It’s no secret that I have zero will power when it comes to buying new gear. In fact, some might even say the band exists simply because I had to justify owning so many instruments. Case in point, if you follow the band on Twitter you likely saw me agonizing over the decision of whether or not to buy yet another vintage Japanese Saturn electric guitar. Surprise, surprise—I bought it (it’s the small one on the left). What can I say? I love these wacky axes.
Some say they were built in Japan by Kawai, others say Guyatone, but everyone seems to agree that Saturns first appeared in a 1968 Eaton’s department store catalogue. Personally, I don’t know how I’ve ended up with three of these (all different, mind you), as I’d never even heard of them before I saw the first one on Craigslist last year. However, I was instantly enamoured with their wonky shapes and mystique.
They also get a pretty bad rap, as they were cheap entry level imports for kids who couldn’t afford a Fender or Gibson. In my humble opinion, that negativity isn’t entirely deserved, as with a good setup these bad boys play very well (I wouldn’t have three if they were garbage…). Guys like Hound Dog Taylor and Ry Cooder championed this notion with cheap Japanese guitars of their own (just check out the cover of Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers for a multi-pickup beast).
Of course, I don’t have a lot of “high end” axes kicking around to compare these to, as I’m still a kid who can’t afford a Gibson or Fender, but there’s a reason the rest of my electric guitars have ended up on Craigslist. Actually, price is another beautiful thing about these mysterious relics—I paid a total $350 for all three of them (not including setups and a little work here and there by my amazing guitar tech*)! As for how they sound, I’m by no means a “tone aficionado,” but I know what I like and these are fine by me (especially through my homemade Fender Princeton).
They also get a lot of comments when we play live and suit the rest of our homemade gear very well.
Hmm…it just occurred to me that this entire post is pretty much self-aggrandizing piece of effort-justification so that I don’t feel bad about buying another piece of gear…yep.
Oh well. Guitars is purty.