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Why 70s Fenders Sucked

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by brianrost, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Here's a great interview with Dan Smith who was hired away from Yamaha by Fender to turn the company around in the 80s. Fascinating reading where Smith describes all the reasons that 70s Fenders deservedly got their reputation for being lousy, why they went to Japan, how Fender was almost liquidated by CBS and more cool stuff.

    No tort or flatwounds mentioned. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
    Rompin Roddy, Phyzzbin, TomB and 37 others like this.
  2. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    Oddly enough, I was at a shop in the city getting my sons horn fixed, it was one of those older places...been there for 100 years, small, cluttered and looks half pawn shop:) They had 3 70's fenders there on consignment, one hanging on the wall, two in bags buried in a corner. All had hugely bowed necks and didn't play or sound any better than a newer lower end model Fender. As much as I wanted that rare pawn shop find...I had to pass.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    70s Fender basses weren't all bad. New ones and ones from 1959 aren't all good.

    I have played plenty of awful 70s Fender basses. But, I also have a standing bid in on a 1978 Jazz black and maple. What I mean by that is I have told the guy if he ever sells I want first crack at it. I don't really like jazz basses. I don't really play 4 strings all that much. But this one plays and sounds THAT good.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  4. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Every era had hit or miss, and obviously some more than others, like the 70's. Had a 71 Jazz that was a dream in all respects. You never know till it's in your hands.
  5. The 70's necks were still my favorite....
  6. bluesfordan


    Sep 3, 2009
    I can speak from first hand experience with a new '74 stratocaster my first 'real' guitar, that was a piece of poopie. I was too green to know any better, I thought it was me. I naively assumed that since it was a Fender, the same guitar as the stars like Blackmore and Hendrix played, that it would be good. When I sold it in '78 after my motorcycle accident, the new owner had to replace the neck and two pickups to make it playable. I was like "You can replace parts on a guitar? Who knew?" :D

    I had an '76 LP copy for 13 years before I started buying guitars again, by that time Fender had come around a long ways since my first one. It really took me to buy reissues before I found the guitars I liked, I still don't care much for the '80s and '90s production necks. But I did like the lace sensors in my Strat Plus (I put some in a build I did this year) so it isn't like all innovation was inherently bad.
  7. I have a ‘71 Precision I’ve had since 1980. I think it plays great. I’ve never owned another P. Maybe ignorance is bliss in my case.
  8. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble SUSPENDED

    Mar 8, 2010
    MjRodge, RobTheRiot, Marikk and 3 others like this.
  9. TinIndian, JJR58, pudgychef and 11 others like this.
  10. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I have 3 70's P's and 2 J's; would not sell any of them.
    I did go through a pile of these (back when they were newish and used) to get these 5 killers.
    I have a 60' that is a killer although I've played a few PRE-CBS that were just OK too.
  11. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    One of the most popular jazz basses (Geddy Lee signature) is modeled after a 70's jazz bass. Whenever people say "this era for this brand was crap", it's only a broad generalization, i.e. it will often be wrong with a particular instrument.
  12. rojo412

    rojo412 Walnut is fun! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    The article was a great read and sheds a lot of light on how things were poorly handled at the time.
    Whether or not you love your 70s/80s Fender, it's not the point. Read the article, it's very interesting.
    Tom7, TinIndian, chadds and 10 others like this.
  13. Doublesixes


    Feb 17, 2013
    So Cal
    When talking about 70s Fenders, a decade is too much a time period to characterize the quality of their products. For example I own a 73 Precision that is probably the best Fender I've ever played. Light, great sustain, stays in tune and just feels great. My 78 Jazz is heavy but sounds really good. The Precision is made of a different kind of wood and it also has a different finish.
  14. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Interesting to read that Fender had to buy back vintage examples of its own product in order to regain the insights needed to craft the reissues. Further proof, I suppose, of how the company had really lost its way through the various ownership changes.
  15. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    The great thing is I'll never have to worry about the resale on my mid seventies jazz. I love it and it'll be part of my estate when I keel over. In the 40 + years I've owned it I've had to do one truss rod adjustment.

    yeah, I guess they must be junk.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  16. consectaneus


    Sep 23, 2016
    CBS incentivized quantity over quality. A classic example of how to run a company and brand into the ground. Thank goodness CBS sold the company to a group who cared, or else it could have gotten really ugly. Very interesting account.
  17. IPA


    May 5, 2010
    My Nate Mendel P is supposedly based on a '71, but built in the modern day state of the art Mexico facility... so best of both worlds? All the style with none of the inconsistency? :)
  18. Plenty of people will tell you that fender is was and always will be crap, even today. I get where they're coming from - they're mass produced instruments, and as such don't have either perceived mojo or actual precision involved in their making compared to smaller custom shops. But in the same vein, I like my fenders. They're good for the money I paid and I really don't need anything else.

    Edit: I thought it was a really interesting read, though. I kinda thought it was weird how 70s fenders have surged in price because of their known QC issues, and it's nice to hear an anecdote of what happened and how they recovered. But I guess those instruments good enough to survive have survived and are now with a premium. Also, neither of my fenders are from the 70s, I'm not made of money and I need to buy some job related stuff.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  19. stefanb

    stefanb Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2017
    Leo probably had all the good stuff in the basement of his house before he signed the papers over to CBS. They just wanted a product to be produced, in assembly that were all the same and consistent without realizing that you are dealing mostly with Wood, and people - two of those most annoyingly frustrating items to work with :)
    Pbassmanca, .:Aidan:. and johndb like this.
  20. Papz


    Mar 10, 2018
    tech and musician
    I'm not a big Fender fan generally speaking but my all time favorite bass is my 1973 Precision (with Badass Bass II). She's just an incredible instrument, I played many basses, Fender and others, she's THE one.

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