Respect to the Stratocaster. Kudos to the Telecaster. Hats duly doffed to the Gibson Les Paul. But sometimes, in a rock scene dominated by drones playing off-the-peg electric guitars, it’s refreshing to see a man take the stage toting a giant fungal-infected foot (nice work, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal…). Here, we salute nine mad carpenters, circuit-breakers and rulebook-shredders – and the axes that make the scene a more ludicrous place.
Ace Frehley’s Gibson Les Paul
Not to be outdone by Gene Simmons’ blood-belching routine, the Spaceman’s solo spot employed a series of customised Gibsons that shot lasers, billowed smoke, pinged rockets and hovered above the KISS stage on a wire. “I was such an innovator, from the very beginning,” Ace points out, modestly.
Chris Stein’s Lieber Gigerstein
In 1998, the Blondie guitarist commissioned luthier Tom Lieber and Alien sculptor H.R. Giger to create the sort of stringed instrument that nightmares are made of. Complete with six-fingered xenomorph-claw headstock, it’s just the thing for playing the breezy calypso licks on The Tide Is High.
**Bumblefoot’s Vigier ‘Flying Foot’ **
If it smells of feet on the GN’R tourbus, blame Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal and his hornet-striped, horny-toenailed Vigier. “At the airport, when it goes through the X-ray machine, it’s always the same confused look,” he says. “You’d think airport security never saw a bag with a giant electronic foot in it…”
Rick Nielsen’s Hamer five-neck
Jimmy Page’s Stairway SG doubleneck: cool as hell. Rick Nielsen’s Hamer five-neck: not so much. As immortalised in the video for 1982’s She’s Tight, this over-endowed axe has one twelve-string, three six-string and one fretless neck, weighs a back-breaking 80 pounds – and gets precisely zero women hot. See also: Bill Bailey’s six-neck monster and Michael Angelo Batio’s quad-shredder.
Pete Shelley’s Starway
He’d paid a paltry £18 for it – but Shelley’s no-mark guitar became a priceless punk heirloom after it split during a 1976 Buzzcocks rehearsal: “I got carried away and ended up throwing it on the floor. But instead of breaking, it snapped into two pieces, and when I picked it up, it still played, looked even better and was a bit lighter.” Years later, as signature replica was produced in a limited run of just 88 units.
Joey Jordison’s B.C. Rich Warlock
The former Slipknot drummer siphoned his own blood for the gore-splashed finish of his original signature model. When it was rolled out to the general public, we had to make do with claret-coloured paint…
Bumblefoot’s ‘Swiss Cheese’ Ibanez Roadstar
Another entry for GN’R’s serial axe-murderer. “My dad had a bunch of drill bits,” remembers Thal of his earliest creation. “I drilled away the wood where ya rest your picking arm, and in the end it looked like shit. So I kept on drilling and eventually it looked like Swiss cheese…”
John 5’s ‘Lava Lamp’ Fender Telecaster
With its onboard neon lights and gelatinous green globlets, the spook-faced guitarist’s latest bespoke Tele evokes a hall of residence bong session. “It’s heavy as hell,” notes 5. “There’s anti-freeze in it, because [otherwise] when I ship it overseas and it’s really cold, the liquid would freeze and it’d crack…”
**Billy Gibbons’ sheepskin Dean **
The risible video for 1984’s Legs was redeemed by Gibbons and Dusty Hill spinning fleece-lined instruments on their belt-buckles. “That’s real sheepskin on those guitars,” says luthier Dean Zelinsky, who created them. “We used a horse-hair trimmer – I was dating a girl who trained horses at the time…”