Review: Fender Joe Strummer Telecaster

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Review: Fender Joe Strummer Telecaster

joe strummer telecaster
Words by James Callanan

Fender Music Australia | Price: $2,999

In the mid-to-late ‘70s, The Clash took the world by storm as a key band in the original wave of British punk rock. London Calling was their magnum opus and most successful album, which saw The Clash combine the more serrated and provocative elements of punk rock with reggae-inspired beats and basslines, and catchy vocal hooks that wouldn’t be out of place in the pop charts. At the centre of it all was front man Joe Strummer, who would often be seen wielding his beaten and bruised Telecaster.

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With their release of the new Joe Strummer Telecaster, Fender aims to capture the essence of Strummer’s iconic Tele, resulting in a guitar with roadwork aesthetics that doesn’t miss a beat. While structurally the guitar doesn’t stray too far from the typical Fender Telecaster, the combination of the road-worn finish that matches Strummer’s guitar and period-similar hardware makes the Joe Strummer Telecaster an enticing option for The Clash fanatics, as well as those after a reliable, worn-in instrument. The guitar is absent of The Clash front man’s name or signature, but the neck plate is embossed with a silhouette of a man that is unmistakably Joe Strummer, identifying this model as inspired by him.


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To match the aesthetics of Strummer’s Tele, Fender has gone to great lengths to make this guitar appear road worn. The metallic hardware is slightly tarnished, the neck appears to be naturally void of gloss, and the dints and scrapes closely mirror the guitar that features on so many The Clash classics. As a result, the guitar feels like a natural extension of your body to play, and has that beaten-in feel that so many guitarists long for. Though the wear patterns of the paints match Strummer’s, the paint is the most obvious sign that this is not a true vintage guitar – it looks to be done with a template. If hung on a wall as a collectible or played on a stage however, this thing looks like the original.

The neck of the Joe Strummer Telecaster provides a comfortable and non-obtrusive playing experience. As part of the road-worn design, the back of the maple neck has a satin finish, enabling near frictionless movement of the fretting hand when moving up and down the neck. With a “C”-shaped maple neck and a 7.25” radius rosewood fretboard, this guitar replicates the dimensions of Strummer’s ’66 model. Aesthetically, the faded pearloid inlays nicely match the matte finish of the rosewood fretboard, and the vintage-style tuning machines make changing strings a breeze.

The maple neck and alder body are nicely married, resulting in a highly resonant sound that musicians have come to expect from their Telecaster. Our review unit was nicely balanced, with the neck remaining relatively parallel to the ground when played standing up. Additionally, it had a comfortable weight, meaning that playing this guitar for hour-long sets would not pose any problems. The body’s road-worn hardware is highly detailed; from scuffs on the control plate to slightly tarnished screwheads. The pickguard is also period-accurate for Strummer’s original axe, constructed with three plies of parchment. While the paint does in some parts make it quite obvious that this guitar does not pose natural wear, the exposed wood on the bout where the forearm sits does make strumming more comfortable than Telecasters with gloss finishes, or even binding.

Staying true to Strummer’s guitar, the bridge has individual saddle pieces for each string – resulting in more accurate intonation than your traditional Tele with three saddle pieces. When played unplugged, the great resonance of this guitar was immediately noticeable – a testament to the quality of materials, fit, and finish of the Joe Strummer Telecaster.

The controls are exactly what you’d expect to find on your typical Tele; a three-way blade, and master volume and tone potentiometers. A point of difference between this model and your typical Mexican-made Telecaster is that this axe boasts custom Joe Strummer ‘60s single-coil Telecaster pickups. The output is the classic ‘60s Telecaster sound, with the bridge pickup producing bright, twangy, goodness, and the neck pickup offering that sweet Tele nectar. While the Joe Strummer nails the sound for playing The Clash covers (obviously), the sonic qualities of these pickups make it a sonically versatile guitar. This can do all your classic single-coil Telecaster material, from Harrison to Page to Buckley, it can easily pull off Julian Lage-style jazz with its gorgeous voice-like qualities, and still has enough output for the harder rock guitarists out there. All in all, this model offers much more range than you’d expect from Strummer’s name alone. 

While a relatively simple offering, the Joe Strummer Telecaster by Fender is a high-quality instrument in multiple facets. The wood selection and craftsmanship make for a well-built and resonant instrument, the componentry is solid and well-fitted to instil the player with confidence, and the clear and articulate pickups make this guitar suitable for a range of musical applications. The price is quite steep for what is essentially a slightly customised Mexican Telecaster with a road-worn finish, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many negatives with the quality of the guitar itself. 

Made with high attention to detail, the Joe Strummer Telecaster offers a quality reproduction of The Clash front man’s iconic guitar, to collectors and musicians alike.

Head to Fender for more information. For local enquiries, reach out to Fender Music Australia.