We’ve been together for a long time. I still remember the first time I saw you. It was in the form of a double-neck 12/6 string, from the era in the 1970s when you made successful, competitor-unnerving Gibson and Fender replicas. I thought you were gorgeous. I heard Steve Vai talk about you in 1990 and I knew we were right for each other. I finally got to hold you myself in 1993 when Father Christmas gave me a Japanese-made, Edge-loaded Jewel Blue RG370. It was a rare guitar with unusual specs and an unusual country of manufacture for an RG370. I liked knowing you were mine, that I had something nobody else had. I didn’t want to think about how many other people in my town had played you as you hung on the wall of Custom Music in Lavington. I guess others must have strummed your strings before me, maybe even executed a devastating flutter on your whammy bar. Maybe you even liked it. I guess you knew deep down that I already had a Status brand Stratocaster copy – that you weren’t my first electric guitar. But we were blissful in our ignorance.
As time went on I acquired more Ibanez guitars and I loved them all dearly. I’ve leaped about onstage with an RG7620, I won a shredding contest hosted by Allans Music and Triple M using my RG7420, and as a member of Cereal Killer I shared a bill with Rob Balducci at Jemfest, armed with my UV777BK and Jem7VWH.
I can understand if you were hurt when you heard last week that I’d traded my Jem7VWH for a Fender Stratocaster. Really, I get it. We’d been together for so long, and my love for you was so strong that when I worked at World of Music, teaching guitar but more importantly (to you) performing set-ups and repairs, I was known to staff and customers as ‘Captain Ibanez.’ There was nothing about you I didn’t know, whether it be the names of the guys at the Custom Shop who crafted exquisite instruments for my heroes throughout the years (Mace Bailey, Rich Lasner, Tak Hosono), or the correct angle at which to set an Edge series trem (ignore the surface of the unit and instead judge by the knife edge inserts, making sure they’re parallel to the body). But to be honest, as much as I loved it and as comfortable as it was to play, the Jem just wasn’t for me. There was a time when I told myself it felt like it was designed for me: It seemed to fit my body and get completely out of the way as I executed flurry after flurry of sweep-picking crescendo. But I think I started to realise that that was the problem: it was too passive. It just lay there, letting me have my lustful way with it on special occasions but not particularly getting in on the act itself. I started to feel that the fire, the passion for that Jem was waning, even though it was super-hot and would let me do whatever I wanted with it. So I did what just a year ago I would have thought unthinkable.
But here’s the thing, Ibanez. Even though I’m one Ibanez down (and to be honest, I’m kinda thinking of trading my RG550MXX Roadflare Red in for a Telecaster, and I certainly have my eye on more than a few Gibsons – and how could I claim to be an objective guitar reviewer if I only loved one company?), I’m still an Ibanez Guy. I still love you. Really. I will never part with my Universe, because her and I have a special connection. Ditto my RG370. And super ditto my Talman TC825 with Bisgby, which has tremendous sentimental value as well as absolutely killer tones. And my two RG7s I mentioned before will always be with me because they sound great, play great, and mean something to me. Sure, I’m also on the fence about my original black 1987 RG550, but that one sounds monstrous and I’d be pretty nuts to sell it, even though a few friends have made some pretty flattering offers.
So what it comes down to, Ibanez, is that although I may from time to time visit another, you’re still my baby. It’s like Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed. Everyone knows Gene parties down with other girls. I’m sure Shannon quite happily encourages it, maybe because she knows he won’t change, or maybe simply because it’s nice to get him out of the house every now and then when she just wants to sit down with the latest Vanity Fair or to make a little caterpillar out of M&Ms and then eat him up one segment at a time (don’t be ashamed, Shannon, we all do it). I’m sure if Gene and Shannon were married he would stop his dilly-dallying around with other girls, and if I ever become a famous shredmeister and you come knocking on my door for an endorsement I would proudly stand with you and say ‘I do,’ forsaking all others. But until that day, let’s keep this Gene/Shannon thing going. And you can play with other guitarists too. Are we cool?