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Two short-lived reappearances were the limited-edition ‘Medallion’ model in 1972, and the Firebird 76, a sort of Firebird III with an unbound fingerboard and gold-plated metalwork.
It was hard to ignore the influence of the Firebird shape on Gibson’s RD guitars from the late 70s – a largely unsuccessful attempt to popularise onboard electronics. Gibson stayed quiet with the Firebird through the 80s, probably not encouraged when a further attempt at Fender-like styling, the Victory, failed.
There was some dabbling with ’bird reissues in the early 90s and some full- tilt remakes in 2000. The III, V and VII survive in the current line, where you’ll also find a Studio ’70s Tribute model. Gibson usually loves signature guitars, but only one artist-model Firebird has appeared, the limited-edition Johnny Winter model of 2008/2009. The peculiar Firebird X heaved into view in 2010, a heavily adapted take on a non- reverse Firebird with Robot tuning and onboard paraphernalia.
But the originals still have a certain something, and in the midst of all those Roman numerals, it can be tricky to remember which model is which. So, to finish, here’s a one-stop guide to ’bird spotting...
One pickup is always a reverse I. With two pickups, a reverse is either a III (dot markers) or a V (trapezoids), while a dual-pickup non- reverse model is a I (P-90s) or a V (mini- humbuckers). With three pickups, a reverse is always a VII, and a non is a III (P-90s) or a VII (minis). So, now you’re fully armed to grab a YouTube clip and say: “Ah, that’s Dave Mason with a reverse V” or “Here’s Brian Jones with a non-reverse III.” Or, more simply: “Now, there’s a nice, underrated guitar.”