Fender StratocasterThis was the first electric guitar I bought, way back in the Seventies. The vendor was a surfer down in Cornwall where I used to live. He affected to be so cool that his price wasn’t open to discussion. But the price was actually fine, probably because he didn’t realise what a special guitar it is.

A three-bolt Strat, from the early seventies, with a maple neck and the most Seventies colour you could imagine – a brown-green avocado. (It’s probably an oddly faded “Mocha Brown” – one of Fender’s most unusual colours.) But best of all, and comparatively rare, it was a hardtail – without the spring-loaded tremolo, its tailpiece set firmly into solid wood.

The wondrous thing about a hardtail is the sustain. There are Strats where people have removed the tremolo, and even filled the large cavity in which the trem springs sit, in attempts to achieve this sustain. But these imitations are nothing like the real thing – thanks to its very heavy, solid ash. Some people liken hardtail Strats to Telecasters, but with all the Strat characteristics as well – a splendid combination in my book.

Being the seventies, Fender’s coil winders lost count of the number of turns they wound into the pickup coils. Always too many – a benefit perhaps of the gentle types of marijuana available in those days, 1970’s overwound pickups produce a really strong signal. Added to the resonance of the body, this creates a distinctive and serious rock sound that’s more defined than a Les Paul.

There are of course a lot of detractors who mutter about 1970’s “CBS” Fender guitars: that the heavy ash doesn’t help with tone, but makes them back-breakingly heavy, that the three-bolt neck connections are unstable and even that the bullet-shaped truss rod nut is somehow inferior. Well boogaloo good buddies! All that tells me is that you’ve never owned one – or also that maybe you’ve never owned a Les Paul at the same time; to which the hardtail Strat compares extremely interestingly. It’s cleaner – but with the same sustain, body and depth of tone.

Anyway, my hardtail is now re-fretted and totally set up. Way back in the 80s I fitted a five-way pickup selector and an active tone control selector that incrementally increases the signal adding thicker (Les Paul’ish) tones. So for me, the avocado hardtail is my general-purpose, Swiss Army knife, rock guitar. Quite simply, it does everything! Big smiles.

Hardtail Fender Stratocaster – Swiss Army knife of a rock guitar
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