Hollywood Gear

I love watching movies and TV with an eye for gear. In general, producers don’t seem to go cheap on the six-string props required of their scripts. While there is no doubt a long and illustrious list of guitars that have graced the silver screen, two stand out as iconic for both their movie moments and place in guitar gear history.

Back to the Future’s Gibson ES-345 and a Young John Mayer

Few moments are as memorable from Spielberg’s Back to the Future trilogy as the scene where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) takes the stage at his own parents prom in 1955. His job was to provide some subtle backing rhythm for a band whose guitarist injured his hand on the way to the gig. But as you’ll no doubt recall, McFly breaks from the rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” and careens into a set of searing 1980s riffs as he flails on the floor in a way that would make Angus Young jealous. “I guess you aren’t ready for that yet…but your kids are gonna love it,” McFly remarks to the crowd of gob smacked 1950s prom-goers.

Not only was McFly’s style ahead of its time, so was the guitar he wielded. The cherry red hollow-body he played at the prom is a Gibson ES-345 with an iconic Bigsby bridge. Historically, however, the guitar didn’t exist until 1958. But hey, in a film about time travel, this slight anachronism is the least of our worries!

While countless kids who grew up in the 1980s no doubt pleaded and petitioned their parents for guitar lessons after seeing the scene—one in particular went on to make a lasting impact on the future of music. As noted in the John Mayer documentary “Someday I’ll Fly,” McFly’s epic performance on that seemingly out of place Gibson was one of the key factors that led to Mayer picking up guitar in the first place.

Who knows, perhaps Doc and the Delorean flew ahead and saw the impact the ill-placed prop would have on subsequent generations of players and figured the minor chronological slip up was worth it.

Wayne’s World’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster and Its Squier Heritage

Wayne’s World is full of classics: from Garth (Dana Carvey’s) sky blue with blazing flames AMC Pacer (a.k.a., the mirth mobile) to the animated rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” sung inside by Wayne (Mike Meyers) and crew, the 1992 film is no short on throwbacks. None of them, however, are as illustrious as the guitar that was the object of Wayne’s obsession in the scene of his guitar store visit.

“There it is, Excalibur,” Wayne remarks as he looks upon an Olympic white vintage Stratocaster locked in a plexi glass case. His girlfriend, Casandra (Tia Carrere) astutely observes the axe is a 1964 Fender Stratocaster. Wayne adds, “It’s a pre-CBS Fender corporate buyout.” As the scene continues, Wayne realizes his dream and pulls out a wad of cash to buy it.

If that scene were to play out today, the stack of bills required to purchase the vintage Strat would likely be in upwards of $20,000. However, the film also inspired a run of more economical Excaliburs. Arguably, some of the better quality and now sought after Squier Stratocasters of the early 1990s were built in Japan. On the heels of Wayne’s World’s success, the Squier released a “most excellent” Stratocaster in its Silver Series. First released in 1993, the guitar took its inspiration from the 1964 Fender Stratocaster of the film with both some more budget-friendly and souvenir appointments. My personal favorite, the etched “Wayne’s World” neck plate stamped as a guarantee of authenticity.

Whether you’re playing at a gig this weekend or kicking back for a night at the movies, keep an ear (and eye) out for the gear on scene and have a great #RiffCitySunday.

3 thoughts on “Hollywood Gear

  • March 25, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Iconic moments with iconic gear. Love that stuff. Everyone probably knows about “The Yardbird’s” brief appearance in the 1968 film “Blowup” with both Jimmie Page and Jeff Beck on guitar, a brief lineup for the band just after Clapton had left as the lead guitarist and before Page formed Led Zeppelin and Beck went on to other projects. The only “unpleasant” part of the performance for me is when Beck smashed his, I guess in reality Steve Howe’s Gibson 175 or a mock-up of his guitar, and bashed it into some Vox AC 30’s. In fact, the scene was staged and it was Steve Howe’s guitar mock-up because his band was at one point hired to perform in the scene but was replaced by the Yardbirds because they were more well known at the time. Originally, the director wanted the “Who” and the guitar smashing scene was inspired by Pete Townsend’s oft-repeated act of authentic guitar smashing. But being a guitar lover myself It’s always hard to watch a musician smash up “A perfectly good guitar” as John Hiatt puts it, when performance or frustration gets the best of them.

  • March 25, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    The thing that amazed me most about Back To The Future, for all the wrong reasons, was the crowd’s reaction to McFly’s antics.

    This generation witnessed double-bass players throughout the land climbing onto their instruments while still playing, they watched Little Richard Dance on his piano, Jerry Lee set fire to his, Chuck Berry strut around like a duck, some guy called Elvis throwing his legs everywhere except the ceiling, singers and saxophonists falling to their knees at the slightest provocation… I suspect their surprise was more down to Marty’s ability to bend the strings like that, given that 50’s strings were about as bendy as a railway track.

    As for Wayne’s World. Sorry, I preferred Bill & Ted.

  • March 27, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    I have a 1994 Fender Strat with a Waynes World 2 neck plate given to me by my wife for my birthday ( she had no clue what it was ). Took it into Guitar Center for a set up. The tech started cracking up and soon had the whole staff laughing, (cue the Waynes World theme) until he played it. He was amazed and soon had the entire staff salivating over it. Had 2 offers before I left the store. Amazing playability and stability & tone. Beautiful mint condition. Still awesome in 2018.


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