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Iconic Instruments EP 1: The Guitars of Kurt Cobain

Link for the video-essay version:

The alt-rock icon and grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain has been inspiring millions with his style and music. From his unparalleled sound to his unique attire, everything the Nirvana frontman has done in his awfully short time has been wildly loved and admired. Perhaps one of the most iconic things about Cobain’s music career was his guitars that have broken records and gotten tributes that sell like hotcakes.

For instance, his black Japanese Fender Stratocaster is one of his most widely known guitars. The white “Vandalism: As beautiful as a rock in a cop’s face” sticker on it has also earned it the name “Vandalism” by some. This bumper sticker was from the Feederz “Teachers in Space” LP and matched with the two white stock single-coil pick-ups and the black bridge humbucker. This guitar would serve Kurt well from its first appearance in mid-1991 and through the Nevermind tour that brought the band to Reading Festival and The Paramount until it was replaced by yet another iconic guitar: the Fender Jaguar.

The 1965 Fender Jaguar (confused to be from 1966 by Cobain in interviews), was bought off the LA Recycler and was heavily customized. This was perplexing as the seemingly cheap guitar featured quality yet anachronistic modifications. It’s a guitar that featured a bit of Fender from every era between 1960 to 1990, as it had the decommissioned ‘spaghetti’ Fender logo on the headstock, a stock neck that was unusually long for a Jaguar and newer pickups.

Fender has since released a tribute Jaguar with similar features, except for a different pick-up switch that has more options than Cobain’s did. One of the most popular guitars that also made news in 2020 is Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E. It was played during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged and broke the record for the most expensive guitar as it was auctioned off for 6 million dollars.

The previous record-holder was Pink Floyd’s lead guitarist David Gilmour’s black Strat that sold for 4 million dollars. The Martin was acoustic-electric and thus featured a Gibson-style switch and tone knobs. Cobain died only 5 months after playing it at the Unplugged performance.

Although Kurt Cobain is gone, his art and messages live on. These iconic guitars of his weren't remotely what made him special, but the tone and style he gave his gear and the powerful art he made with them made the instruments stand out amongst those of other great musicians.

What do you think about Kurt’s gear? Do you think the price of a guitar reflects its value? Let us know down below.

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