Okay, so, I was kind of joking in my introductory spiel. I'd always planned on focusing the next update on some of the band's older guitars, but wasn't entirely sure how to do it. I decided that the easiest way for me would be to present a chronological examination of the band's gear usage from around 1981 through 1992. I have lots of new information/pictures for many of the guitars, but also wanted to include the rest to indicate how they factor into the overall timeline. I'd considered splitting this up into a few separate updates, but decided to just go ahead and drop it all at once -- you may prefer to read it in installments, as I still have not learned to edit myself and things get very descriptive and very long. I opted to make this only the second page in the entire 'mustang' directory to contain black on white text, for ease of reading (you're welcome!). Let's get started, shall we?
(and once you're finished, check out a small supplementary update!)
Another of the band's most iconic guitars is Lee's first Fender Telecaster Deluxe, with the F-hole. He was using this before he joined SY, and may even be the only guitar he used on the 'Sonic Youth' EP. It certainly appears on the majority of the 'Confusion is Sex' tracks and is used almost exclusively during early SY shows. Listening to any given 1983 show you can hear him use it in EADECD with a screwdriver at the 9th fret for "The World Looks Red" and "Confusion is Next", then retune to standard tuning for "Shaking Hell", "Making the Nature Scene", and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" if necessary. Although Lee began using EADECD for "Shaking Hell" when it reappeared in set lists in 2006, he's clearly heard retuning to standard on almost every recording. There are even some July '83 shows where he can be heard tuning from the screwdriver tuning to standard and then back to the screwdriver tuning for a run of "Confusion" > "I Don't Want to Push It" > "World". Curiously, he can be heard tuning to another tuning on these shows, but we'll get to that in a second... The Telecaster was also used for the D#D#C#C#GG tuning on "I Love Her All The Time", also with a screwdriver at the 9th fret, but would still get retuned to EADECD for "World"/"Confusion" during 1985 shows.
At some point very early on, the band acquired a blue Jazzmaster that was quite possibly a Vietnam Serviceman copy. I contacted the owner of that site and asked him his opinion on this guitar and he suspects that it may actually be a real Jazzmaster body, but clearly it had some modifications and the band themselves modified it heavily all throughout the 80s. The first evidence I have of them using this guitar is the 11/08/83 Milan show, where Lee uses it on "She's in a Bad Mood", "Burning Spear", "Nature Scene", and "Inhuman". While most of those songs had probably become 'anything' tunings by that point, "She's in a Bad Mood" had a specific tuning and relied on behind the bridge string picking for the odd whirring noises you can hear a minute into the song on the LP version, so I would not be surprised if he used this guitar on 'Confusion is Sex' (possibly for "Inhuman" as well). On some July '83 shows you can hear Lee retune from standard to either EBDGBE or EBEGBE (I'm leaning towards the first but am not 100% sure) for this song -- without a video to confirm it seems like he is switching between his Telecaster and this guitar but has this guitar in standard tuning, perhaps as a backup. As mentioned above you hear him retune between the screwdriver tuning and standard and back again which seems odd if he had this guitar in standard as well, so it's possible he used his Telecaster for "Bad Mood" but the necessity of string behind the bridge makes me pretty sure he was using this one... The next available video is 01/05/85 Mojave Desert, where Lee uses it for F#F#F#F#EB on "Brave Men Run" and "Death Valley" before handing it over to Thurston for "I Love Her All The Time" and "Ghost Bitch", indicating Thurston had already abandoned the specific tuning he used for these two songs on 'Bad Moon Rising'. Thurston then gives the guitar back to Lee for "I'm Insane". Given the proximity of this show to the 'Bad Moon Rising' recording sessions, it's possible that Lee used this guitar for the F# songs on the LP though obviously I can't confirm that. By 08/01/85 Cleveland, Thurston is now the one using this guitar, still in F#, for "Death Valley", "I Love Her" and "Ghost Bitch". Two months later, 10/10/85 Bremen, Thurston is still using this guitar for "I Love Her"/"Ghost" (and now "Burning Spear"), but I can't verify the tuning because he uses another guitar for the encore of "Brave Men"/"Death Valley", and the only other video I've seen from this tour (11/08/85 Brighton Beach) does not contain any F# songs in either set! In fact, Thurston appears to use this guitar for GDD# on 'Brother James' at the afternoon Brighton Beach set, but uses the 'proper' GDD# guitar for the evening set (and uses this one, perhaps even still in GDD#, for "I Love Her"/"Ghost")! By the end of 1985, the guitar has had all of the switches and knobs removed except for a volume control, and the two gold pickups have been replaced by a single Dimarzio X2N humbucker in the neck position, a pickup which would find itself in several of their guitars throughout the 80s. (as a side note, the 1984 set list referenced above does list a "Fender Strat Copy" which I'm fairly sure must erroneously refer to this guitar, which does lead me to believe Lee was probably using it for F# when the 'Bad Moon' songs were written..)
I don't know specifically when the band acquired the Knox guitar but it wouldn't surprise me if it was already in their arsenal back in 1981. Whether or not it was used on the 'Sonic Youth' EP, I'm almost certain it was used on 'Confusion is Sex'. While the existance of photographs showing Thurston using the cowbell on the Drifter do suggest that in '82 or early '83, he was using that guitar on "She's in a Bad Mood", the 11/08/83 Milan video shows him using this guitar for "She's in a Bad Mood", "The World Looks Red", and "Early American". Kim also uses it on "Shaking Hell". I'm pretty sure Thurston only used one guitar on 'Confusion' (he only plays guitar on three tracks), in a tuning that is very, very close to EGEF#GG (with the top 3 strings being microsteps out of tune, so the Gs are not in perfect unison). It sure sounds like he uses the same tuning on all 1983 performances of "She's in a Bad Mood", but I really can't be sure which guitar he used on the LP. An early version of the song performed on 11/14/82 in Chapel Hill has a radically different guitar part, so perhaps this is when the Drifter was utilized. Either way, I can't be sure. I imagine Kim used the same guitar for "Shaking Hell" and "Inhuman" on the LP. At the 01/05/85 Mojave Desert gig, Thurston is using this guitar for F#F#F#F#EB, so it's possible this is the one he used for "Brave Men Run" "Society" and "Death Valley" on the 'Bad Moon Rising' LP. The handwritten notes on the "Society is a Hole" lyric sheet indicates Thurston uses the Knox guitar in an "anything tuning", but it's not always clear whether these notes necessarily relate to the specific song they're annotated on. The Mojave Desert is the last show where I'm aware of him using this guitar, though it's possible he used it to record "Halloween".
