[Book Review] Guitar by Michael Heatley

Sometimes on sundays when I walk around the city I like to hang out at some discount book store because it is not unusual to find some new additions to their collections. Often it is a treasure realm for those who want to read about music or instruments. Last sunday I stumbled upon a book released in 2008: Guitar by Michael Heatley. You can easily imagine that my geektarist eye have been caught by this cover just like an issue of Extra Big Boobs – Issue #12 would do with a pornophile!

First I’ve been attracted by the photo on the cover, and though I should never judge a book by its cover, I have to admit that I did this time. Actually I was quite curious to open that book but I also instantly knew that I would buy it! What a surprise huh? I knew that this book would be promising with such a peculiar ESP guitar on the cover (actually I didn’t knew it was an ESP until I read the end notes).

It is a good read for sure. Guitar is mostly a beautiful book full with nice pictures… The numerous guitars & basses photos are high quality, and very well detailed. But you will also find many pictures of famous, and less famous artists who played one of the instruments featured in the book.  It opens on an introduction  chapter reminding some fundamental technical aspects of the guitar as well as some historical facts. Then the book is made as an encyclopedia or a dictionary i.e. the entries of the book are the brands in alphabetical order. It is a nice book to get some knowledge about the brands that are writing, and that made the history of electric guitar.

Well the book is not exhausive as it features only 50 guitar & bass manufacturers but I found some choices as interesting as  they were unexpected.  Each chapter opens on a brief historical description of the company, and then displays some detailed pictures of the most noticeable models, and most symbolic artists associated with the brand. Obviously such a book could not decentrly avoid the 2 giants of the guitar realm: Fender & Gibson. As a matter of fact these 2 chapters are the most documented, and exhaustive. I guess it could not be another way. Then some of the biggest guitar brands are featured in various length chapters. I regretted the fact that the Ibanez chapter mostly focused on the pointy shred guitars while it is also well known for making a wide range of lutherie work. Nevertheless I appreciated the fact that Michael Heatley tried to find a balance to cover the largest range of electric guitars types: from the Heavy Metal guitars to the instruments dedicated to Jazz, via the glass fiber weirdness from National (with a wonderful picture of Jimmy Reed) or the kitsch look of Italia guitars, and the futuristic vintage Vox guitars. Last I also appreciated the fact that French brands Lag, and Vigier were featured alongside with some manufacturers that I’ve never heard about such as Driskill, Reede or Robin.

Some illustrations are very surprising choices because they were avoiding some clichés. For example if you check for artists usually associated with Fender, then you can have some surprises. It is the case of the picture of Jimmie Vaughan noodling on a  double-neck Robin (standard scale, and short scale) or Jeff Beck meditating with a Floyd Rose trem Jackson Soloist in his hands (and strangely enough Jeff isn’t featured in the Fender chapter nor in the Gibson chapter). This book is full with such delightful pictures, and some of them are rare. The legends of the illustrations bring a lot of interesting informations either technical or historical.

In other words, if you are looking for some porn-guitar-ography… This book is totally made for you! It is a nice summer read!

Guitar: Written by Michael Heatley

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