Monday, March 17, 2008

Guest Story: 70's Telecaster by Tim Penn


I got an email from across the pond from someone named Tim Penn who has a blog called
The Knackered Hack. He had read The Ones That Got Away and wanted to share his story about wanting to get his early 70's Telecaster back. I have edited a little to fit my format. Here is his story:

I sold a blonde Fender Telecaster to fund my 1986 language trip to Leningrad. How sensible of me! I came back with a huge weight of Russian poetry (books and records), iconography reference works, and some opera records — the glue in those record sleeves emitting some of the worst smells I’ve ever owned. Oh, and I came back with lots of pictures of Viktor Tsoi, thanks to my Nikon FM and the fact that I’d loaded up with a decent amount of cheap, quality film courtesy of the geeks in the university Photography Society.

Well, there comes a time in every blog’s gestation that it attempts to monetize, and here is mine. In a lot of other blogs you’ll see the option to leave a tip, buy a coffee, a beer or a cocktail. I can take care of those on my own, thank you. But what I really need is to get my Fender Telecaster back.

This is more than a simple loss. The guitar I sold in 1985-6 for £190 was an early ’70s vintage maple-necked beauty, and quite possibly older, though definitely not pre-CBS (if you know what I mean). Where I live, there is a problem for the middle-aged man, and it is a shop called Vintage & Rare Guitars. I’m finding genes are switching on that I thought I either did not contain or that were well under the control of some higher moral fibre. But I know myself too well. I also know that ownership of a Fender Telecaster is probably going to mean not playing it much. So, yes, this is an entirely materialistic vanity project. Rather than keep it to myself, like a sensible mid-lifer should do, I thought I’d share it and engage you all, my small readership, in my quiet, hopeful quest.

Crowdsourcing is the new new thing. And while I’m not expecting you, my readers, to give me anything, by six degrees of separation I think some of you might know someone who might know someone who knows a Russian hedge fund millionaire. If we can just prevail on their guilt for long enough to get their wallet out, they might toss a small sop into my PayPal begging hat that.

It’s good to have an excuse to present an iconic image, and the Fender Telecaster is an iconic object. It was the first solid-bodied electric guitar. Launched in 1950-1 as the Broadcaster, it was the AK47 of the garage musician. When Chris Anderson talks in his book The Long Tail about the electric guitar democratizing music for the pop revolution, and in effect randomizing the path from musical obscurity to fame and success, I imagine it is the Telecaster more than any other guitar — even Fender’s possibly more iconic Stratocaster — that he is thinking about.

Now, mine originally cost me £210, on which I made a loss. If I wander into Vintage & Rare Guitars today I can find one similar, although in rougher condition, for just short of £4,000. Ouch. If I indulge in a little fantasy and think mine was really a late ’60s model (possible, though less likely) I’m out of pocket more than £6k; the one below sold recently from an advertised price of £6,850.

What’s more, I made the mistake (due to lack of funds and too much homework) of not buying a real amp for the thing, which is why I never really got round to playing it much. Of course, if you bought a Fender Telecaster in 1985-6 in Kettering for around £210 — blonde, white scratch plate with a slightly loose G-string — I’ll give you £210 for it. Do the right thing, won’t you? I’m feeling rather guilty about this conspicuous begging, even though it happens to be my birthday today. And you can’t blame a guy for not wanting another set of G-clamps. -- Tim Penn

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