Another guitar that was certainly one of the earliest instruments Thurston used (possibly even before SY) was a Harmony H15 Bobkat. I've never actually seen video footage of this so I can't be 100% sure of where it falls into the timeline, but it seems like it was used for "Burning Spear" at some point.
"Brother James" was debuted in July 1983, so I suspect the Gershon SG copy was obtained around this time, which introduced the GGDDD#D# tuning to their repertoire. I'm not sure specifically when this guitar met its demise onstage, but Thurston is using a new guitar for GDD# by 01/05/85 Mojave Desert so it was either towards the end of the '83 tour (he's seen using it at 11/08/83 Milan for "Bro James"/"Kill Yr Idols", and Kim uses it on "Good and the Bad"/"Inhuman") or at one of the few 1984 shows. A 'Bad Moon Rising' set list presumably from 1984 (which lists an encore of 'Bro James'/'Kill YR Idols' and, curiously, 'White Cross') does list "REAGAN DEATH GTR" under 'Instruments Used' so it seems likely this was still around in '84...
I suspect Lee acquired his sunburst Kent around the same time as the Gershon SG, as it was also used in GGDDD#D# for "Brother James". In any case, he was definitely using it for GDD# at the 11/08/83 Milan show, for all 3 new songs from the 'Kill Yr Idols' EP. He's still using it for GDD# all through 1985, including the new tunes "Flower" and "Green Light". He seemed to quit using this after early '86 (the 05/16/86 vid is the last time I've seen it, and he was using it for EADECD/EADGBE for "World Looks Red"/"Shaking Hell").
What I'd previously listed as the 'Rusty Mustang Copy' appears to be a Teisco Mustang-style like this. This may not be an exact match but it's pretty damn close. I'm still only aware of Thurston using this at the 01/05/85 Mojave Desert show (in GGDDD#D#), so it seems likely it was just a temporary replacement for the Gershon SG until he got the Fender Jaguar (first seen on 08/01/85). The lack of videos or photographs between January and August 1985 makes it hard to specifically pinpoint when certain guitars came and went. It's possible this guitar made a recorded appearance on "Flower", which was cut in L.A. on this visit.
The tale of the 'Old Wood' Jaguar, one of the most identifiable guitars used by the band, has been well established during this site's history. Thurston can first be seen using it for GGDDD#D# at the 08/01/85 Cleveland show, and it appears to have been his GDD# guitar all the way until the end of 1986 (he can be seen using it at both 07/19/86 Indianapolis and 11/03/86 St Louis, where it already looks 'old' -- hey, wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves!).
I always think of the Gibson Marauder as Thurston's "Expressway" guitar, but there's a picture in the Goodbye 20th Century book of the band onstage with Bob Bert (captioned Europe '85) where Lee is seen holding this guitar. Also visible at Lee's feet are the Favilla acoustic, the Kent, and another hollow-body that I do not recognize! Thurston is holding the blue Jazzmaster, with no visible drumstick. Doing a bit of overly ambitious detective work, when you review the songs performed on this tour, Thurston only requires two real tunings (F# for Brave Men/Death Valley/Halloween, GDD# for Brother James/Flower/Kill YR Idols, plus 'anything' for Spear/Ghost/Love Her/World). Since Lee's Kent is surely still in GDD#, and Thurston is not using a drumstick (which would rule out any of the 'anything' tuning songs), it's most likely that Thurston is already using the blue Jazz for F#F#F#F#EB and Lee is using the Marauder for F#F#F#F#EB as well. Lee is already using the Ovation Viper for F# by 08/01/85, at which point "Expressway" is already in the set and the Marauder is now being used by Thurston in EG#EG#EG# (until 11/22/86, when it was stolen, if I may get ahead of myself). It's likely this guitar was used on the 'EVOL' version of "Expressway". Now... what is that hollow-body at Lee's feet?
Speaking of F#F#F#F#EB, the 10/10/85 Bremen show is the only place I've seen Thurston using this guitar, which I suspect is a Teisco ET-220 (see a pic of one here). The guitar Thurston used has a dotted fretboard and not blocks, but otherwise it seems very similar. He uses it on an encore of "Brave Men"/"Death Valley"/"World Looks Red" - up until this tour, these songs had traditionally been at the beginning of '85 tour sets, so it's possible that after using the blue Jazzmaster for "I Love Her"/"Ghost Bitch" earlier in the set (whether it was still in F# or not), he needed a different F# guitar to actually be able to play "Brave"/"Death" later. Of course, it's also possible he just borrowed it for this one show that happened to be filmed...who knows! Unfortunately there are no F# songs in either set of the well-documented 11/08/85 Brighton Beach videos, so I can't say whether this guitar appears again!
"Expressway" was debuted almost immediately after Steve joined the band, and Lee was using his 12-string Kapa Minstrel (strung up with 6 strings, as far as I can tell) for this song as early as 08/01/85. Like the Marauder, it stayed in this tuning for the entire time he used it (which was slightly longer than the Marauder, since this one didn't get stolen). He also started using it for "Inhuman" in 1985. I'm quite sure this was used for the 'EVOL' recording of "Expressway".
