Vintage guitar of the week #6 - 1974 Fender Telecaster
Being I've been talking about Telecasters recently, I figured it was time to feature a vintage example of one.
Let's talk about the real-deal '74 Telecaster.
I picked this specific guitar because you can find one as a "Blackie" Tele. The Eric Clapton "Blackie" Strat is basically a black Strat with white pickguard and maple neck/fretboard. That Strat has a signature version as well as an American Standard version and a Mexico version. Squier has nothing that qualifies as a Blackie Strat. While true this Affinity is close to the mark, it has a large '70s style headstock and not the smaller style that's required for the Blackie look.
When it comes to a Blackie style Telecaster however, there is a Squier that almost exactly hits the mark, that being the Affinity model. The only thing it doesn't have is the vintage style 3-saddle "ashtray" bridge. Squier does offer that specific bridge on the Classic Vibe '50s and the Classic Vibe Thinline, but not the Affinity.
"That Fender Mexico version looks really close to the '74 vintage"
Correct. Arguably, the best Blackie-look Telecaster right now is the Mexico version, mainly because it has the same Fender "transition" logo on the headstock that the '74 does.
There are basically only three things you need to match the look of the '74. A set of vintage-style slotted tuners, an ashtray 3-saddle bridge and brass saddles. That's it. And yes, you will spend more on the saddles than for the bridge itself. Funny, but true.
Does the new Tele play like the '74 does?
The '74 has a sound and feel that a new Tele won't. The pickups in the '74 are 41 years old and the neck has a decidedly different shape. Probably a "U" shape compared to "Modern C" that you would get on a new one.
What neck shape and sound you prefer is up to you. I personally could get along with either a new Tele or the old '74.
Does Fender make a '70s "plain" reissue Telecaster?
No. Or not currently at the time I write this.
There are currently three new '70s style Telecasters that Fender makes, none of which are a standard-style Telecaster. The '72 Custom, '72 Deluxe and '72 Thinline. Yes, Fender has a thing for 1972 with their reissue Telecasters right now. I've no idea why, but they do. The Custom does come in black, but has a totally non-standard electronics layout, hence why it's "custom."
If you want a standard Tele in black that has that true '70s look, the Mexico model with the modifications I noted above is the only way to do it.
Could you do these same modifications on a Squier Affinity? Maybe, but it would take some effort. It's probably true the Fender tuners will not fit the pegboard holes on the Squier, and the screw pattern will also be different for the bridge. In other words, drilling will be required.
It should be noted however that on its own, the Affinity Tele is just fine as-is. The same can be said for the Mexico Tele.
Also bear in mind there are a lot of Tele players who simply do not like the ashtray bridge, which is why the "flat" bridge is on modern Teles to begin with. I personally have no problem with the ashtray bridge, but you might because the edges do stick up away from the body. If you feel that might bother you, head to a guitar store and try a Tele with the ashtray bridge first, whether Fender or Squier flavor. They're easy to spot, and you'll know very quickly whether one bothers you when playing or not.