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.