A June 1985 photograph is the first time I've seen Lee with the Ovation Viper, and if my suspicions above are correct, it replaced the Marauder for his F#F#F#F#EB guitar after Thurston adopted the Marauder for "Expressway". This was Lee's main F# guitar for the remainder of 1985.
Speaking of F#F#F#F#EB (again), I'm faaaairly certain that Lee's Favilla acoustic for "Ghost Bitch" is actually in this tuning. It's definitely full of F#s, but if you listen to some 1984 recordings where he emphasizes the open strings a little more cleanly (rather than the foghorn style outburst it offers on the LP version) it seems like it could definitely be F#F#F#F#EB. Not positive, but...pretty positive.
Before we dive into the next phase, take a look at these pictures. First off, my obvious plea: if anyone has more pictures from this session, PLEASE PLEASE share! Now, let's break it down.
Clearly it's an EVOL era photo, and I strongly suspect it was taken towards the end of 1986, during or perhaps even after the November 'Flaming Telepaths' tour with fIREHOSE. Some guitars are visible in both pictures, some are exclusive to only one. Let's sort it out...
There also appears to be a guitar just above Kim's arm in the right picture, and possibly one behind her head in the left picture (with its neck angled behind Steve's back?).
Noticeably absent are the F-hole Telecaster and the Marauder. The lack of the Marauder is what leads me to suspect it's after the 11/22/86 show, when that guitar was stolen, but the band's general appearance also appears similar to the 11/05/86 pictures. The Telecaster is the only other guitar I'd expect to see here, but maybe that's it behind Kim's head in the first pic. Seemingly out of the arsenal now are the Kent, Knox, and Teiscos.
Let's start at the beginning again:
Did you notice anything about the Drifter in the above picture? Take another look...it's already been converted to a 4-string device. I'd previously discovered that this guitar was used on "Marilyn Moore", but now knowing that it was in a 4-string tuning, using some clues provided by live recordings and what appears to be the notations "C D sharp" written on the guitar (visible even in that picture, but if you have the 'Daydream Nation' promo poster that features this guitar you can see it even clearer there, along with a curious "Lee F# A" note). I'm pretty damn sure this guitar was in CCD#D# for "Marilyn Moore", with the bottom Cs in unison, the first D# a step and a half above them, and the second D# an octave below. This is different from the "Eric's Trip" tuning where both strings are in unison. Thurston does not use a drumstick like "Eric's Trip", instead he spends most of "Marilyn Moore" playing flurries of fierce metallic harmonics. As far as I know, the guitar was not used for any of the 'Sister' material in 1987, but this was surely used for the 'EVOL' recording of "Marilyn Moore".
Although not pictured above, Lee's f-hole Telecaster was definitely still in play, used for the new F#F#GGAA tuning on both "Tom Violence" and "White Kross" (which was introduced on the '86 tour). It was also retuned for "The World Looks Red". He continued using it for F#GA for the same two songs all throughout 1987. I'm not sure whether he used it for the 'EVOL' recording of "Tom Violence" but it seems pretty likely he used it for "White Kross" on 'Sister'.
At the 05/16/86 Edinburgh show, Thurston is using the blue Jazzmaster in F#F#GGAA on "Tom Violence" and "White Kross". Kim also uses it for "Shaking Hell", but at that point she was just using whatever guitar she wanted for that song. By 07/19/86 this guitar is now being used by Lee for "I Love Her All The Time", presumably still in the proper D#D#C#C#GG screwdriver tuning. Nobody is using this guitar at the 11/03/86 St Louis show (though Thurston does appear to be playing it at the 12/05/86 performance), and I'm not aware of it appearing again until 07/21/87 Hasselt, where Thurston is using it for GDD# on "Stereo Sanctity"/"Green Light"/"Bro James"/"Kill Yr Idols" (it also clearly has a Fender neck at this point). My unfounded assumption is that sometime between the end of the November '86 tour and the March '87 Sister warm-up tour, Lee took over the 'old wood' Jaguar for DDA and Thurston began using the blue Jazz for GDD#, so it's possible this was used during the recording of 'Sister' for "Stereo Sanctity" and "Cotton Crown". By the September '87 tour, Thurston is now using a new guitar for GDD# and appears to use the blue Jazz in standard tuning on "Hotwire My Heart" at the 09/16/87 Atlanta show. At some point, the pickguard was removed -- you can kind of see this in the right hand picture of the EVOL guitar orgy above, but it appears to still be there in the 12/05/86 picture, so it's possible the EVOL guitar pic is from late December '86...?
As mentioned above, Thurston was still using the "Old Wood" Jaguar for GDD# throughout 1986, so this was probably used on the 'EVOL' recording of "Green Light". By the 11/03/86 St Louis show it already had been stripped down to its barest state, and shortly thereafter Lee adopted it for the new DDDDAA tuning that features on "Schizophrenia", "Catholic Block" and "Tuff Gnarl". My guess is that he used this guitar for those songs during the 'Sister' sessions. From here on out, this was Lee's guitar until it was stolen.
As mentioned above (again), the Gibson Marauder that Thurston used for "Expressway" was stolen after the 11/22/86 NYC show, the second to last show of the '86 tour. He replaced it with the Univox Plexiglas for the '87 tour. Lee's Kapa Minstrel continued to be his 'Expressway' axe through the end of '87.
At the 05/16/86 Edinburgh show, Lee is still using the Ovation Viper for F#F#F#F#EB ("Starpower"/"Death to our Friends") so it's quite possible he used it to record those songs for 'EVOL'. At the 07/19/86 Indianapolis gig, Thurston is now using this for F#F#F#F#EB ("Starpower"/"Death to our Friends"/"Shadow of a Doubt"), and still is at 11/03/86 St Louis, which is the last time I've seen them use it.
