Mar 142021

Let’s take a break from talking about the quality of certain artists and whether cheese is palatable or not and talk about what everyone really cares about: aesthetics. Who cares if you have technical skill if you’re not looking snazzy while doing it. In all seriousness, I’d love to hear what your opinions are on some of the best looking or coolest guitars, basses, drums, or whatever other instruments are.

I suppose it wouldn’t be fair for me to ask without contributing something, so I’m going to give two. First would be this weird Strat that Todd Mohr is using here. I don’t know if I actually like the upside down headstock and f-hole on the Strat, or if it’s just so weird that I can’t help but admire it.

Second has to be all this custom synth housing in the Crowded House live-from-home video. The arrangement of it all and the variety of sound that you can get from shoving different electronics in the same body is interesting. Again, I have my doubts about this one, but I admire his commitment to finding a style that works for him and hammering it into the ground.

That’s enough out of me and my takes, I’d like to hear everyone else’s.


  35 Responses to “Best Looking Pieces of Musical Equipment”

  1. “…finding a style that works for him and hammering it into the ground” could be the truest thing ever written about Mitchell Froom.

    I think I generally have more of an appetite for Gear Talk than some others around these parts, and I’ve long believed that gear choices can be a window into one’s soul.

    Things I like:
    The Classics (Strats, Teles, Les Pauls, Rickenbachers, etc) guitars. Fender, Vox, Marshall, etc tube amps). I don’t think there’s a cooler looking guitar than the humble yet mighty Telecaster. The P Bass is by far my number one choice for bass.

    Oddball outliers such as:
    – Kay Barney Kessel model (
    – Fano Retrosphere (
    – Premier Multivox. A guy I know has not one, but two of these. He has meticulously restored one. The other still needs some attention (

    I dislike anything that disproportionately focuses on utility or performance such as Steinberger, pointy headstock shredder guitars, solid state modeling amps, equipment that seeks to fill too many roles instead of just doing one thing really well, anything with too many knobs and switches on it, etc.

    But even a lame choice can be overcome by commitment and attitude although the lamer the choice, the more commitment and attitude required. One of my bandmates plays a Burns Steer which is a butt ugly guitar, but I think he gets a great sound out of it and it looks cool when he plays it.

    Unexpected choices can be good or bad. I recently saw some footage of Howlin Wolf playing a Firebird. I thought that was a bizarre choice. I’m still working through my feelings about it. On the other hand, that picture of both Brian and Keith playing Firebirds is an awesome Look. Photos of Hendrix not playing a strat always look odd to me.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Finally, an RTH thread I can sink my teeth into! But heck — where to begin? Leaving aside iconic artist/instrument combos for now — oh, and lifetime gear UN-coolness demerits (see: Lou Reed) — how about a list of guitars that are always cool:

    1. Gibson Firebird. All “reverse” models are cool, but the coolest has to be the Firebird I:
    2. Hagstrom Swede. I owned one for a while, and it was one of the best instruments I ever played.
    3. Fender Starcaster. Goofy, but cool.
    4. Gibson ES-335. Took me about 40 years to come around on this one, but I really dig them now.
    5. Gibson SG, 1960-1967. Like the one George plays in the “Paperback Writer” video: (side note: what the wha? Have I never seen this video before, or is the quality just so startlingly great it just feels like it?)
    6. CONTROVERSY: BC Rich Mockingbird — I thought it was new and beautiful when it first appeared in the 70s, and I still think it’s new and beautiful now:
    7. Gretsch Country Gentleman. Both George *and* Chet played one.
    8. Gibson Tal Farlow. Because Ted Nugent ruined the Byrdland for me.
    9. Dan Armstrong. For obvious coolness reasons.
    10. Les Paul Standard, 1957-1970-ish. BUT: must not be flame-maple, burgundy, black, or any other wack-ass color. Only a faded, plain sunburst will do. Like this:

    There are lots more, but there’s 10 to start with.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    BTW, cdm— good on ya for busting on guitars that are supposed to be “I can play anything” instruments. Bullshit! That’s one of the many reasons I hate hate hate Paul Reed Smith guitars.

  4. There is a Youtube guy who buys extremely worn instruments. I think this is an interesting aesthetic. Here’s a link to a video to give you an idea.

