Review: Fender 60th Anniversary Jaguar

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Review: Fender 60th Anniversary Jaguar

Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Fender Australia | RRP $4,899

For most of us, the Fender Jag has been around for as long as we can remember. Made famous by countless players since 1962, the Jaguar is the janglier cousin of the Jazzmaster, Stratocaster, and Telecaster, and was designed to push the envelope for the most demanding players, offering more tonal possibilities than the Jazzmaster that was released in 1958. The Jaguar found its way into the hands of surf rockers during the ‘60s and ‘70s, whose clean, springy tones influenced the emerging indie rock and new wave bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

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Unique pickups featuring notched side plating provided better RF shielding, making the Jag less prone to interference and hum and allowing players to push gain and tone without the worry of also amplifying radio signals. The offset body was modern, forward thinking, albeit maybe ahead of its time. The original American Jags were produced from 1962-1975, and ironically became popular among indie and punk players throughout the ‘80s, before a Japanese reissue was produced. An American made reissue was released in 1999, and in 2022 we honour 60 years of the Jaguar with the 60th Anniversary Jaguar in Mystic Lake Placid Blue, and also available in Mystic Dakota Red.

Block inlays and painted headstocks made up some of the most famous Jaguars, and the 60th Anniversary Jaguar features both of these. The inlays are white pearloid blocks, and they’re embedded into a round laminated Rosewood fretboard. The neck is Maple, finished with a 1966 Jaguar “C” shape and clear coat of Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer. The body is finished in the same lacquer, matching the painted headstock. The tuning machines are Fender Vintage “F” stamped for the total Fender feel, while a bone nut, six threaded steel saddles, and a Vintage-Style floating tremolo secure the strings at either end. The tremolo can be locked, and for ease of use it features a simple pop-in arm, rather than the screw variation. 

Electronically, the 60th Anniversary Jaguar features everything that was designed to push the Jaguar and Fender brand into the future. Borrowing from its predecessor the Jazzmaster, the 60th Anniversary Jaguar features separate ‘Lead’ and ‘Rhythm’ circuits, switchable via the toggle on the upper horn closest to the player. The Rhythm circuit features pots just beside the toggle to control volume and tone, while the Lead circuit is controlled via two pots in the more traditional place, beside the bridge. The Lead circuit also features on/off slide switches, one for each pickup and a two-position slide switch for the bass-cut, or ‘Strangle’ circuit which could aptly be renamed, the ‘Jangle’.

The Jaguars are known for their bright, punchy albeit fragile tones, which made them perfect for the driving and percussion guitar of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, gain and bottom end took over, but the Jaguar took this in its stride, remaining in the mids while drum and bass handled the punch and force. In the hands, the 60th Anniversary Jaguar is everything you’d want from a Jag. The 1966 neck shape shows Fender’s move towards increasingly thinner necks, moving away from the 50s “C” and “V” style necks, feeling more comfortable and more in line with the more modern “C” shape we’re used to feeling from the more recent American Ultra and Professional series’. Usually I’m not a fan of finished necks, but for the sounds that this Jag inspires begs for steady and solid chords anyway, so I didn’t find myself flying around the neck. The weight is good and the offset body is as comfortable as ever, the toggles and pots all within reach to carefully and articulately refine that perfect rock tone.

The 60th Anniversary Jaguar, in this case a Mystic Lake Placid Blue affair (and the case, in this case, is a special edition hardshell case with an embroidered 60th Anniversary Crest to match the neck plate) is absolutely a stellar way to celebrate one of the most unique and forward thinking guitar designs in history. 

As a general rule, I don’t think it matters what guitar is used to create music, but the Jag bucks that trend, being a guitar that itself has inspired entire movements throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, albeit maybe not what Leo Fender originally designed it for. The Jag was a slow seller initially, but cult fame brought it back into production in both the ‘90s and 2000s, despite a lot of that harkening back to the famed models of the ’60s that never sold well. The Jag is as iconic as the Strat or the Tele, but for entirely its own unique reason, and the entirely unique sounds you can concoct from a seemingly simple design with a multitude of different wiring and routing options. The pickups take gain well, but are equally at home through a clean amp, and the neck shape, aesthetic, and hardware is equal parts true to classic Fender Jaguars and the best of the best design elements from ‘60s years of Fender. 

If you believe an offset Fender is an essential part of a guitar player’s collection, why settle for anything less than a USA-made Jag that pays homage to both its inception and its future.

Head to Fender’s website for more information.