as Harley Davidson motorcycles, film based SLR cameras etc. The technologies are mature, they have nowhere left to go, a sort of technological Darwin-esque dead end. In the case of film, there is a valid excuse, photographers like the look of it and the film itself is the limiting factor. Guitarists (and Harley owners) have no such excuses however, because they are an extremely conservative bunch, any new technological or aesthetic deviation from the classic designs of Les Paul, Strat or Tele are greeted with reactions ranging from grimaces to fully fledged town square lynchings complete with pitchforks and lanterns. You only have to look at the reactions to the carbon fibre Steinberger ‘cricket bat’ introduced in the 80s or more recently, the Parker Fly guitars to see it. I am always reminded of how a baby bird bonds with whatever it sees first as it emerges from the egg, so it is with guitarists who were young in the early 60s.

So what is a guitar maker to do, faced with this resistance to innovation? The answer is to increase perceived value rather that actual value. How is this done? With guitars, it is achieved by the use of artist models, as if the mere association with someone famous and preferably dead, will sprinkle some magic dust over the guitar, another way has come to my attention over the last few years and that is the particularly infuriating use of the ‘Master Builder’ phenomenon, have a look at this to see it in action. I can’t bear to write anything about it other than to ask the question, would you have noticed ANY difference if G’n’R had used a normal Les Paul, or even an Epiphone for that matter? The final way to increase perceived value is relicing. A slight digression, but HD motorcycles do it by raiding the parts bin, sticking the word ‘heritage’ in the name somewhere then following it by a series of letters like ‘FLXDHR’, probably resulting from nothing meaningful, just the random character string generated when the bloated face of the HD motorcycles marketing man rested on the keyboard during a 3 hour ‘power nap’ after a lunch consisting of mainly Jack Daniels. In their defence however, Harley have not descended to the depths of relicing quite yet..

I just can’t understand the cognitive dissonance that must occur in the mind of the reliced guitar buyer. These guitars are invariably more expensive than the standard model, yet if I was to go up to their nice new BMW and suggest relicing that up to 100,000 miles, I’m not sure my idea would be quite so well received. Reliced cars do seem cheaper on ebay too. What kind of internal conversation is going on in the minds of these people? “Yeah man, you see this scratch? That coulda happened in Amarillo, you know, we coulda gone into that bar and we mighta met BB King, an BB might have sat down at our table an’ his guitar coulda bumped mine right there, an’ he coulda said sorry, an’ I coulda said hey man no probs just let me jam on stage with ya! An’ he coulda said sure man.” The only word I hear is ‘Fraud’.

On the sites that manufacture reliced guitars you will see copious use of complimentary adjectives such as ‘silky,’ ‘rich’ or ‘warm’ etc. All just an attempt to fluff up the perceived value. You will also see excessive attention to detail, the kind of wire used in the pickups, the gearing ratio of the tuning pegs, the lists are as endless as they are utterly irrelevant to music, devoted only to the fetishisation of the guitar. A typical site might be this one, I had to suppress a giggle when I saw the name, ‘RebelRelic’, maybe UltraConservativeRelic would be more appropriate.

I’ve just been looking at the Peach Guitars website, and found this little gem of cognitive dissonance, have a read. It’s not the fact that it’s £8000 pounds, yes you read it right eight grand for a kit guitar, that gets me, although that price tag alone for a beaten up guitar is bad enough and warrants a post all of it’s own, what really gets me is if you read it carefully you will see that the blurb makes the point that the Tolex on the case is ripped and they can let you have a new one if it ‘bothers you’. Just let that sink in for a moment.  Would a new case be cheaper than an old case? If the scrapes on the guitar don’t bother you (not enough to stop you spending £8000 on a guitar that screams fashion victim fraud lemming from the roof tops at least) why would a rip in the case bother you? Would it be embarrassing to produce such a knackered looking guitar from an obviously un gigged case?

Is there really anything that was better in the late 50s? I know some of you hard working, child raising, chortling wags, may reply self referentially “Yes! My back!” but really was there that much? I’m sure iPads had floppy drives back then or possibly even one of those tappity tap things with the big black Bakelite knob that Commandos used to send Morse code during the war. The iBeep, was it? If the guitar luddites will let guitars evolve, who knows what cool products could be in the pipeline. We just need to prise those gnarled old fingers from our ankles and embrace what the future holds for us as guitarists. Already we are more than 50 years behind.