TOP 10 Most Iconic Guitars!

Some people will say that looks don’t count for anything in music. Others will say that what you play doesn’t matter – it’s all about how you play. We are here to let you know the reasons why the most important instruments in music can have an impact that goes beyond the sound they create. Here are our picks for the Top 10 Most Iconic Guitars in rock music!

10. Kurt Cobain’s Fender Jag-Stang 

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain playing the Fender Jag-Stang whilst smoking

Though the Nirvana frontman had his fair share of guitars (played and smashed) throughout his career, a couple of the Fender models tend to stand out; most iconically the Jaguar and the Mustang.

Rather than Kurt having to pick either one of the two, he created his very own combination of both guitars. He then later pitched the Jag-Stang to Fender who had it made for him but only ended up using the Fender on rare occasions.

After Kurt Cobain passed away, his blue model of the Fender was given to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck.

9. James Hetfield’s “EET FUK” ESP Explorer

Metallica's James Hetfield playing the “EET FUK” ESP Explorer

James Hetfield has used several different Explorers with Metallica, but one stands out in particular. His ESP “EET FUK” white model, which was used while touring And Justice For All.

The words written on the guitar never had a full explanation, though one isn’t necessary really. After having its headstock broken multiple times, the Explorer was put to one side. Hetfield would pick it up once again to record the track “Suicide & Redemption” on the album Death Magnetic. White Explorers went on to become an identifiable element of Metallica’s image.

The ESP LTD Snakebyte in Snow White is an affordable way to look and sound like the Metallica legend himself.

8. Tom Morello’s “Arm The Homeless” Custom

Rage against the machine's Tom Morello’s “Arm The Homeless” Custom

The incendiary and unique guitarist’s choice for standard tuning with Rage Against The Machine is his “Arm The Homeless” guitar. Tom ordered it from a custom guitar shop in Hollywood with exact specifications. Despite this, it apparently came out as “the shittiest guitar in the world”.

He also was quoted saying “Everything about it was bad: it looked bad, it sounded bad, it was grotesquely overpriced, and over the course of the next two years I changed literally everything about it. Except for the piece of wood.”

After tonnes of modifications, Morello eventually gave up on making the guitar sound like he wanted. Instead, he focused on the sounds he could create with it. As for the artwork on the body, Morello claimed he enjoyed the juxtaposition of the line “arm the homeless” with the images of the smiling hippos that he drew himself.

7. Gene Simmons’ “Axe” Bass

Kiss's Gene Simmons holding his iconic axe bass guitar

Whilst KISS are one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, it’s pretty much impossible to deny how powerful the band’s image has been. The Axe Bass was originally conceived in 1978. It was designed to make Gene Simmons’ “Demon” character look a bit more iconic onstage. Obviously fire-breathing and spitting blood wasn’t enough. It’s admittedly a bit silly, but no other band could pull this off better than KISS.

6. Zakk Wylde’s “Bullseye” Gibson Les Paul

Zakk Wylde playing his iconic “Bullseye” Gibson Les Paul

When Zakk Wylde started touring with Ozzy Osbourne, he knew he couldn’t simply play with his cream Gibson Les Paul. It was too similar to the model used by his late predecessor, Randy Rhoads. Wylde explains how the Bullseye design came about: “I saw the poster from Vertigo, and thought that would be awesome. So I explained it to my buddy Max, but when I went down there for the photo shoot, I opened up the case and saw the Bullseye logo. I said, “‘Dude, what the f***?’ I had drawn it on a piece of paper and everything, but it was too late anyway. So we did the photo shoot, and the rest is history.”

5. Prince’s “Cloud”

Prince playing his custom white cloud guitar in the film Purple rain

This fan favourite was custom-built by Minneapolis luthier David Rusan in 1983. The guitar is featured in the film “Purple Rain.” Whilst some fans might argue in favour of his symbol guitar, the Cloud just looks sleek. Its agile shape looks more like something a musician might actually want to play.

4. Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat”

Eddie Van Halen finger tapping on his red and white custom “Frankenstrat”

The Frankenstrat was Eddie Van Halen’s attempt at combining the sound of a Gibson with the body of a Stratocaster. He achieved this by adding a humbucker to a Strat-style body. After getting the body at a discount price because it had a knot in the wood, Van Halen went on to build the guitar by himself. Eventually, he gave it the custom finish that became well-known as iconic as the man himself.

3. Angus Young’s Jaydee SG

AC/DC's Angus Young playing his Jaydee SG

Though Angus Young had previously used the Gibson SG Standard (and contributed to its popularity)  his unique version came thanks to Jaydee. A standout feature is the lightning bolt inlays on neck fretboard. This would be carried over to later custom-built versions of the guitar. Regardless of which version of the SG Angus Young is playing, it’s become nearly impossible to picture him without this specific guitar – and, in some ways, the guitar without him!

2. Jimmy Page’s Gibson Les Paul Standard

Jimmy Page playing his sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard on stage

To be fair, all of his guitars look pretty iconic, even his often-forgotten red Les Paul. A strong case could be made for his double-necked Gibson SG, a model that he helped popularise with a performance of “Stairway To Heaven”, where he used both necks! The sunburst finish doesn’t really have anything unusual about it, yet Page wore it so well that we can’t help associating it with Led Zeppelin.

1. Jimi Hendrix’s Monterey Fender Stratocaster

Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his Monterey Fender Stratocaster on stage at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967

This guitar holds a spot in this list for a unique reason, the fact that it’s probably best known for how it ended up, rather than its appearance. At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience closed their set with an extended version of “Wild Thing”. When Hendrix knelt next to his Fender Stratocaster and set it on fire, he would create one of the most memorable moments in rock history.

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