Played, smashed, burnt: Epic rock guitars at ABBA Museum

FEW other guitars have inspired more wild stage behaviour in rock music than this very Fender Stratocaster.

Jimi Hendrix famously smashed it up after performing ‘Wild Thing’ at the 1967 Monterey festival, before setting it ablaze with lighter fluid as bewildered fans watched.

Today it is one of more than 40 historic signature electric guitars glistening behind glass in Stockholm’s ABBA Museum – not the originals albeit, but exact copies replicated down to each storied scratch, nick and even burn mark.

Not far away is a copy of Clapton’s worn Fender Stratocaster, known as ‘Blackie’, famously heard on hits like ‘Layla’ and ‘I Shot the Sheriff’.

Clapton used parts from three other guitars he bought in 1970 to create the original, which sold at auction for a mind-boggling 960,000 dollars in 2004.

A selection of history-worn Les Pauls and Fender Telecasters at the ‘Guitars of the Stars’ exhibit in Stockholm
Peter Green’s iconic Gibson Les Paul 1959
Eric Clapton’s famed electric guitar ‘Blackie’ (centre) on display at the ‘Guitars of the Stars’ exhibit in Stockholm
Guitar enthusiast and curator Claes af Geijerstam strums one of his electric guitars

It had a mark, said guitar enthusiast Claes af Geijerstam, who owns the collection and curated the ‘Guitars of the Stars’ exhibit featuring replicas of epic guitars played by BB King, Peter Green, Slash and Jeff Beck.

“I’ve played all of them, sometimes with friends,” says af Geijerstam, a former guitarist with 1960s Swedish pop group Ola & The Janglers and later a sound designer for ABBA.

“You have to get the guitar going, the tonewood has to live.” Af Geijerstam started collecting his own guitars and bought other originals but changed tack when he “realized that custom shops were making exact replicas” that were more affordable.

The originals are often kept by their owners, and when up for sale fetch huge sums, he said.

Some of the signature guitars on display have been signed and played by guitarists who made them famous.

Among af Geijerstam’s favourites in the exhibit was a Gibson Les Paul owned by Slash “because it’s so worn,” and a 1959 Les Paul Pearly Gates used by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top with its “wonderful tone, and like [Gibbons] says ‘it opens the gates of heaven when you hear Pearly Gates sing’.”

Hendrix was one of the greats along with Gary Moore, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher who played on Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green’s iconic Gibson Les Paul 1959 – also on display.

Blues legend BB King once said it had “the sweetest tone I ever heard.”

The original is owned by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

Several showcases feature audio clips with a story from the guitar’s past, for instance why BB King named his guitars ‘Lucille’, what inspired Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s well-known riff, and how singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow came into possession of a replica 1959 Fender Custom Telecaster.

The exhibit includes videos of how guitars are made, and a quiz compiled by af Geijerstam.

“Regretfully,” he said, “the guitars cannot be in the open due to the risk of damage or parts going missing.” – Text & Photos: dpa