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Lifestyle

November 28, 2013

'108 Rock Star Guitars' reveals battle-ax beauty

NEW YORK (AP) — Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand songs.

The supersized book “108 Rock Star Guitars” (Glitterati Inc.) demonstrates that six-stringed instruments owned by celebrities and virtuoso sidemen can look as good as they rock.

The 17-year undertaking by photographer Lisa S. Johnson partly benefits the Les Paul Foundation. Paul, the Rock Hall musician-inventor, wrote the foreword before he died.

Not a guitar geek? Don’t fret.

Whether you define “pickup” as a truck, a dating technique or a guitar part, you can revel in the glitz-and-grit world where these prized possessions reside.

The instruments (one’s named Baby) evoke tender talk from macho musicians. But some of these battle-ax beauties have seen more action than a roller derby queen: They bear the gashes and sweat stains to prove it.

The author, who grew up in a musical family, underscores musicians’ emotional attachment to their instruments.

“I don’t believe any serious musician feels that his instrument is an inanimate object,” Tom Scholz of the group Boston tells Johnson.

Steve Vai, who went solo after playing with Frank Zappa’s band, once described his guitar as “the voice of my heart” in moments of depression, euphoria and “divine love. ... I have cried, screamed, prayed and bled through that instrument.”

The book lauds the instrument-makers, called luthiers, and the techs, along with the guitars.

Pawnshop wallflowers blossom into unbridled stardom. There are kaleidoscopic, patriotic and wildcat patterns; gorgeous maple and mahogany; delicate carvings of leaves and acorns; a stuck-on Chinese cookie fortune; python skin; fake fur; little-girl superheroes.

Some seem to revel in musical masochism:

— Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne Band) — blowtorch burns, hammered-on bottle caps.

— Slash (Velvet Revolver, Guns N’ Roses) — cigarette carelessness. As the story goes, the guitarist was “one with the music” while accidentally inflicting a “charred reminder of rock ‘n’ roll nirvana.”

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