Miniature electric guitar
Materials: wood, nylon thread, metal, enamel paint
Dimensions: 25 centimeters high
Place acquired: charity shop, London
Place of manufacture: unknown
When I found this in a charity shop I thought I was buying a little model of an electric guitar. But a friend who plays in a band and is knowledgeable about these things, later put me right. It’s not just a model guitar, it's a Paul Reed Smith (PRS) SE Standard six-string maple guitar with David Grissom tremolo and two Humbucker pickups. It is this slightly geeky appeal of electric guitars for the aficionado that puts them amongst a select group of products that seem to have very specific cultural meaning. I looked more closely at the range of miniature guitars that are on sale and found that not only can you find highly accurate models of all the major makes of guitar, but also models of the individual, customized instruments of famous pop and rock guitarists, complete with graffiti.
If you look at the history of recorded popular music it more or less maps on to the social history of the 20th century. With music captured on records and suddenly available to buy, a person could collect their own taste of music and share it exclusively with like-minded peers. It created immediately a ‘generation gap’ in musical taste that reflected a similar gap in values and attitudes that can easily be traced from the 1920s onwards. The sound, the look and the status of new instruments helped to define that generational split, and perhaps no instrument has done this more sharply that the electric guitar. Emerging in the 1930s for use in jazz and swing bands the electrically amplified acoustic guitar gradually evolved into the solid body electric guitar that in the 1950s and 60s became so closely identified with rock n’ roll and youth orientated rock and pop music. There was even a point, at the height of the counter culture of the late 1960s when popular music and political activism were so closely linked that the electric guitar became almost a symbol of revolution.
I suspect that the post war generations that were young in the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties are still the main market for these miniature collectable guitars. Collecting and displaying them is a way of expressing a respect and reverence for the performers, their genres of music, and the values that they represented, whatever they were. It feels like the golden age of guitar-based rock music belongs to these baby boomers, and may well die with them. So maybe the market in miniature guitars will also begin to fade.