Kurt Cobain's '65 Jaguar is an anomaly: one of those happy accidents that played a huge part in the guitar-playing identity of its owner.
Kurt bought the Jag from an unknown seller (possibly thought to be former Cliff Richard guitarist Martin Jenner), complete with most of the mods that makes it unique.
When Fender issued the Kurt Cobain Road Worn Jaguar in 2011, it instantly defined everything we hope for in a signature model, while simultaneously sending the sound of air-through-teeth around the office as we eyeballed the price tag. Now, 20 years after Kurt's premature passing, Fender has released a 'NOS' (New Old Stock) version of the Cobain Jag.
"Gone is the Road Worn finish, but the rest of the heavy mods remain"
To some, Road Worn finishes are the equivalent of wearing a printed tattoo sleeve or a clip-on earring - so gone are the bumps, scrapes and dings meticulously modelled after Kurt's original, replaced with a pristine gloss polyester coat. The rest of the heavy mods remain: the DiMarzio PAF/Super Distortion pickup combo, black chrome bridge, period-incorrect 'Spaghetti' Fender logo, second volume pot and three-way pickup switch.
One of the most personal touches about Fender's reissue was the neck plate, featuring an engraved Fender logo hand-drawn by Cobain in his journals. We're glad to see that it's present here, too.
The short scale makes traversing the neck easy, and while it does mean that you'll want some heavy strings if you want to down-tune, it can more than cope with standard tuning and drop D. The array of switches could appear confusing at first, but it's actually key to unlocking this guitar's tone.
With the slide switch down (nearest to you), you'll engage the Jaguar's rhythm circuit - which selects the neck pickup, overriding the three-way selector and pots, leaving the two thumbwheels to control the volume and tone.
Flick the toggle floorwards, and you engage the other electronics for a more 'traditional' control layout. Switching positions is lightning- fast, and you can also use the three-way as a killswitch.
Tonally, the Cobain Jaguar is every bit as good - possibly better - than we remember. The neck PAF sounds great for hollow cleans, particularly with a bit of chorus or flanger (think Lithium or Come As You Are).
Meanwhile, the Super Distortion played clean is that sound from the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit. It's punchy and mid-heavy, with a smooth- yet-aggressive sound when it's married with distortion.
The original version of this guitar was the ultimate Cobain fan's wet dream. The pristine version moves away from the 'collector's replica' element visually, but maintains the sonic distinctions that make it so desirable.
We still have strong reservations about the price - particularly when Fender is putting out high-quality guitars for every budget (the Classic Player Jaguar Special HH will get you most of the format for a few hundred quid less). That said, you're unlikely to actually pay that, with current street prices hitting just over the £1,100 mark.