Thurston began using a new guitar in 1986, which I'd previously listed as 'Blue Strat Copy' for lack of any better identification. It turns out it's actually an Ibanez Roadstar II, probably an RS Standard model. In fact, as you read on you'll wonder why SY weren't given some kind of Ibanez endorsement deal in this era... at 05/16/86 Edinburgh he's using this for F#F#F#F#EB ("Starpower"/"Death To Our Friends"/"Shadow of a Doubt" and "World Looks Red"/"Burning Spear") so there's a possibility he used it during the recording of these songs for 'EVOL', but I suppose it depends when he got it. By 07/19/86 Indianapolis, he's using it for F#F#GGAA, and it has the maple fretboard neck -- I'm guessing the picture with the drumsticks is from the European tour in May/June (maybe it couldn't handle the drumstick torture and he had to get a new neck and switch tunings? Oh, speculation...). I think he's still using it for F#GA at 11/03/86 but I'm not positive. As far as I know, this guitar was not used beyond 1986.
Lee introduced a Kimberly hollowbody guitar in 1986 for exclusive use on "Shadow of a Doubt", in the F#F#AAEE tuning. I imagine this is what he used on 'EVOL' as well. It looks like it still has a white pickguard as of 07/19/86. This guitar gathered dust for the next 12 years until "Shadow" returned to their set list, and then was stolen away...
Lee's Kent Polaris is another guitar that disappeared after its use in 1986, used only on "Marilyn Moore" (again, I would expect this was used to record the LP version as well).
After relinquishing the Viper to Thurston, Lee needed a new F#F#F#F#EB guitar, which he found in an odd red 12-string Strat style that is first visible on the 07/19/86 Indianapolis video, used for "Starpower"/"Death". While I'm not positive, I suspect this was strung up with only 6 strings, as Lee typically handled his 12-strings back then. I've often wondered what this actually is, and I've determined that it clearly has a Fender logo on the headstock. I'm unable to find any 12-string Strats that have two humbuckers and that style of tailpiece, so whether it's modified or just slapped together from different guitars, I'm not sure. At some point between the EVOL tour and July '87 he was no longer using this for F#, and instead had put it in the EG# "Expressway" tuning, yet he would only use it on "PCH" (still using the Kapa Minstrel for "Expressway"). I'm not entirely sure why he used two 12-string guitars for the same tuning...
Speaking of 12-string guitars, Lee also replaced his Kent with a Kapa Continental for the GGDDD#D# tuning (as early as 07/19/86 Indianapolis). Again, he only used 6 strings, with the low Gs doubled up on the E saddle and the DDD#D# spread properly across the top 4 strings. He continued using this all through 1987, and certainly used it for the 'Sister' versions of "Stereo Sanctity" and "Kotton Krown".
Let's pause for a second and go back to those "guitar room" pictures. We've covered most of them already, aside from the Hofner-style bass (which I have no information on) and that bizarre wood..thing..Steve is holding (seriously, does anyone know what this is? it's certainly distinct..). The Univox Plexiglas is just barely visible, and I think Thurston is playing it in this picture from 11/05/86, in what appears to be standard tuning, so perhaps he was using it for their cover of "The Red and the Black" with fIREHOSE? That's my best conjecture. As far as I can tell, after the Marauder was stolen, the Univox replaced it for the EG#EG#EG# tuning, on both "Expressway" and "PCH" in 1987. I only have video documentation of it beginning in September of '87, though, so it's possible he used something else before then.
Also visible is an Ibanez Roadstar behind Kim, which is either this one or this one, both of which I have no video footage of them using in 1986, though they both were regulars in Thurston's arsenal throughout 1987. More on those below.
That leaves us with just the Les Paul-looking guitar over Lee's shoulder in the 2nd shot, which confused me for a while as I had never seen it anywhere else. What I will say (for now) is that perhaps Lee used one of these (the Roadstar, the Les Paul with the American flag sticker, or the angular woody wreck Steve is holding) in standard tuning for "Red and the Black" on the tour with fIREHOSE. That's just a wild guess, though, and I truly have no idea -- in fact, he often would borrow a guitar if a standard tuning song was necessary (at the 07/21/87 Hasselt gig, he borrows one from Big Black for "I Wanna Be Yr Dog").
Moving onward into 1987, Thurston replaced the blue Ibanez Roadstar with a black one for F#F#GGAA ("Schizophrenia"/"White Kross"/"Tom Violence"). He also had another black Roadstar (previously identified as 'Black Metal Strat') which he used for F#F#F#F#EB ("Catholic Block"/"Tuff Gnarl"/"Pipeline"). Though I have no way of knowing if these were actually used to record 'Sister', he was definitely touring with them from June '87 onward.
With the red 12-string Strat now in EG#, Lee began using a Quest for F#F#F#F#EB ("Pipeline"). As far as I know, this was only used in 1987, though Thurston does use it in the "Dirty Boots" video.
Though Thurston used the blue Jazzmaster for GDD# as late as July of '87, as of September he was now using a Fender Duo-Sonic...er..Mustang..er...Duo-Sonic... er.. Despite popular identification of this guitar on SY set lists as "Duo Sonic", the general consensus among people who know far more than I do about vintage guitar details is that this is definitely a Mustang. Apparently the neck was likely made in either very late '65 to mid '66 as it has a rare return to the slab rosewood fretboard with a CBS style headstock, and the 22 frets rule out a Duo Sonic. The serial number is 70s, and the body itself is a pre-69 slab. The tremolo is also from a Mustang. Now, I suspect this guitar was purchased with the 3 pickups already configured, so it was most likely modified or just built from various parts prior to the band obtaining it. In any case, Thurston began using this for GGDDD#D# around September '87 (which meant 'Kill Yr Idols' was out of the set as it required a whammy bar).
