Best Rock Guitars

Les Paul was the sun god of the guitar, the top-of-the-range axe that not only meant business but miraculously transformed the hammest-fisted, butter-fingerest strummer into a heavyweight contender. Strap on one of these babies, plug it into a skyscraper Marshall stack, and you could be Page or Townshend or Clapton or Kossoff or Neil Young, Peter Green, Duane Allman...
That was the fantasy of a 14-year-old rock freak in the early ‘70s who not only didn't own a guitar but wouldn't know where to start if he did. And a good thing too. By never once arching my pork sausage fingers into an awkward chord shape or glissing down to the cutaway for a sustained blueswail I was able to sustain my waking dream of guitar superheroism through nothing more than minute study of inky pics in NME, MM and Sounds and a showy faux-familiarity with such terms as whammy-bar, humbucker and, indeed, cutaway.
And I sustain it still, unsullied by Guitar Hero or any such simulator--a Jeremy Clarkson of the electric guitar, but one who can't (and won't) even drive. And these are the coolest, grooviest, rockingest electric guitars I have never played...
12. Mosrite Mark II: After you've outgrown your Startrites, you teen up to your Mosrite--right? A sorta-Strat from the wrong side of the tracks, this is the axe to channel teenage rage, hormonal noise and a hoodlum sneer. The Ventures wiped out, The MC5's Wayne Kramer leered and Johnny Ramone hand-shandied down the Mosrite fretboard in an onanistic blur you gotta love because mom and pop certainly won't.
11a. Gretsch 6120: The Fratton Park or Billy Mill Roundabout of rock guitars, it's the one for boys to make some noise but not quite go all the way. Style-wise it's still got one foot in the hootenanny, but yearns for the sapling twang of youth. Duane Eddy toted his to rebel rouse and Eddie Cochran mating calls C'mon Everybody. Revivalist Brian Setzer of The Stray Cats has his talismanic 6120 but back in the late ‘60s CSNY massed their semi-acoustic attack to homicidal ends...
11b. Gretsch Country Gentleman: ...while over on the East Coast the 6120 derivation, the double-cutaway Country Gentleman serenaded the pleasures of heroin, waiting for my man and sucking on my ding dong, while 20 years after that The Stone Roses' John Squire was also mad for it. Which is probably exactly what Chet Atkins had in mind when he put his name to the guitar in the first place.
10. Gibson Flying V: The coolest looking guitar ever--Jimi Hendrix even posed with one. And it sounds pretty good too in the hands of an Albert King or Wishbone Ash's Andy Powell. Yet it remains the first choice of few and unpicked by almost everyone. There are some things only real guitarists know, and why the Flying V never took off is one of them.
9. Epiphone E230TD Casino: Big John played one for years. What more do you need?
8. Gibson SG: The double-horned rock guitar Gibson made but Les Paul repudiated found fans in the Age of Aquarius, lighting Robbie Krieger's fire, sacrificing Carlos Santana's soul and for a while its no-nonsense clang did the biz for Pete Townshend. For 30 years now, Angus Young has polished those double horns, but what's Satan's meat and two veg in some hands is manna from heaven in others. Come on down, Sister Rosetta Tharpe!
7. Fender Jazzmaster: A machine marketed upscale to would-be Wes Montgomerys missed the clubs but hit the wave of surf guitarists who dug its shriek and shiver, qualities that 15 years later endeared it to a newer wave's resident eggheads, like Television's Tom Verlaine, Elvis Costello and such intellectual hooligan successors as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.
6. Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird: When Bo Diddley chased the voodoo down between the Gibson L5 and his patented cigar-box, this guitar was the star in a custom job styled on the space-rocket gas-guzzlers of half a century ago. So cool that even The Duchess played one too, the Jupiter T'bird deep-froze until retrieved from axe Valhalla by Billy Gibbons and Jack White.
5. Gibson ES-335: BB King's is called Lucille, Chuck Berry plays his just like ringing a bell and Dave Davies really got his going. In short, a guitar with heritage. Cue Noel!
4. Fender Telecaster: No frills, no fat, this is the working man's deal. Bruce wouldn't plug in anything else, of course, and Keith Richards gives his retuned vintage favourites in butterscotch defiantly unromantic names: Malcolm, Micawber and Gloria. Jimi Hendrix didn't think much of the Strat's primitive older brother, saying it only had two tones and one of them was horrible. And like the Kalshnikov AK47, this is this is a post-war tool built in a time of shortage (hence the thinnest possible headstock) but designed for victory with a cutting edge and nothing-fancy sense of purpose. Wilco Johnson's was a submachine gun, Steve Cropper's a scalpel probing for nerve endings. And Keef's self-confessed "Five strings, three chords, two fingers, one a**h*le" somehow adds up to an entire big band brass section.
3a. Rickenbacker 360/12: The sound of that Fadd9 chord and the jingle-jangle that put a cosmic ‘why?' into flyte. Rock ‘n' roll set its boot heels to wanderin' when the electric guitar picked itself up out of the gutter and aimed for the stars, thanks to the 12-string version of Big John's Moptop warhorse and Pete's Maximum R&B machine, which themselves form exhibits...
3b. Rickenbacker 325:

3c. Rickenbacker 360: Yes, this is the garage rock guitar with bells in, the gritty but latently angelic sound of Britrock at its best. Just ask Paul Weller.
2. Fender Stratocaster: More even than its predecessor the Telecaster, the Strat in the ‘50s was no mere juiced-up twang box but the sleek and modern look and sound of tomorrow--an entirely new instrument. Its first poster boy Buddy Holly took baby steps but Hank Marvin heard its inner astronaut while Dick Dale detected an exotic shiver. Versatile, clean-cut and even a touch characterless in its all-round virtue until... Jimi saw the Strat for what it was: a body-contoured spacecraft to surf the cosmic storm and voyage into the aqua-blue depths of the soul. The first choice since of so many electric guitar virtuosi--Clapton and Beck aren't the only aces who've gone over the wall from Gibson--if you have the vision, the Strat will take you there. But in lesser hands it can just sit on the launch-pad looking pretty but going nowhere...
1. Gibson Les Paul: ...Which is why it yields first spot to the great flatterer of electric guitars, the axe whose sound is so dense, rich and resonant that it makes the nambiest strummer sound like Galactus, The Devourer Of Planets. And in the hands of people who know what they're doing... Well, enough of me yakking: just check these out, and while you're doing so, hoist one to Les.
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