While all roads of Strat fandom will eventually lead players to seek out a vintage one as a dream purchase, most of us are priced out by '60s and '50 examples. The market frowned more on the CBS era '70s models enough that they could be found for realistic sums. But are they lesser guitars? Certainly not in Aynsley Lister's hands.
"At some point I sold a load of gear and I went on a hunt for an old one," the UK blues-rock artist tells Guitarist magazine of his search for the best Strat in a new interview. "I tried a bunch of them and couldn't find one I liked. Tried a load of Custom Shops, couldn't find one I liked – certainly that stood out. Then I saw this one available on the internet. Gumtree I think it was, and it just looked really cool. And it's a '70s one."
The guitar in question is a 1974 Strat with a stunning highly-figured flamed neck; all original apart from a couple of replaced pots and a five-way switch, and Aynsley assumed some of the CBS era caveats would be true; heavy, much room for improvement with the sounds… "I went to look at it and it's just a normal weight, not heavy. Lively, loud and resonant. I plugged it in and it was the best Strat I'd found out of all the ones I tried. So I bought it and thought maybe it's a one-off."
That's when a habit started. The collector who sold Aynsley his Strat got in contact a few weeks later with another Strat – a refinished '70s model. "Again it was another good one, so I thought, ok there's a bit of a theme developing here."
Stereotypes exist to be defied. And the guitar community can get carried away with the acquired wisdom that a whole era of Strats share certain negative traits. But we all know how much specific instruments can differ, even identical in the same factory during the same week. It's part of the tonewood catnip that keeps us searching.
"Through looking for a good player Strat… something that's old and got a bit of character, I've ended up with just handful of them over the last couple of years that are the best Strats I've ever had. They just happen to be good ones – the '70s get quite a bad rep I suppose and maybe they're not all like this but I just think every guitar is different, you've got to take every guitar on its own merit. So forget what the trends are, I think there's good and bad in all eras, really."
Check out the full interview above and buy the new issue of Guitarist mag here with a cover feature dedicated to '70s guitars. We're off to check the Reverb listings for '70s Strats!