With Thurston now rocking a Mustang, Lee had to join in on the fun, with a sunburst beauty that seemed perfectly normal except for the humbucker installed directly between the two pickups. Since he does not appear to have this at the July '87 show, I wonder if perhaps they obtained both of these modified Mustangs from the same source between the European Sister tour and the American leg? It's possible that they customized them themselves, but it just seems unlikely to me that they'd go to the trouble of neatly modifying the pickguards to add new pickups rather than just removing them entirely (or leaving them as is). Lee used his sunburst Mustang for standard tuning on all of the Ramones covers as well as "Hotwire My Heart" on the Sept/Oct '87 tour.
Lee is also seen using a Harmony Les Paul copy in standard for "I Wanna Be Yr Dog" at the 06/04/87 London show. He did continue using this for a few more years, so it was not borrowed, but it was also replaced by the Mustang for standard tuning songs and not visible in his pile of guitars at the 07/21/87 Hasselt show...
Lee also expanded his Telecaster Deluxe collection in '87, with this one, used for "Beauty Lies in the Eye". I'm sure the tuning is F#F#C#C#C#C# but I'm still not 100% positive whether that 4th string (normally G) is tuned up or down.
I suppose I've glossed over the fact that Kim pretty much exclusively used an Ovation Magnum bass from 1982 through 1987 (though she actually had two). At the 09/16/87 Atlanta show, however, she uses a Gibson EB style bass. While the EB series of basses became standard for her in the 21st century, it's odd to see her use this one on the Sister tour, especially since she's seen using the Ovation at other dates. Initially I thought perhaps it was borrowed, but...well, perhaps now would be a good time to review another gathering of sonic guitars while entering a new era.
Initially, Thurston is seen holding the familiar 'old wood' Jaguar while the band is interviewed on a couch. It looks pretty much as it's expected to look beyond '87. Other guitars are strewn around in the background. Curiously, these same guitars are later seen in a cluster around the drum kit while they're being interviewed (in separate clothes, presumably from another day). On what appears to be another day, or after another costume change at least, they're interviewed by John Cale with more of the same guitars reconfigured in the background. In fact, I'm not sure how many times they were interviewed but the same guitars seem to keep reappearing! So let's look at em...
Okay, so...some of these make sense...Telecasters, sure...white Mustang, sure, Thurston even uses it on the "Silver Rocket" performance (retuned to ACCGG#C of course, although for a moment you can see the GDD# tuning written on the back). Lee uses the red 12-string for the "Rocket" performance too, though when Thurston is playing it during the interview it sure sounds like it's got F#s on the bottom. Of course, nothing indicates that they filmed the live performance at the same time as the interviews, nor would retuning be a big deal, so...anyway...
Wait, two sunburst Mustangs? Yup, clear as day, one on either side of Steve getting shot. One is clearly Lee's with the humbucker in the middle, and one looks almost identical only without the humbucker -- this is the one I had a picture of Thurston using and wondered if it might be Lee's. Turns out there's two, and Thurston appeared to be using a sunburst Mustang on at least the North American 'Daydream Nation' tour, as evidenced by a picture from one of the shows at the Roxy on this tour (same show used for the 'Trees Outside the Academy' cover). He's also using it in a picture in the 'Goodbye 20th Century' book where it's labelled as 07/26/86 CBGB, which just CAN'T be correct -- it's clearly from the Daydream era, with Lee playing the 12-string Strat and Kim playing her Rickenbacker, plus Thurston is wearing one of the shirts he wears on the very Southbank Show I'm describing!
A black Mustang is visible too, with a white pickguard -- I'm assuming this is the same one Lee used for "My Friend Goo" in 1990, only the pickguard had been removed. Whether he used this on the 'Daydream' tour, I have no idea...
I also find it odd that the Viper is so prominent, since it seemed to disappear from their touring arsenal after '86, but Lee does discuss it in a 1989 Guitar Player article, so maybe it did make an appearance on 'Daydream Nation'? Or perhaps it was just sitting around...
The Gibson EB bass that Kim is seen using at the Atlanta 09/16/87 also happens to be hanging around, so it's possible she was using this more often than that one show (which is certainly plausible given the lack of video/photo documentation for the vast majority of SY shows from the 80s). However, she is using her Rickenbacker bass for the live footage.
Thurston is seen using the Roadstar for "Rain King", in a very rare performance of this song.
I do find it interesting that the "He's on Fire" bit from 'Master=Dik' appears to be taken directly from this documentary, when Thurston shoots Steve, but 'Master=Dik' came out in January '88...my easiest rationalization is that they just synched it up with that scene (and Lee just happens to yell "he's on fire!"), but...yeah...very curious as to when this documentary was actually filmed.
The most peculiar moment in this documentary is when Thurston holds up a black Les Paul copy about 10 minutes in, says it's his favorite guitar and that a lot of the songs were written on it, and then says "it's called the Drifter". Except...it's not the Drifter. It's the Les Paul copy that's visible behind Lee in the righthand "EVOL" era picture dissected above. Now, Thurston even looks directly at the headstock when he calls it the Drifter (though I can't actually make out what's written there), so I have no idea what he's talking about unless there were two Drifters, or he was totally bullshitting (wouldn't be the first time, I'm sure). All other evidence indicates that the Drifter we all know and love is in, in fact, the original Drifter.
