1983 Squier '52 Reissue Telecaster

Bob Leggitt | Sunday, 13 November 2011 |

The subject of this retrospective is an early Squier ’52 Reissue Telecaster, which I bought brand new in 1983, from a shop called Chase, (Old Square, Birmingham city centre, UK), for £205. The guitar was part of what’s now known as the JV series (because the serial numbers began with ‘JV’) – the first wave of Japanese Fender vintage reissues. Whilst the Squier brand has since become associated with low-end instruments of mediocre to poor quality, these initial ones were effectively Fender Japan’s premium output, ‘brand-disabled’ to avoid killing off sales of early ‘eighties American Fenders. Indeed, the very first of the Squiers were branded ‘Fender’, with just a small ‘Squier’ logo added to the headstock, but this was extremely quickly reversed so that ‘Squier’ became the high-visibility brand.

Essentially though, the whole progression from these early days through to and beyond the Fender MIJ series of the 1980s was just one long continuation. In other words, the early Squier Teles morphed into the Fender MIJ Teles, afterwhich a new, cheap and usually plywood Squier was introduced to prop up the range from the bottom. These subsequent Squiers were unrecognisable in terms of quality as compared with the originals.

American Fenders from the old CBS Fullerton factory were still on sale in 1983, and I remember the ‘choice’ I had when buying my Squier ‘52. It wasn’t technically a choice, because I couldn’t afford the £340 for the American Fender Tele (I wasn't long out of school and had to borrow half of the £205). But I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. The US Fender was finished in the most revolting orange (with white scratchplate), and looking at the two instruments side by side, any uninitiated buyer would have considered the Squier to be the expensive one, and the orange Fender to be the cheapie.

The Squier ’52 reissue was amazingly accurate given its price – even reverting back to flat-head screws rather than the cross-heads which had been standard on Fenders since the mid ‘50s. The pickups were American vintage replicas, and they followed the general air of super-authenticity. All the wiring was cloth-covered, looking convincingly vintage, and even more interestingly, the instrument came with the correct 1952 tone circuit, with that intensively low-pass filtered neck pickup sound when the selector switch was set in the front position. A tone it was virtually impossible to do anything with, but nevertheless a tone which would have been there on a real 1952 Tele. Later Japanese Fender Tele reissues ignored the period-authentic circuits and instead adopted the preferred post ’67 version, but these early ones took the USA reissue policy of wiring for accuracy rather than popularity.

In fact, there was very little difference between the early Squier ’52 Tele replica and the Fender USA ’52 reissue – costing about three times the Squier's price in 1983. The USA ’52 had a nitro-cellulose finish, whereas this Squier had brittle polyester which could chip off in sizeable chunks when you bashed it (don’t ask how I know that – aaaaggghhhh!). I think the Squier had simulated bakelite for the scratchplate too, whereas the USA version’s bakelite was real. But other than that, they were the same guitar, and as someone who’s owned both a Squier and a USA ’52 reissue, I can confirm that the Squier was lighter in weight and better in use.

Unfortunately, after damaging the finish in 1984 (not long after taking the digitally revitalised photo used in this piece), I decided to completely strip the butterscotch polyester. I made a serious pig’s ear of it, but was fortunate to get a really nice Double Eagle replacement ash body.

I sold the guitar (with the replacement body) to a friend and bandmate in early 1985. He subsequently took it to a guitar shop for rewiring and the installation of a different neck pickup, but after that he continued to use it as his main guitar. I suppose this tale is quite typical of what happened to a fair number of these things back in the ‘eighties. Had we known how valuable an all-original Squier JV series ’52 Tele would be nearly three decades down the line, I’m sure we’d have been a lot more careful with them and not made the rash decisions we did. But in the mid 1980s, no one envisaged Japanese-made guitars becoming valuable. There seemed to be overwhelming numbers of them around, and I certainly didn’t foresee the production standards of the Squier brand ending up where they did. More fundamentally, you didn’t really want a guitar with ‘Squier’ on the headstock – you wanted a ‘proper Fender’. It was inconceivable that by the next century people would be paying much more for guitars with ‘Squier’ branding than for American Fenders, but that can now sometimes be the case.

Incidentally, the amp in the photo is a 1984 V Amp VA60 – without any doubt whatsoever the worst amplifier I ever owned, used or had the misfortune of sharing a room with. It epitomised everything that was wrong with old transistor amps. Poor bass response and boxy midrange at low volume. You thought it would be okay when you turned it up loud, but it got worse. Much worse. The ‘overdrive’, which was unavoidable at rehearsal volume, sounded like a biscuit tin full of marbles on a vibrating platform. I don’t remember where the amp went. Maybe I had to pay someone to take it off my hands and I’ve just mentally blocked out the whole trauma?… Don’t know, but if there are any which have somehow escaped being thrown in a skip – or overboard, if they’re on a boat, obviously – then I truly pity the owner(s). Let’s just be positive and remember the Telecaster. That Squier ’52 Tele reissue really was a great guitar.

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