Fender Music Australia | fender.com.au | RRP: $3599
The Fender Telecaster is, without doubt, one of the most widely used guitars of the last half-century. It has undergone many incarnations over these years — none as creatively retrograde as this one, however. The Original ‘70s Telecaster Custom harks back to the custom model released in that said decade when renowned humbucking pickup designer Seth Lover engineered a distinctive, wide-ranging humbucker for the Fender Custom.
The magnets that Lover had used in his humbucking pickups were manufactured with copper, iron, and nickel (known as CuNiFe). The combination of these elements made for a warm, full sound that was simply not obtainable on any other electric guitar at the time. The Custom was discontinued in 1979, as were the authentic CuNiFe-magnet pickups that came with it.
Fortunately, Fender were recently able to locate a forge that was willing to reproduce the CuNiFe hybrid once more, for the purposes of this Telecaster Custom reissue. The ‘70s Custom’s revived CuNiFe humbucker is accompanied by a Tim Shaw-designed ‘70s single-coil bridge pickup — this makes for a rich variety of tones, ranging from crunchy and present, to more mellow and subdued.
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Specs-wise, the ‘70s Telecaster Custom boasts an alder body, a mid-sized ‘60s C-shaped maple neck, six Fender Vintage F-stamped tuners, a ‘70s style 3-bolt neck plate, a 3-position pickup selection toggle, as well as volume and tone controls for each pickup. Just by looking at it, you can recognise the amount of time and effort that has gone into cultivating this delightful vintage reissue.
In your hands, the Telecaster Custom is absolute bliss to play. I personally prefer to play my instruments sitting down, whether it’s bass or guitar, and I found the ‘70s Telecaster Custom ideal for this. While I’ve never really been a huge fan of glossy guitar/bass necks, this doesn’t detract from the playability of this guitar in the slightest.
Playing this Telecaster Custom for the first time reminded of the time I walked into a Steinway & Sons shop and asked to play the most expensive grand piano there. The action, the even tone, the impeccable design of the instrument: everything was flawless; everything felt easy. I got that same feeling with the Telecaster. The action is beautifully set, and the string tension is ideal for both plectrum players and fingerpickers. All of this, and I hadn’t even plugged it in yet.
I decided to run this guitar through through a range of amplifiers on Logic Pro X to see what it had on offer. I racked my brains to think about some of my favourite Telecaster players, and Graham Coxon from Blur immediately sprang to mind. By playing along with some of those ingeniously intricate lines from Modern Life is Rubbish, I appreciated the multifaceted role the Fender Telecaster played in sonically molding that album. I found that switching to the single-coil bridge pickup (with a bit of edge off the tone control) helped me to highlight some of those weaving countermelodies on songs such as ‘Chemical World’. Conversely, the humbucker was perfect for some of the fuller, more rhythmic layers.
For something more bluesy, I intrepidly attempted some Cream-era Clapton. I set the pickup toggle in the middle – so as to get the best of both pickups – plugged it through a crunchy amp with some wah, and ended up with some utterly outrageous tones. While Eric may not have used a Telecaster on those Cream records, the Original ‘70s Custom does an outstanding job at replicating those dulcet tones of his. I found that phrasing my solo lines was near effortless, due to the sheer resonance and sustain that this guitar has to offer.
Fender have clearly been tenacious in their approach to crafting this superb ‘70s Custom reissue. It is a tonal chameleon, and excels at providing a wide range of sonic landscapes that other guitars just can’t. At this stage, it’s probably not within everyone’s price range. But if you are looking to spend big on a nice long-term musical investment, look no further than this all encompassing, versatile gem of an instrument.
For more information, head to Fender’s website.