Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cost of Distressed

When The Police opened the Grammys a few weeks ago, my sister and I were discussing the state of Sting's guitar.

Sting is a rich man. A very rich man, as anyone who's bought tickets to one of his concerts knows well. But the guitar he was using was completely beat-up. It was a mess, in a cool, rock star kinda way.

Amy and I wondered—could that be the actual guitar he played in The Police back in the day, that he's been saving for just such an occasion? How amazing, to think of the history that guitar has seen. How Sting has changed since that guitar was shiny and new.

But of course, we were wrong. Yesterday Amy sent me the following:
A beat-up guitar that Mr. Summers is playing isn't the one that toured the world with him in the early 1980s; it's an exact replica made by Fender, copying every nick, chip and scrape as well as the pickups (made by Fender's rival, Gibson) and custom electronics inside. It's part of a limited edition of 250 that sold out at $15,000 each - a measure of Mr. Summers's lasting reputation among musicians and guitar geeks.
-from a NY Times interview, 2007

It reminded me of the fad of "distressed jeans," taken to a whole new level. Instead of paying $50 for jeans that are torn and faded, you can pay $15k for a guitar that makes you look like you actually know how to play. Probably, you buy the guitar AND the jeans, because I think they'd have to appeal to the same people.

What, exactly, are you paying for? I think it's the aura of experience. You may be working a boring job, going home to the same place, same dinner, same TV shows every night. But when you wear those jeans and play that guitar (or just lovingly stroke it?), it hints at a life truly lived. You've seen things, been places, and have the wear and tear to prove it.

But is it really enough for people to just give the illusion of experience? Not that the majority of us are ever going to know what it's like to play the bass and sing to millions of screaming fans .... but if I don't have that experience, I think I'd rather just have my own shiny, relatively new bass. And unripped jeans.

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