    One very distinctive guitar I remember was a well worn sunburst Stratocaster that Byrne played on the Remain in Light Tour. I think that his is it in this picture but I couldn’t find a color shot. Belew also played a very well worn stat.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Of course, the GOAT worn guitar was the Rory Gallagher strat.

  6. First of all, Garlic Salt, welcome to the Main Stage! Not all Townspeople are willing to take on posting privileges. This is an excellent debut from you. Thanks.

    I’m not a gearhead, but I know what I like when I see it. All around, for guitars, I think Gretsch has the coolest aesthetic, right down to their name and logo. I own a Gretsch and am not even sure what it’s called (Duosonic, something-Jet???), but it’s cool.

    The Rickenbacker 4001 bass (and the guitar version shaped like that one) look super-cool to me. I’m never as thrilled with how Ricks function in my heavy hands, but they look cool.

    The fretless bass Rick Danko used to play was cool:

    Farfisa and Vox organs from the ’60s look amazing. If I could drive an instrument through a shore town on a beautiful day, it would be one of those combo-style organs.

    Those old-time analog synths that look like something Lily Tomlin’s switchboard operator would manage are so cool I can’t fathom what it would be like to stand alongside one of those things.

    I know very little about drums, but drums with that sparkly finish look cool.

    My Fender Jaguar is super cool. If only the switches did short out, or whatever is happening to them. I need to get that fixed.

    Pointy guitars suck, and headless guitars are even worse.

    The weird ’70s Peavy T-15 guitar is so awkward that I find it to be cool. I love how it skirts with being pointy while overcompensating with its curves.

    CORRECTION: It’s the T-60 that I find even more endearingly awkward. It has all the qualities of the T-15 plus unnecessary added knobs:

    Some of you know how much I hate Ovation acoustic guitars. About 5 years ago, I was in a music store in Brighton, UK, and I picked up an Ovation Viper, their hideous ’70s electric guitar that I’d associated with Peter Tosh. It actually felt and played great. It was so aesthetically bad in a way that only the ’70s could produce that I got really nostalgic for my painful childhood and wanted to buy it. However, it was really expensive, like $2,000. Too much for my budget. Maybe some day…

    Finally, there’s the Guitar That Got Away, a 1953 (?) Danelectro with a lipstick pickup and that weird Naugahyde-texture. I saw a beat-to-hell cream-colored one next to the 1978 Strat that would become my first real guitar. It was at Zapf’s Music, back in 1980. I had saved, let’s say, $200 to buy my first real guitar. The Strat was about $199. For $50 I could have bought the Danelectro, but I’d already pledged my savings to the closest thing I could find to Robbie Robertson’s Strat from The Last Waltz. I went with the Strat. I love that thing to this day, but I still think about the Guitar That Got Away.

  7. Hrrundi: PRS – those are exactly the “Swiss Army” guitars that I was thinking of when I made that comment.

    I also have become very intrigued by the 335 and would now probably get one of those before I got a proper Les Paul (I have a Les Paul but it has mini humbuckers).

    I could see a case being made for the BC Rich Mockingbird, but as the former owner of the absurd Rich Bich, I’m a little gun-shy. As I may have mentioned here before, I never liked heavy metal so this may seem like a bizarre choice for me but I was lured in by 1970’s Joe Perry (

    I forgot to mention the latest object of my obsession: the SG. I played one with P-90s not too long ago and felt and sounded great. I think they are really ugly and I’ve long considered myself not cool enough to play therm anyway but lately they’ve been turning my head. I don’t think I’ve gotten any cooler, I just feel less intimidated by them.

    Mod, good calls al around, especially about the Vox and Farfisa organs. And you totally made the right choice with that strat. It’s such a cool guitar

    I’m glad Fritz brought up the topic of finishes. It’s almost as important as the guitar model itself. I have very strong opinions about which finishes look good on which guitars but I will start with this piping hot take: In general, except for maybe that Daphne or Sonic Blue that Fender used in the 50s, very few guitars look good with a blue finish. Conversely, almost every guitar looks pretty good with some kind of sunburst, even if there are other finishes that loo even better on it.

  8. Love my black and white Jimmy Page reissue Danelectro. Plays great and stays in tune. I have loads of old vintage guitars, but all of them have issues. Another winner is my white short scale Squier bass which looks exactly like the one you see Brian Wilson playing in early black and white Beach Boys clips. Never have issues with it. Like the Danelectro, cheap and reliable.

