By Chris M. Junior
Given Nirvana's atypical mix of musical styles, it makes perfect sense that leader Kurt Cobain would also have had a thing for out-of-the-ordinary electric guitars.
Cobain designed a guitar for Fender called the Jag-Stang. Combining elements of the Jaguar and Mustang models, the Jag-Stang went into production after Cobain, who had only briefly played it on tour, was found dead in April 1994.
In September — 20 years after Nirvana’s juggernaut “Nevermind” album was released — Fender shipped to stores its latest Cobain-related guitar: a replica of the Nirvana frontman’s battered 1965 Jaguar featuring the instrument’s unusual details.
“It’s been a few years in the making,” says Justin Norvell, Fender’s director of product development. “This Jaguar was one of his main guitars right when Nirvana broke huge, so the ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance, Reading Festival, Glastonbury … they all featured the Jag. We just wanted to have a guitar that was more authentically representative of what he played and was known for playing.”
Cobain purchased his ’65 Jaguar in 1991 through an ad in the Los Angeles-based Recycler publication, according to Norvell.
“Jaguars were at an extreme low ebb in popularity [at that time], so they were attracting all of the countercultural bands because they were cheap and made a kind of contrarian statement against the flashy hair metal guitars,” explains Norvell. “I can’t speak for his motivation, but he was always into the esoteric weird ’60s guitars like Univoxes, Mosrites and Fender Mustangs.”
Cobain’s Jaguar was extra-weird because it had a pair of fat-sounding DiMarzio humbucking pickups instead of two twangier, single-coil pickups. Norvell says the guitar also featured a single toggle switch instead of the more complex setup of three slide switches, plus it had an extra volume knob.
These unique characteristics — which were all in place prior to Cobain owning his Jaguar — have been duplicated on the new signature model. The same goes for the worn finish.
“We referenced the dings on the original with extensive macro photography and built masks for the replicas that matched wear patterns,” Norvell says. “It’s quite accurate and captures the mojo.”
The guitar is available in left-handed and right-handed versions. Each one comes with a black vinyl hard-shell case, plus an exclusive 32-page Fender Kurt Cobain book with photos and commentary by Charles Peterson and an interview with Nirvana guitar tech Earnie Bailey.
The Kurt Cobain Jaguar signature guitar, which is part of Fender’s limited-edition Artist Tribute Series, retails for $1,819.99. For more information, visit www.fender.com.