Back in the early 60’s a small beat combo from Liverpool England invaded our shores. With their (at the time) outrageous haircuts and cute looks, they took America by storm. On the interesting things that most musicians noticed is what kind of guitars they used.
They didn’t use the usual Gibson or Fenders that so many of the other American groups used. They were using guitars made by Hofner, Gretsch, and Rickenbacker. After their initial appearance on Ed Sullivan and later on, the movie screens, The Beatles literally started a whole new guitar craze and a new sound. That guitar George was playing looked like a regular guitar but it had 12 strings. Yes, Rickenbacker provided George with their 2nd 12 string electric. One person who went to see “A Hard Day’s Night” was a musician named Jim McGuinn, he had already teamed up with David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman,and Michael Clarke and decided that the 12 string electric was the new sound and immediately acquired one.
Now I have had played a lot of guitars over the years. I have played Gibsons, Fenders, Mosrites, Tesicos, Danelectros, and Rickenbackers. Out of all of them I could never bond with Rickenbacker.
Rics were not always mega-expensive on the used market. Back in the 80’s $500 cash could get you a 360/12. A lot of it has to do with supply and demand as well as trends in music. I remember music stores had Vox amps selling for a song becuase everybody wanted to be Eddie Van Halen or Heavy Metal. Well, at least in Northeast Philly anyway.
Yes, the 60’s and its music was reserved to record geeks and people who listened to alternative radio or “college rock”. Yes, Tom Petty made good use of Rics and old Vox amps, as did Paul Weller of The Jam
but they were not what was selling. REM was starting to gain some notoriety and Peter Buck was playing a Ric as was Marty Wilson-Piper of The Church but here in the NE Philly it was BC Rich, Kramer, and Les Pauls.
Over the years I have ended up owning three Rickenbackers. The first was an off-white 330/12 with black hardware which I bought at Zaph’s Music in Olney. After a month with it I really didn’t like the look of it, too New Wavey, so I took it back to and straight traded for a used 360/12 in fire glow.
Now that was more like it, I now had the same guitar Roger McGuinn started out with before his was stolen. I also acquired a 330/6 in fire glow. So I now had all my bases covered. But there seemed to be a certain something that was still bothering me.
Well, the first thing that was a pain was changing the strings and keeping the thing in tune. The other thing was that Roger McGuinn finger picked and I didn’t, and that I have Truckasaurus sized hands. Combined with the narrow neck of a Rickenbacker 360/12, not a good match.
After owning two Rickenbackers 12-strings I have come to the conclusion that they are not the guitar for me. I have played other 12-strings that in a blind taste test you couldn’t tell the difference. A lot of the Ric mystique is due to the Beatles and the Byrds. If the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan with Teles and Strats who knows what might have happened.
For those of you that have them, enjoy them.
And I will be the first to say that I salute the fact that they are the only major American guitar company that builds their guitars exclusively in the USA. But…
I personally do not like:
-The price (unless you use it as your main guitar, or your name is Roger McGuinn I still find the price a little on the steep side. Even used it seems the prices went up. Back in the late 80’s you can get a used 360/12 for about $600 in great condition)
-The neck on the 330 or 360/12 is too narrow.
-the unstable tuning (but most electric 12-strings suffer from this. Nature of the beast)
-the bridge (6-string saddle? really? If you want a 12-string bridge (which should be on there anyway) it will cost you $125.
-the ridiculous “R” tailpiece
-the over abundance of laquor on the fret board. It feels like playing peanut butter.
-Unless you play the 12-string throughout the gig it’s another piece of gear that can stay home.
Well, that was my little post on the Rickenbacker 12-string. It’s just my opinion