1970 Gibson SG Special

Ladies & gents, let me introduce to you… the DOOM BRINGER!

This Thursday, I have the absolute pleasure of going to see Black Sabbath. I am beyond excited… as I detailed in the previous guitarnerd story, Tony Iommi is pretty much my favourite guitarist. So as soon as tickets were available, I splashed out on Gold Class tickets for me and my brother and waited the loooong months for the day to finally arrive. In the meanwhile, I’ve been listening to Black sabbath non-stop. This isn’t anything unusual, as that’s what I pretty much listen to anyway. But this time I REALLY was listening to them all the time. Eating, walking to work, working, in the shower. ALL THE TIME.

This had an effect on my guitarnerdom. I started having an irresistible urge to start my Death ‘N Roll band again that I’d started with some mates a few years ago. We jammed a few times and it was really fun playing those huge riffs, but kids and other responsibilities put a hold on the band for a while. Now thanks to Mr Iommi I was fired up again, so I emailed the gang and said ‘August. We’re on. Let’s do it!’

So, of course I needed the right guitar for this band. I’d been using my Les Paul Custom, but thanks to playing bass in my cane punk band, my neck isn’t what it used to be. My main workhorse is my white pinstriped SG, which I absolutely felt at home on more than any of my other guitars. But I didn’t want to re-setup the guitar to C# as I used it for my other bands, the Horrortones and the Arcolas, so I needed another solution.

Well, I’d just have to get another SG, wouldn’t I?

I’d recently sold some of my music gear, so I had a little budget to work to for my Doom Stick. I’d absolutely would’ve LOVED a Jaydee Old Boy and was even contemplating getting one for my 40th birthday next year. But I really couldn’t justify spending $3,500 and also the 18 month waiting list was a factor. I needed it now! The next best thing was I contacted John Diggins from Jaydee (OMG!) and asked if I could buy a set of Old Boy pickups. He said fine… I paid my deposit and he said to expect them in 6 to 8 weeks. These were the exact pickups Tony Iommi had used in his guitars since 1978, handmade by the guy who makes Tony Iommi’s guitars. I was feeling pretty…. emotional.

Next up was to find a guitar worthy of these mighty pickups. It had to be an SG (obviously) but I had my mind set on an old one. To tell the truth, I’m not really a fan of some of the recent Gibson instruments I’ve seen. I fully realise that most of the woods we’ve come to expect from Gibson just isn’t available anymore… but I’ve heard some horror stories about ‘new’ Gibsons which I won’t repeat here, so my rule is that if it’s made after 1999… I don’t want it.

So, for months I kept on eBay. The most promising looking guitars were the SG Special’s from the 70’s with the mini humbuckers. The Old Boy’s should fit in no problem… or maybe with a little help.

But none of them really came up for the right price… plus they didn’t ‘grab’ me. Also a lot of them were brown or close to it, and I wanted cherry. Up until this point I’d only been looking at SG’s with the smaller ’62 pickguard. But while reading on John Birch SG’s on the web, I came across this pic in a forum…

This changed everything. Up until now I hadn’t considered the full ‘bat-wing’ SG Special, but with the John Birch pickups in it… it looked amazing. A quick search on ebay and I found this 1970 SG Special in the US… and the starting bid was 99c.

It was absolutely gorgeous. It had a headstock repair (which I don’t mind if they’re done well) and the P90’s weren’t the originals, which was perfect for my plans. The price was still low… so I put in my bid, and apart from some last minute competition, I got it for a song.  I then had a week to contemplate my new axe whilst it made it’s long trip from sunny California to sunny Queensland. Being a nerd, I had to see what it was going to look like…

Holy crap! It was even better than I thought. I added a BadAss bridge in honour of Tony Iommi’s original Monkey SG and also to help with the C# tuning. So I kept on the USPS tracking page and watched the guitar make it’s way through LA, Hawaii, Sydney and then Brisbane. Last night I came home from work and found a very well packed box waiting for me. After cooking dinner for my family and changing my new bub’s nappy, I tore the box open. Halle-freakin’-luyah!

The first thing I noticed was that the condition was a lot better than I was expecting. Apart from the headstock repair (and the typical stinger headstock paint job) it was in GREAT condition for a 43 year old guitar! It had a few chips here and then but I was in love with it. The colour was a beautiful deep cherry, with almost no fading.

The original bent metal tremolo had been taken off recently, which was also fine (I hate those things) and the bridge looked to be a new replacement. No worries, I was going to BadAss it anyway.

I was stoked with the body checking. Man, I love old nitro guitars…. they’re just mojo machines. The scratchplate had a tiny corner missing, but it was the original and I wasn’t fussed. The whole scratchplate is going to get replaced when the Old Boys arrive. I’ll pack it away safely.

The neck is so very, very comfortable. It has the narrow nut width which I love, along with a bit of meat that keeps getting bigger the further you go up the neck. Very similar to my 60’s Epiphone Olympic. And the fretboard is beautiful Brazilian Rosewood with some very nice dot inlays.

The original 3×3 tuners have been replaced with typical Gibson snot green tulip copies. I’m going to search for some vintage Grovers, as I love the look of them and I think it will suit the overall vibe of the guitar.

The body itself is one piece, which is a rare thing in new Gibsons. That’s why I prefer hunting out for old bargains like this. You really get your moneys worth. The whole guitar is really light, with the typical slight SG neck dive. A wide suede leather guitar strap fixes that.

Anyway, after all this… how does she sound?

Well, as I have a newborn baby in the house, I can’t exactly blast this through my rig. So I plugged into my favourite toy… my Vox ‘Heavy Metal’ Amplug headphone amp and played the intro to ‘War Pigs’. The hairs on my arm stood up… it had ‘that’ sound. This guitar just RIIIIIINGS… it has loads of sustain and is so light that you can feel the whole guitar vibrate when you strum the strings. Again… this is very similar to my vintage Epi Olympic.

So, as you can tell… I am beyond stoked with this guitar. I love a bargain and I love vintage SG’s, so it just shows that if you keep your eyes open, there are still great finds out there. As soon as she gets the Jaydee pickup and hardware transplant, I’ll post up some new pics. Stay tuned.

Here’s a taster of what my band Battlekått is going to sound like. This is a rough recording from one of our rehearsals a few years ago. Enjoy!