I've never seen any video footage of an SY gig from 1988, so this year has always been a real grey area for me. A few pictures exist from the aforementioned November '88 Roxy gigs, where Thurston can be seen using his red Jazzmaster, which would have been newly acquired, as well as the sunburst Mustang, the Drifter, and the blue Jazzmaster, which now has two soapbar pickups and looks like a 'normal' Jazzmaster. Kim is using her Gibson Thunderbird bass. None of the shots of Lee are clear enough to determine what he's playing. I'm not entirely sure, but it looks like Thurston might be playing the sunburst Mustang in the picture where his hair is all wild, and since Lee's singing that would pretty much guarantee they're playing "Hey Joni", making the Mustang in GABDEG.
In some pictures from 12/01/88 Tampa Thurston can be seen using the white Mustang, while Lee is using the Harmony Les Paul. If I had to guess, the white Mustang was probably in GGDDD#D# for the Trilogy songs, and the Les Paul was probably tuned for "The Wonder"/"Hyperstation" as well.
The next footage I'm aware of is a video from 03/21/89 Leeds, where Thurston is using the blue Jazzmaster for CCEBGD on "The Sprawl" and "Cross the Breeze", as well as drumstick guitar for "World Looks Red" (I suppose old habits are hard to break). It's possible that after serving its purpose as a standard-tuned guitar on the 'Sister' tour, it was used for a brand new tuning and was actually used to record both of those songs on 'Daydream Nation', but I (of course) have no way to confirm that...
One thing I can surely confirm is that the Drifter, already stripped of its frets and strung up with 4 bass strings, was retuned to BBF#F# and used by Thurston for "Eric's Trip" on 'Daydream Nation' and beyond until it was stolen.
His white Mustang is now back in GGDDD#D# for the entire "Trilogy". The sunburst Mustang he was using in late '88 is never seen again.
In the Leeds video, Thurston's using the new red Jazzmaster in ACCGG#C for "Candle" "Kissability" and "Silver Rocket". He's also using a new sunburst Jazzmaster in GABDEG for "Teenage Riot" and "Hey Joni". Both of these appear to be legitimate, unmodified Fender Jazzmasters. It's interesting to note that both of these are brand new tunings, so again -- it's possible these were the actual guitars used to record the album, but my skepticism is triggered by the absence of these Jazzmasters in the 'Put Blood in the Music' doc.
Days later, in Amsterdam, Thurston's now using the Eterna for GABDEG (by the way, 'Eterna' is just the model name and it's manufactured by Musima). In pictures from Hamburg (April 2nd) and Moscow (apparently in April as well, though I've always been under the impression the Soviet Russia gigs were in February...more below!) he is still using the Eterna for GABDEG, so the sunburst Jazzmaster must have been swapped to another tuning. Since all of the Daydream tunings are covered (and "Rain King" was not played in '89), it's possible that it was used for F#GA or EG# as both "White Kross" and "Expressway" were played on this tour.
In the Leeds video, Lee is seen using his second Telecaster Deluxe (formerly used on "Beauty Lies"), now in another new tuning GGDDGG for "Teenage Riot" and "The Sprawl". This tuning is basically a modification of the existing GDD# tuning. He's also seen using his classic F-hole Telecaster for "The World Looks Red".
His sunburst Mustang is now being used for "'Cross the Breeze", in another new tuning: EEEEF#F# -- when the band relearned the 'Daydream Nation' material in 2007, this same guitar was used for "Breeze".
He also has another new Mustang in another new tuning: a reddish orange competition 'stang in EBEEAB for "Eric's Trip", "Hey Joni", and "Kissability". This guitar was traditionally used for "Eric's Trip" for the next decade, until its theft. Another decade later, the guitar would be returned! But you all know that by now...
Lee's also using a purple Fernandes strat-style guitar in another new tuning, AAEEAA (which is just the 'Teenage Riot' tuning up one step) for "Silver Rocket" and "Candle". I'm really not sure when he acquired this, but since he used the red 12-string Fender Strat for "Rocket" in the 'Put Blood in the Music' documentary, the Fernandes may have been a mid-late '88 purchase. Either way, it's been his sole AEA guitar for the past 20 years.
Finally, he has the Harmony Les Paul in GGC#DGG for "The Wonder" and "Hyperstation".
I'd always thought the Russia gigs were in February, between the Australia and Japan tours. However, on the 04/01/89 show Lee mentions that they only have two shows until the Russian gigs, and some of the guitar usage in the Moscow pictures indicates that they came after Amsterdam and Hamburg. For one, Thurston is using the Eterna for GABDEG, a change which seemed to happen between Leeds and Amsterdam. Lee is also using a brand new sunburst Fender Jaguar for EBEEAB instead of the competition Mustang, which is definitely seen in Amsterdam. Check out the Hamburg pictures and you'll see there's a strip of duct tape on the upper switches of Thurston's red Jazzmaster -- this is present in the Moscow pictures as well, but not in the Amsterdam footage. However.. if you look through the Hamburg pictures you'll see that it's NOT there in some pictures, and while I'd suggest it was added during the show, it's clearly there while Thurston is still wearing his overshirt and then not there after he's just in his t-shirt. Also, all of the ACCGG#C songs were played at the beginning of the Hamburg show (which would explain him still having an overshirt on, and then removing it a couple songs in) but why would the strip of duct tape come off and then appear again in Moscow? Could it be two entirely separate strips of duct tape? Could it be that Moscow actually was in February? Could it be that I'm thinking about this shit way too fucking hard?
Anyway, Lee's new Jaguar is cool to see here, as I'd never seen him use it prior to 03/08/90 Washington, where it's used for various G tunings ("The Wonder" "Titanium Expose" "Mote"). Apparently he chose to replace the competition Mustang for at least a little bit.
Kim is seen using the Thunderbird for the majority of the time, but is also using her Rickenbacker in one shot. Without knowing the exact Moscow set list, it's tough to say which song this is.
