Generally, knockoffs aren’t as good as the original.
Our Man Flint? Not as cool as James Bond.
Mello Yello? Not Mountain Dew. Not by a long shot.
John Cafferty? A great night out at a bar, but no Springsteen.
Hot Gear Friday? Can’t hold a candle to Hot Chick Friday.
But every once in a while, the copy confounds expectations.
Everyone who deserves the right to vote knows the Gibson SG:
Originally putatively a lighter, double-cutaway version of the Les Paul, (whre “lighter Les Paul” makes about as much sense as “Lamborghini with a Hyundai engine”), it’s most famous as Angus Young’s main guitar this past thirty years or so.
And I always hated ’em; after years of playing the slim, elegant neck of my Fender Jazz, playing the SG felt like a thick piece of firewood; the fingerboards always seemed soft, almost porous. Maybe I’ve tried bad guitars – but every SG I’ve ever played felt cheap.
So you’d think the cheap knock-off would be a real doozy – right?
Ibanez guitars was, and is, a company based in Japan that started in the late sixties and early seventies making knock-off guitars. And one of their mid-seventies efforts was the SG:
If you look online, sellers will refer to various early-mid ’70s Ibanezes as “Lawsuit Models”, because – well, in 1975, Gibson sued Ibanez for copying Gibson guitars down to the absolute finest details of their designs (tuning machines, headstocks, truss rods…everything). Ibanez responded by changing some of the details…
…which is where my old SG comes in. It is a virtual dead-ringer for the red Gibson at the top of this post – but for the “Gibson” marque on the headstock, it could be the same axe. I bought it from a friend in 1979, after he’d gotten it from a second-hand store for $90. I’m not sure if it was built immediately before the lawsuit (it looked exactly like a factory SG) or immediately after (the neck was thinner and slicker; the rosewood fingerboard was much nicer than any SG I’ve ever played). But it is a sweet guitar – especially after I dropped a Seymour Duncan “Jeff Beck” pickup in the bridge position (think “Hyundai with a Lamborghini engine”).
If you can find one, and you have a choice between saving your significant other’s life with a rare but relatively inexpensive surgery, and buying the SG – well, save you significant other. Duh. And then buy the SG.