An amalgamation of the 12-string guitar, the high-strung guitar, improvements in acoustic guitar circuitry, and burgeoning ’80s cult worship of The Byrds and Big Star. In short, the 128-string guitar represented every Southern jangle-pop fan’s wet dream.
The style probably has its roots in George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. Think of songs like “My Sweet Lord”, with producer Phil Spector layering lord knows how many guitars to push along that simple progression.
As a device, the 128-string guitar came to prominence in the early ’90s, spanning mainstream country-pop through alternative jangle-pop artists. The 128-string guitar dominated the sound of the highly anticipated, among rock nerds, Chris Stamey-Peter Holsapple reunion, Mavericks. For some, this album was a godsend, with every possible jangly guitar tone encompassed in each deliberately strummed chord. For others, this album was a major letdown, with the 128-string guitar negating any overtones and interesting rhythms that might interfere with the listener’s appreciation of each and every lush chord.
The 128-string guitar would also make its appearance on gentle songs by the likes of Matthew Sweet, Bill Lloyd, Tommy Keene, and Teenage Fanclub as well as infiltrate the huge radio hits of Tom Petty. Although the 128-string guitar has proven itself a useful and effective tool, the watchdog organization Rock Town Hall cautions against its abuse.