You know this guitar. You may also know that the last (and extremely faithful) replica of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein in 2007 cost $32,000.
They were so limited that by the time you could fill out the forms to simultaneously re-mortgage, sell your nan’s kidney and get divorced, these puppies were already off the market.
Well, it might not be quite the heavy relic that Eddie built, but this guitar is close enough. It’s the most anticipated rock guitar of the year – if not decade – and it can be yours in a choice of three striped finishes for less than half-a-grand. Let’s start at the beginning...
The Frankenstein has been Ed’s number one guitar since he put it all together from parts sourced largely from Wayne Charvel’s San Dimas repair store. Legend has it that he literally had to trawl through a pile of blanks until he found two that he just felt went together.
“You know, I bought a body from them for 50 bucks and a neck for 80 bucks, slapped it together, put an old Gibson pickup in it, and it’s my main guitar,” said Ed at the time. “Painted it up, you know, with stripes and stuff. I guess that’s my thing.”
The Frankenstein’s hardware was stripped from a vintage Strat Eddie had bought previously during his time with various high school bands.
“[The vibrato] was actually from my old ’58 Strat: I took the tailpiece out. Like with new Fenders, the vibrato tailpiece isn’t half as good as the original old ones. So I took that out...”
Eddie’s guitar features a humbucker that’s shrouded in confusion – it came from a Gibson ES-335 and was fitted into Frankenstein for use on Van Halen’s first album, but Ed subsequently used the guts of that same PAF to rewind – by hand – a DiMarzio unit.
“Yeah, a DiMarzio with a PAF magnet, rewound with copper tape around the windings,” Ed confirmed. “Well, I dipped it in paraffin [wax] before I put the copper tape on. I mean, you have to be really careful with the plastic. It looks like a wrinkled prune, actually, but it still works.”
By his own admission, Eddie had fallen in love with using vibrato but found that – perhaps unsurprisingly – it was very difficult to keep the guitar in tune. As a result, he was forced to go looking for some solutions.
The list of these included hand-stretching the strings while playing after using the whammy bar, boiling his strings to remove their elasticity, carefully stringing the guitar so that the ball end wasn’t in any way twisted and having as shallow an angle as possible over the nut – so much so that Ed found he’d actually have to pop the strings back into the slots while playing.
Then along came a young American innovator by the name of Floyd Rose... And Eddie was set up.
“The Floyd Rose thing is a real good idea,” confirmed Ed at the time. “My brother actually had the exact same idea years ago. He said, ‘Why don’t you clamp it down here and there, and there’s no way it will go out of tune?’ But I just kind of passed it off because I don’t have a machine shop, so I couldn’t build it. So Floyd pursued it, and he’s got a hot item.”
Not only did Eddie create one of the most iconic electric guitars ever, but he also sparked the hot-rodding revolution, the influence of which still rings through guitar design to this day. There’s no way you can expect EVH to replicate every inch of the Frankenstein in a budget model – there’s a reason for that whopping price tag and hen’s-teeth availability – but the company has captured the essence of the Frankenstein with the new Striped series.
You get an EVH Wolfgang bridge pickup, EVH-branded Floyd Rose with Eddie’s D-Tuna and compound-radius neck (with the same hand-rubbed oil finish as the Wolfgang Special) and the all-important striped paintjob. Eddie’s original was finished with tape, and the Striped series comes in a choice of three colour schemes: Red with Black (and White), Black with Yellow, and White with Black stripes.
We’ve placed this guitar at the top of our list for a number of reasons: 1) it’s an instantly recognisable icon; 2) it’s one of the most anticipated guitars we’ve seen in a long time; 3) the features and that all-important finish give you a ton of options; and finally, and most importantly, 4) it offers all of the above at what we consider to be a ridiculously low price.
Of course, this is all totally dependent on whether or not you like the Striped finish to begin with, but surely that’s the whole point of a signature model? Ultimately, it’s fitting that the man who took customisation to the extreme should top our list.
Subtle it certainly is not, but if veiled scrawls and hidden tweaks are your bag, buy a standard production guitar. Meanwhile, we can feel an eruption coming on.