April is International Guitar Month!
Created in 1987 by the Guitar and Accessories Marketing Association (GAMA) and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the month is dedicated to the appreciation of the guitar and its significance to the world of music, from classical to heavy metal and everything in between.
The guitar is such a visible instrument in music; guitars and guitarists are often key elements in pop culture storytelling, including some comics.
In celebration of this versatile and beautiful instrument, here are 11—because 11 is one louder than 10—completely random and sometimes geeky facts about fictional guitars, basses, and guitarists.
1.In Pixar’s hit 2017 movie Coco, Hector’s skeleton themed guitar (that was first thought to belong to the backstabbing Ernesto del la Cruz) has a very subtle spoiler for those watching closely. Both Hector and the skeleton face in the guitar’s headstock have a prominent gold tooth.
2. In both the Scott Pilgrim comic series and movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, Scott’s Rickenbacker bass is a major contributor to the sound of his band Sex Bob-omb—as well as being used as a weapon from time to time. However, the bass isn’t really Scott’s. He borrowed it long term for college from his little brother Lawrence West. When Lawrence finally went to get it back in the series, it had already been destroyed.
3. In the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, based on Mike Myers’s popular Saturday Night Live character, one of Wayne’s goals is to own a”’64 Fender Stratocaster in classic white, with triple single-coil pickups and a whammy bar,” which he dubbed “Excalibur.” According to the guitar site Reverb, that rare guitar model would likely sell in 2017 for $16,000 to $22,000 but was worth even more ten years earlier, probably fetching about $30,000.
4. The shop in the famous Wayne’s World scene wasn’t in Illinois, but rather at the now-famous Cassell’s Music in San Fernando, California, where fans can see a replica of the movie’s Fender Stratocaster guitar next to the warning sign “NO Stairway to Heaven.” Long before it appeared in the movie, the store helped start the career of a much more worthy musician when teen Richard Valenzuela purchased an ES-225 electric guitar. The teen later became known by his shortened stage name, Ritchie Valens.
5. Long before the live-action movie was made, the Archie Comics-inspired animated series and girl group Josie and the Pussycats, led by guitarist Josephine “Josie” McCoy, had a real-life band marketed to release radio singles. There was also supposed to be a live-action song sequence at the end of each show, but that didn’t happen. There was an album released in 1970, with singing voices provided by pop singers Patrice Holloway and Cherie Moor (now better known as Cheryl Ladd).
6. One reason the 1984 “rockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap (and the fictional guitar-based heavy metal band on which it was based) was so convincing is that all three main members, David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), are accomplished musicians. They even released full-length Spinal Tap albums and performed live in concert. According to Mental Floss, even Ozzy Osbourne was fooled at first into thinking they were real. IMDB has given the movie a special rating on its site as the only movie scale that “goes to eleven.”
7. The main guitar god of Spinal Tap is, of course, Nigel Tufnel, who has an extensive guitar collection with Gibsons, Martins, Gretches, Fenders, a custom six-string made from a Marshall amp, and more. One fan site cited in a 1984 Guitar World interview that Tufnel hoped to play many of these on the band’s next concert tour. “I was going to take 150 guitars on the road. About 28 acoustics, 35 Strats—different guitars for different sounds and moods. But it caused a lot of unrest with the roadies, who’d have to keep them in tune. And just the guitar stands alone cost quite a lot of money,” Tufnel said. “So I’ve whittled it down to about 50.”
8. There aren’t many well-known superheroes famed for their guitar playing, but in 1980, Disco Queen and mutant Dazzler, (Alison Blaire) made her first appearance in the Uncanny X-Men. Dazzler’s power is converting sound into light, sometimes used for entertainment and sometimes as a weapon. It took a guitar to make her cool, though, as seen in her Earth 1610 counterpart, when she led a punk rock band, also called Dazzler.
9. Unfortunately, it isn’t just heroes who play guitar. Dazzler has fought one minor villain known as Johnny Guitar, partners in crime with his bud Doctor Sax. The pair of failed rock stars turned to crime after getting their girlfriends pregnant. Johnny’s claim-to-fame villain ability is weaponizing his guitar to be able to fire sonic blasts. Yup, really.
10. One of the coolest lead guitar players has to be Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem’s Janice, who plays left-handed like Ziggy Stardust or Paul McCartney. According to the Muppet Wiki fansite, although her name was taken from Janice Joplin, her influences include Tina Turner and Joan Jett. She is also a mega fan of Weezer and OK Go.
Here she is with bandmate Animal celebrating World Guitar Day (which is ironically not set during International Guitar Month but is on September 21).
Whether playing or listening, take a few moments this month to really take in the beauty and sounds of guitar music, an instrument that has the whole world on a string.
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