  9. Where do people land on cocktail drum kits? I love the concept of a kit with a small footprint and easier to transport. Some of them have a cool look as then try to accommodate the small space and strangely placed beaters, while some of them look like a car that is missing its doors.

  10. From my limited experience, those cocktail kits, while looking extremely cool, don’t always sound the best.

  11. 2000 Man

    Not being a musician, I get to base everything I think about a guitar (or any instrument) totally on looks. I don’t like the way little guys look with giant guitars. Some Les Paul’s seem like they go from some guys’ knees to their shoulders. You just can’t rock with that.

    I like this guitar of Keith’s. He got it stolen long ago:

    Cyril Jordan’s guitar is cool:

    Alan Bouchard from Blue Oyster Cult has a guitar painted like the Agents of Fortune album cover. It’s pretty cool in a way over the top way but I can’t find a picture of it.

    I saw a band once that brought a Farfisa organ with them. I was really excited and thought they’d be a real surprise as an opening act and maybe have a garage rock kinda sound. Instead I’m pretty sure the guitar player walked over to it and played one note in one song for one second. I thought dragging stuff around for that band must have been a really crappy job.

  12. I had to look up what a cocktail drum kit was; I’d never heard the term. The lack of a floor tom really gave me the creeps. I love floor tom. The description of the car without its doors rang true.

    On my search, I did find this kid’s drum kit, which I DEFINITELY want:

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    Can one of our Beatles turbo-nerds review that Paperback Writer video and tell me if it’s new or unusual in any way?

  14. HVB, I had a similar reaction. I know I’ve seen clips of that video, but don’t recall ever seeing it from start to finish. Pretty sure there are scenes of it in The Compleat Beatles. They seem very bored.

  15. This is a great candidate for one of those “if you can’t say something nice…” posts.

  16. I also don’t recall seeing that Paperback Writer clip in full. It does look fantastic, like it was done on high quality movie film.

    I love that he rhymes “Lear” with “be a” going to the title phrase.

    Does this offend Mockarr, he of the perfect rhyme fixation?

  17. garlic salt

    I agree with a lot of the takes here, which is a rare experience when scrolling through a RTH thread, but I’d like to address a few things specifically.

    For hrrundivbakshi, I thought a lot of these were pretty solid takes, but the one I really can’t agree with is the Fender Starcaster, namely because it looks enough like the thinline tele to remind me of it, but nowhere near as cool as it.

    I agree with CDM on the PRS and certain other things like it, and would also like to add Jacksons to my list. I don’t know why but I could never get over the headstock. Also while on the topic of the oddball outliers you mentioned, I would like to give an acknowledgement to a guitar that I never thought I would like, the pink sparkle DiPinto custom that you have. I have never been a fan of sparkly guitars but that one is the exception to my rule.

    For Mr. Mod, I’d like to heavily agree with the Jaguar, though I can never decide whether I like that or the Jazzmaster better. I think I have to give it to the Jaguar because for some reason that awkward looking slide switch is quite endearing to me. I will also give props for the mention of the Rick Danko bass, though I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an instrument played by a member of the Band that I didn’t like.

  18. garlic salt

    Oh, forgot to throw in a hot take. I really am not a fan of sunburst. Sure it looks good sometimes, but I’ll say that it is incredibly overrated.

  19. A pal of mine has two of those scroll top Ampeg basses, fretted and fretless. They are a particularly wild beast up close, but not very practical in their original configuration, which included only a built in bridge pickup. I believe Danko had a P-bass pick up added.

    Speaking of sunburst, the some of these including the two that I’ve held, had an interesting two color sunburst, red to black.

  20. I like the amplifiers that have the spongey naugahyde covering like a car seat. I was convinced Orange made amps with that padding, but haven’t seen a photo to confirm my memory. Orange amps do have the fantastically BIG knobs for volume and tone. The interwebs shows that “Plush” and “Custom”, and “Matamp” made amps with padding in a variety of colors. I still thought early Orange amps did too. Anyone else recall if Orange had amps in that padded rubber room material? The absence of a photo makes me think I’m combining amp characteristics in my head.

