Make no bones about it: the 70s Fender Telecaster Custom is one of the coolest guitars ever bandsawn. Launched in 1972, the iconic black and chrome model is muscle-car handsome, made sexier still thanks to its association with Keith Richards.
Slinging a Custom around your neck is one of the easiest ways to up your rock 'n' roll credibility, but even the Mexican-built Fender Classic Series '72 Telecaster Custom has an official price tag of £946. That's a lot of cash, so Fender has distilled the Custom's aesthetic into its more affordable Indonesia-sourced Squier Vintage Modified Series.
Cosmetically, the basswood-bodied Squier Tele Custom looks almost identical to its illustrious ancestor, with the most obvious reference point being the large Wide Range humbucker in the neck. The idea of the Custom's layout was that you got the classic punchy treble of a Tele single-coil bridge pickup and creamy warmth akin to a Gibson neck humbucker. The Wide Range pickup was put together by Seth Lover, the genius who designed the humbucker for Gibson in June 1955.
Thing is, the pickup in the Squier (and the Fender Classic Series model) isn't put together like Lover's original Wide Range unit; it's basically a regular 'bucker hidden inside that oversized casing, with the space filled with wax. Boutique pickup makers such as The Creamery and Lollar make replicas of the original Wide Range if authenticity is important to you.
This guitar's greatest feature is its bolt-on maple neck. Its pleasantly plump profile fills the palm beautifully, and the 21 medium-jumbo frets and 241mm (9.5-inch) fingerboard radius make for easy chording and string bending across the entire neck. Plugged in, the Duncan Designed bridge pickup is punchy as hell.
It sparkles when clean, and gets throaty when the dirt is piled on. A Tele makes for a great rock guitar - just ask Jimmy Page. He used a whole lotta Tele single-coil power in the early days of Led Zeppelin. Flicking the switch, the Wide Range pickup doesn't match the original's famous punchy clarity, but it does work okay for dirty bluesy noodling and clean rhythm.
Thanks to that fantastic neck, the Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Custom doesn't feel like a budget instrument.