The only other footage I have of them from '89 is the infamous November Night Music appearance that's included on the 'Screaming Fields of Sonic Love' video. Here, Thurston and Lee use the same guitars for "Silver Rocket" (and Thurston's red Jazzmaster does indeed have the mysterious strip of duct tape) and littered across the stage you can see the "Old Wood" Jaguar, the Kapa Continental, a Gibson Firebird, and the f-hole Telecaster, which Lee would use on 'I Wanna Be Yr Dog'. The Firebird had not previously appeared, and would only be used by Thurston briefly for "Mildred Pierce" (in standard tuning!) in August 1990 (he did, however, seem to enjoy using it in videos - see "100%" "Cinderella's Big Score" "Mildred Pierce" or "Bull in the Heather"). Years later, Jim would claim this guitar for 'Murray Street' era sets.
A lot of guitars settled into new tunings and remained there for the rest of the decade, many of them until that sad summer day when they were stolen in 1999. Kim developed a new guitar tuning, EGDGED, which she used on "My Friend Goo", and Thurston adopted it for "Dirty Boots" and "Tunic". The red Jazzmaster retained this tuning for most of the 90s (aside from a brief switcheroo in '92). A red Fender Jaguar became the new ACCGG#C guitar, used on "Cinderella's Big Score". The white Mustang was changed to F#GA, where it remained for the next 9 years until its theft, and the sunburst Jazzmaster took over for GGDDD#D# ("Mote"). The blue Jazzmaster became the F#F#F#F#EB guitar for the rest of the decade, with an Epiphone Genesis making a brief appearance for Thurston's CCEBGD ("Cross the Breeze") tuning on 03/08/90 (and reused by Lee in the "Dirty Boots" video).
Lee continued using the Fernandes Strat for AEA, and altered it slightly to BBEEAA for "Cinderella's Big Score". He briefly used the red Mustang for "Catholic Block" in DDA before switching it back to EBEEAB for "Eric's Trip". Later in the year he began using a Gibson SG with a bigsby for "Eric's Trip" (which Jim would also recruit many years later). The Harmony Les Paul was briefly used for F#GA and then changed to F#F#F#F#EB for "Kool Thing". The sunburst Jaguar was used for several of the G tunings, GDF for "Mote", GDG for "Titanium Expose", and GGC#DGG for "The Wonder" in March, then later in a new tuning FFCCAA ("Mary Christ" "Lee #2") in August. The black Mustang that appeared in the 'Put Blood in the Music' doc seems to have been used in GGDFFG for "My Friend Goo". Lee acquired a new sunburst Jazzmaster with a pickup behind the bridge, initially using it for FCA in 1990 before settling into the G tunings for "Mote", "Tunic", and "Titanium" in '91. Lee briefly used his f-hole Telecaster in another new tuning, EEBBEF# for "Dirty Boots" - eventually he settled into using the 2nd Tele for this tuning and switched the f-hole to F#GA, where it remained for the rest of the decade. His Kapa Continental was once again used for GDD# on tracks like "Stereo Sanctity" and "Flower". Another odd guitar/tuning match-up at the 03/08/90 show was the Old Wood Jaguar for F#F#F#F#EB ("Kool Thing"). One of the few guitars that didn't change tunings in 1990 was the sunburst Mustang used for "Cross the Breeze" (which fell out of the sets after March anyway).
It appears Lee borrowed a Kramer Striker and possibly a white Mustang from opening act STP (or somebody) for the performances of "Mildred Pierce" in August 1990, as seen in the video clip for that track. This guitar is seen as a prop in the same video, presumably from around the same day of the 08/17/90 Hollywood show (though the photo credit for a picture of Steve holding it in the 'Psychic Confusion' bio indicate it was taken on 08/20/90, when they were in Sacramento). I've never actually seen the band play it live, though. In October 1990 the band filmed the "Disappearer" video, in which Lee plays this white Kent, which he didn't actually use live (to my knowledge) until 2002.
At the final show of the year, Lee was using his new Travis Bean in GDD# for "Brother James" and "Kill Yr Idols". He also had a new white Jazzmaster that would soon become Thurston's. On the Neil Young tour in early 1991, Thurston would be using the white Jazzmaster for "I Love Her All The Time". Lee also had a new guitar for this tune, a legitimate Gibson Les Paul Deluxe whose neck broke several times on the tour. His Travis Bean had settled into F#F#F#F#EB for "Kool Thing", where it would remain for the whole decade. The 'old wood' Jaguar was back in use for DDA, his sunburst Jaguar was now permanently in GDD# (for "Brother James", "Kill Yr Idols", and screwdriver fury on "Flower"), and his sunburst Jazzmaster was used for the rest of the G tunings. Thurston also began using a black G&L ASAT Tele-style for "Expressway".
As ACCGG#C songs fell out of the set, Thurston began using the red Jaguar for drumstick carnage on "I Love Her All The Time", as seen in '1991: The Year Punk Broke'. The white Jazzmaster took over for GDD# songs like "Brother James", "Mote" and new tune "Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit", with the sunburst Jazzmaster now in EG#EG#EG# for "Expressway", and the G&L ASAT now in GABDEG for "Teenage Riot".
