Guitar Addiction - is it a Thing?

Bob Leggitt | Tuesday 16 August 2022

Black vintage type Fender guitars - Stratocaster, Jaguar and Telecaster - on white carpet, in front of a piano and Pro Junior tweed amplifier.

Feast your eyes on the above picture. How long does it take your thoughts to wander into the territory of available funds? Less than seven seconds?... Does your partner have to physically restrain you every time the charity shop drops a Squier Affinity into the window display? Is your ownership ratio of guitars to amplifiers greater than ten to one? Could you have bought a family saloon with the money you've spent on overdrive units? Have you ever been concerned about a bedroom floor's abilty to take the weight of your axe-mag collection?... Yes, you say?... Okay, so, I don't want to over-dramatise this, but... You could be addicted to guitars...

Did you know that on Twitter, more people say they're addicted to guitars than say they're addicted to lager? Don't be shocked. For many decades there's been evidence to suggest that guitars - and especially six-stringed electric guitars - have addictive properties. Let me explain...


I live next door to a sole-trading windows and glazing guy... Hear me out, I'm in analogy mode... I live next door to a windows and glazing guy, and he's got one van. His mates in other trades have got one van. Why do they have one van? Because you can only drive one one van at a time, and thus there is no point in them having ten vans, seventeen vans or twenty-four vans. This logic does not extend to the average professional guitarist.

How many professions are there in which the practitioners keep buying their equipment over and over and over again, at £thousands a pop, until they have nowhere left to put it all, and then take out secure storage plans so they can continue to blow literally ALL their income on tools, for the rest of their lives?

When we hear of a pro guitarist with forty or more guitars we don't raise an eyebrow. We expect it. We expect them to turn up for work with eight guitars. That's eight sets of tools. It's not normal. If we hired a gardener and he turned up with eight lawnmowers, we would call a doctor. And we could rest fairly secure in the knowledge that she would not turn up with eight medical kits.

We have to face facts. Surrounding yourself with more artefacts than you could possibly use is the behaviour of an addict, and if we consider it to be normal, that can only mean we must be addicts too.


I mean, this is obviously not our fault. We, the guitarists, are the helpless victims. And the evil perpetrators? Magazines. Bright, eyecatching, glossy-covered magazines that go out of their way to tempt us on the book stores' shelves. Guitar magazines are not like magazines from other genres of interest. Let me show you the difference...

Guitar magazine: "Here is a stage, and here is a guy who bought eighty guitars, and who has fourteen of them lined up behind him on racks, despite the fact that he is only going to play nine songs. We advocate this man's behaviour as totally rational, and cite his drastic over-acquisition of instruments as a highly laudable thing to have done. In fact, if we were him, we would do exactly the same, and we would recommend it to anyone with a bottomless pit of money to spend."


Night life magazine: "Here is a pub, and here is a guy who bought ONE pint of beer, and is drinking one pint of beer, and does not have fourteen pints of beer lined up in front of him on the bar, plus another fifty-six pints at home, and ten more in a bank vault. At no stage will you ever find us recommending that readers walk into pubs and order eighty pints of beer, because if we did that the world would literally cease to function.

That is the difference.

Old UK and USA Guitar magazines and music papers

Does your bedroom floor look like this? Mine does. And that's not even a drop in the ocean. The shelves are bending. The cupboard doors won't shut. There are mag-stacks under the bed, on top of the bed, beside the bed, behind the door, randomly distributed around the floor... Getting from one side of the room to the other is like playing a game of Twister... But I could stop - if I wanted to...

For the benefit of fellow addicts, the spread in the picture includes:

Line 1: 1980s Aswad issue of Making Music; Fender Frontline magazine (1994); Vintage Gallery Fender special (1994); January 1989 Readers' Poll results edition of Making Music; a 1980s Guitar Buyers' Guide; Guitar Techniques with Peter Green and Gary Moore (1996); Midge Ure edition of Making Music (1988)...

Line 2: Is Shred Dead? issue of Guitar Player (1993); Buddy Guy Blues issue of Guitar Player (1990); '50 Years of Fender' issue of Guitarist (1996); Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute issue of Guitar World (1990); Eddy Grant issue of Guitarist (1988); Guitar for the Practicing Musician (1991)...

Line 3: Bass legend Tina Weymouth with the young Shaun Ryder in The Guitar Magazine (1992); the landmark 'Unknown Greats' edition of Guitar Player, which broke tradition to put the incredibly obscure Danny Gatton on the front cover, included a flexidisc of his amazing playing, and established his presence as a cult guitar genius (1989); Issue 1 of Total Guitar - the first UK guitar mag to carry a cover CD (1994); Vernon Reid edition of The Guitar Magazine (1991); 'Objects of Desire' edition of Guitarist (1997)...

Line 4: A throwback to the days of black and white publishing, with Sawicki's Soundcheck assessing the Vox AC30 in International Musician (1978); and The Guitar Magazine in its original form as a component of the International Musician & Recording World compilation (1990 - TGM went standalone in 1991).


In most circumstances, the standard way to deal with a crisis of this sort is for the government to select and bankroll a celebrity mentor who has experienced the problem, recovered from it, and whose voice can now serve as a guiding light. An ambassador of restraint. A respected Guitar Czar who can extol moderation, gently persuading us helpless addicts to step away from the cashpoint, observe strict exclusion zones around guitar stores, and be strong enough to say "NO!" to an Encore E76 or Sunn Mustang, should one suddenly appear beside a double-breasted suit in the window of Age UK.

However, literally NO ONE has ever recovered from guitar addiction. If the government were to find a celebrity musician who bought thirty-nine guitars, that poor, addicted wretch would STILL have thirty-nine guitars, and if they were awarded a five year government mentoring contract, they would simply spend the grant money on another thirty-nine guitars. Further, if they were taken anywhere near a media outlet they would advise the rest of the public to buy thirty-nine guitars. Or seventy-eight guitars, depending on how quickly they received the grant.

This is incurable. We are all doomed. I'm so, so sorry.