  21. Kustom was the most well known amp with the sparkly car seat cover. John Fogarty used them live but apparently recorded with a Fender Deluxe. A friend of mine had one. I recall that it looked much cooler than it sounded.

    I don’t recall Orange amps having a padded cover. They are really cool looking. in addition to the big knobs, they have some weird symbols to denote the function of each knob (–ORARK50HIII)

    Garlic Salt, thank you for the kind words about my sparkly pink DiPinto but you need to rethink that sunburst opinion. That’s a tremendously disappointing take. Sunburst comes in many varieties. Surely there’s one for you.

  22. Kustom, that’s the one! I am combining memories. The Chicken Missus had a Kustom amp in the blue sparkly version. She sold it before I knew her to a guy in New York that didn’t even play music! He was collecting them in the different colors as interesting furniture. That has to prove some aesthetic quality to the design.

  23. I had one of those as well. I wonder where they rank in terms of quality. I think Kustom might be something slightly above Silvertone.

  24. BigSteve

    I own one of those clear Dan Armstrong guitars. I bought it new maybe ten years ago, so it’s not vintage, but it’s great. It weighs a ton, but it sustains for days, which is why I’ve only even used it for slide.

    I also have a mid 70s Telecaster Deluxe in glorious shit-brown, the model with the ‘wide range’ humbuckers. A friend of mine bought it cheap, before that model achieved it’s current cool status. Once he bought a Gibson ES-345, he never wanted to play any other electric guitar, so he loaned it to me. When I evacuated from New Orleans two steps ahead of Hurricane Katrina I brought my Martin and this Tele. After many other instruments that were left behind drowned in the flood, my buddy just made the loan permanent. It’s a great guitar, completely lacking in swiss army knife qualities. It’s also built like a rock, like most Teles. If I don’t touch for a stretch, it’s usually still in tune when I pick it up again.

    I don’t really get the PRSphobia. They’re basically Gibsons with the scale length adjusted and the headstocks redesigned.

  25. BigSteve

    I think Roland electronic drums are cool, and I’m surprised more bands don’t use them. Acoustic drums sound great when the volume of the band doesn’t require them to be miked, but when i go see bands I’m usually appalled by how bad the drums sound. Actually I think live sound is usually appalling in general, with excessive volume being the root of the problem, plus the fact the clubs and theaters were never designed as appropriate acoustic spaces. Someday we’ll all have chips in our brains, and the ‘sound’ of the musicians will be fed directly into our brains. And when I say we/our I’m referring to music fans in the future, i.e., after we’re all dead.

  26. I agree that sunburst is the most overrated finish for guitars.

  27. Saying sunburst is overrated is almost like saying the Beatles are overrated. Even if you can make a case that they are, there’s a good reason why. Also, “Sunburst” has many variations aside from the classic Fender 3 tone. I include Rickenbacher’s Fireglo and Tobacco burst on a Gibson Firebird.

  28. BigSteve, once again you perplex me. On the one hand, you have both a Dan Armstrong (I’d love to check one of these out since a number of my heroes seem to like them (Keith, Westerburg, Cyril Jordan), and you have Tele Deluxe.

    On the other hand, you are willing to stand up for the DX7 and Roland drums.

    You’re like the Sphinx. Kudos to you and your open mind.

    By the way, I remember when you had to evacuate NO (I think on the old listserv days) and I can’t believe I’ve know you guys for almost 20 years at this point.

  29. BigSteve

    I contain multitudes.

  30. It’s BigSteve’s birthday, by the way! It is cool how much of a bond I’ve built up with so many of you through the often virtual years. It’s also a miracle that EPG and I remain friends in real life.

  31. If sunburst-finish guitars were food, they’d be a grilled cheese with the orange American slices.

  32. Happy Birthday, BigSteve! I’m figuring it might be a good idea to have another Rock Town Hall Zoom again sooner than later. You better be there!

  33. Happy Birthday! Probably only one of two RTHers that is actually older than me, and the other guy only has me by a couple of months.

  34. CDM, the Dan Armstrong is one of the most rich sounding smash you in the face sounding guitars there is. My guitarist has (or had) one, and it was really crunchy in that Replacements style. At one time he either had or was chasing one in the rare black plexiglass, not nearly as cool but, of course, more valuable because of their rareness.

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