Raw Power: Jackson Heights

While classic guitar names such as Gibson and Fender are certainly cornerstones of today’s ever- expanding vintage guitar market, it’s not all about companies that began their foray into the world of rock’n’roll when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Names established more recently are equally as worthy of the ‘vintage’ tag these days, and Jackson Guitars, established by American builder Grover Jackson in the early 80s, are, as Nigel Tufnell would say, top of the heap.

In 1984, Jackson moved the goalposts forever with the release of the Soloist, a so-called ‘hybrid’ design that mixed established fixtures with others intended to meet the demands of the modern rock player. In among these new features, alongside the active pickups and a streamlined shape, was something that had never been tried in the market previously: a thru-neck. The wood for the Soloist’s neck ran the entire length of the instrument, from headstock to rear strap pin, with the body comprising ‘wings’ of tonewood tacked on to the sides of this central thru-neck. Advantages of this construction method include improved stability, tone and sustain, and it’s no exaggeration to say that just about every rock player of the time wanted one.

The version pictured is one of just 30 worldwide examples of the Jackson 30th Anniversary Soloist, each built by Mike Shannon, the man who put the originals together back in ’84. He uses a number of the original tools in their construction, and the results reek of unashamed rock and flash, just like they did back then. It’s a wonderful guitar, and if you can meet the totally worth-it asking price, then one can be yours. Squeezing into that vintage Van Halen T-shirt may prove rather more of a challenge.

£3,622.80, jacksonguitars.com


How Eddie Van Halen helped a Leppard change his spots.

Def Leppard’s Phil Collen is a staunch advocate of the sonic wonders of the Jackson Soloist guitar. But how did he come to be so enamoured by the ‘hybrid’ design?

“I saw Van Halen play when they came over to England, and I was fortunate enough to meet Eddie,” he told Guitarist magazine. “I was talking to him and I said: ‘I’ve got this [Fender] Strat and it’s great, I love it, but I still can’t get it to burn.’ He said: ‘You’ll never be happy. You’ve got to put a humbucker [pickup] in it. You’ve just got to go for it.’ So I did, on Eddie’s advice. “That guitar ended up being called Felix, and it was the main guitar on Hysteria, on the likes of Animal and Pour Some Sugar On Me. All the soloing and the main guitar tracks were done on this Strat that had a humbucker.”