Speaking of that ASAT, there's a curious picture of Lee in the 'Psychic Confusion' biography, where he's playing a black Fender Telecaster with two humbuckers. The caption says "1991: The Year Punk Broke, live in Ireland". It looks a LOT like the G&L ASAT that Thurston was using on that tour, but it clearly has a (small, normal) Fender Telecaster headstock. One of SY's techs had told me that Thurston's brother Gene may have built that guitar, or possibly the other Tele (which we'll discuss in a bit). I had been leaning towards it being the other Tele because the paper plate set list from 07/04/92 seems to say 'Gene' next to "Sugar Kane", and that's the one he uses for it. However, in my never-ending quest to investigate mysteries to intrigue the five people who've actually read this far, I happened to notice a quote from Lee on the 08/21/91 Dublin, Ireland show - after playing "Sugar Kane" (which would be in GABDEG), Thurston is switching to bass for "Inhuman", and Lee says "I'm gonna smash your brother's guitar tonight, Thurston" -- which suggests to me that this might be a rare instance of Thurston actually lending Lee a guitar for a song (typically he'd swap with Kim when he trades over to bass). So, I fired up the ol' Betamax to scope out "The Year Punk Broke" and checked out Thurston's guitar on "Teenage Riot" -- sure enough, it appears to have a standard Fender Tele headstock, and not the the G&L headstock it has now. I checked the 07/04/92 NYC video and it has the same Fender headstock there, as well (it's also back to "Expressway"). So, it appears this guitar actually began its life as a Fender, or at least with a Fender neck, before receiving a G&L transplant later on. Based on Lee's comment, I suppose this is the one Gene built, or at least gave him, after all?
Speaking of "Expressway", Lee also got a new guitar for this tune, a fireglo Rickenbacker 620/12. I'm not entirely sure why, but Lee seems to favor a 12-string guitar for this tuning, seemingly strung with only 6 strings (though in the future he would begin using at least 10 strings...).
I think I'll end this with a couple more discoveries from the 07/04/92 NYC video. This is a great document of the band breaking in the 'Dirty' material before the fall tour. Thurston has swapped the white Jazzmaster into EGDGED, the red Jazzmaster into GDD#, and returned the red Jaguar into ACCGG#C for "Theresa" and "Youth Against Fascism". The sunburst Jazzmaster was mostly used as a whipping boy for "Burning Spear", but may still be in GDD#. The white Mustang stayed in F#GA and the blue Jazzmaster stayed in F#F#F#F#EB. Another Telecaster (apparently a copy) is introduced for GABDEG ("Teenage Riot", "Sugar Kane", "Genetic"), and as described above, the black Tele is back in EG#EG#EG# for "Expressway". (By '93, the white Jazz was the main GDD#, the red Jazz was back to EGDGED, and the sunburst Jazz was still the whipping boy.) An interesting note about that 2nd Telecaster: it was still being used for GABDEG in 1999, up to the 07/02/99 Berkeley gig, after which all of SY's gear was stolen. This guitar was almost surely lost in that incident, but does not appear on any of the stolen gear lists. Overlooked all these years?
At 07/04/92, Lee's sunburst Jazzmaster is still in GDG, the old wood Jaguar is being used (in who knows what tuning) for "Burning Spear", the 2nd Tele is still in EEBBEF#, the F-hole Tele is still in F#GA, the Fernandes is still in AEA, the Travis Bean is still in F#F#F#F#EB, and the Rickenbacker is still in EG#. The SG previously used for "Eric's Trip" is now being used in GDD# (not GDG despite tech notes to the contrary!) for "Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit". And, he's now playing one of the coolest fucking guitars I've ever seen, the leopard print Jaguar in GGBDGA for "Sugar Kane". By the fall 'Dirty' tour, the old wood Jag would be in AF#EF#EB for "Shoot", he had a brand new Telecaster Deluxe for GGBDGA ("Sugar Kane", "Genetic"), and a spare black Strat copy for AEA ("Youth Against Fascism", "Theresa"). The leopard Jaguar was now in DDA for "Schizophrenia", where it remained for a few years.
Finally, after favoring her BC Rich bass for most of 1990 and 1991, Kim returned to her Thunderbird bass at 07/04/92, using the BC Rich only for "Drunken Butterfly" (in the alternate tuning F#F#GA). However, by the fall tour she was using the 'Snoopy' Jazz bass almost exclusively, with the Thunderbird appearing only on "Purr" and "Chapel Hill". Perhaps most interesting, Kim uses the Eterna at 07/04/92 for "Swimsuit Issue", in DEGDBB - while I knew she'd used it to record her parts on 'Dirty', I'd only ever seen her use the 'Snoopy' Les Paul Special in '92. This is the first and last instance of her using the Eterna live within Sonic Youth up until 1999 when she returned to it after the gear theft.
Here are a few more shots of Lee's effects from a later '87 gig, not nearly as clear:
Here are Thurston and Kim's amps from the same gig:
Here's a pic that I'm not even sure where I found, or when it's from...I suspect it's from '88/'89 w/ Lee playing 'Cross the Breeze. In the middle is a still from the "Silver Rocket"/"Put Blood in the Music" doc, also 88/89... At the end is a pic stolen from the great Moscow blog linked above, with another shot of Lee's effects from '89.
Okay, I can easily identify every guitar in this room but can you identify the amps and effects? Is that a Ludwig Phase II in front of fake Kim, and if so, why did it take them until "The Diamond Sea" to use it? Fake Thurston has a couple of Turbo Rats, a red DOD (perhaps an FX52 Classic Fuzz?), and what appears to be a Jax FW-3 Fuzz-Wah.
Some of these are obvious (Ludwig Phase II, Maestro Ring Modulator, etc) but I'm open to any suggestions.
In addition to all of these, why not check out great photo sets like 11/08/85 early and late, or the Moscow set linked above, and see if you can identify the amps in the background?
Alright, I think that's about it. I have to admit, I did a lot of general site maintenance that isn't mentioned anywhere on this page, so if you look around, who knows what you might find... Otherwise, please write if you have any information, comments, whatever...! You could end up being as cool as these people: Greg Joondeph-Breidbart, Tristan Anapol, Eric Manley, Ted Aguilar, Oliver Martin, Gert-Jan Luyckx, JDFWizard, Markus Reiter, Ben, Miles Fortune, Tim Asakov, Jim Shine, Lasse Jensen, Tyler Wickstrom, Rauno Alliksaar, or M. Weclaw.
Thanks for reading!
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