A Pair of Semis

31. Blue Ibanez AS73

SEMI-ACOUSTICS have never really been my bag. Not sure why. Probably something to do with the way I long preferred Fenders to Gibsons, plus the fact they never quite sit right on my tummy! However. no true nerd’s guitar journey would be complete without at least one semi – and this was mine.
I looked at quite a few cheap and cheerful 335-style semis, but in the end it was always going to be between an Epiphone and an Ibanez. To my mind, the Ibanez won hands down. Even the non-Japanese ones (this was from Korea, I think) had a certain classiness about them which transcended mere looks and build quality.
The AS73 was basically a Gibson ES335 with a lot of corners cut to stay within budget (they retailed at the time for about £300, I think) and enough subtle differences to the shape of the head and body to save Ibanez from being sued. The finish and playability was exceptional for the money – even the pickups were perfectly good, though I’m sure plenty of people who know more about 335s would tell me different!
I bought this rather stunning blue one on eBay sight-unseen (or unplayed) for £150 with a very nice fitted hard case – yet another good example of the eBay gamble paying off.

It was a lovely, lovely guitar, but in all honesty I was really too married to my Strats at that point for it to get all that much serious use. It ended up being appropriated by Owen, who was really getting into the whole air-coming-out-of-the-f-holes thing you get from semis at serious volume. In fact, he quickly became a master of keeping the thing absolutely in that super-exciting edge-of-feedback state. I was happy for him to put it to good use.

Just in case – I kept the hard case from the blue AS73

32. Sunburst Ibanez AS 73

I WAS happy for Owen to use my blue AS73, but rather less happy about the modifications he wanted to make. He’s one of those players who rides the volume control (singular) all the time, and found having one volume for each pickup and neither of them anywhere near where he was used to finding one on a Strat was a royal pain in the proverbial! His plan was to rewire the guitar so it had one volume and two tones – with the volume moved so it sat in roughly the same place, relative to the bridge, as it would on a Strat.
As I say, there was no way he was going to start drilling holes in my beautiful blue guitar, so we found another one he could modify. This equally beautiful brown sunburst Ibanez also came from eBay, also for £150, albeit in a special gig bag, rather than a case.
He did the business with it and actually, far from ruining it, he did a tidy job. You can hardly see the two extra holes in the body. But the mods didn’t stop there. Oddly, considering both were the same model of guitar and not that far apart in age, the brown one had a rather chunkier neck, which ended up being shaved down by Feline guitars in South London, then left unfinished in Owen’s preferred fashion.

The neck after it was shaved

Thus modified, that brown semi served Owen very well. It was his main guitar with us in the latter days of the Rockin’ Armadillos, where it contrasted very nicely with Alex’s Strat sound, and went on to see good service with him in Purple Melon before they moved to Los Angeles.
Owen went; the guitar stayed, He never showed any inclination to ask for it, so I ended up selling the blue one with the brown one’s gig bag, keeping the case, and calling the brown one mine. It still is…at least until Owen wants it back!

Owen playing the AS 73 with the Rockin’ Armadillos in the early 2000s

Published by 43guitarsandcounting

I'm a musician, studio owner, writer and former specialist broadcaster of far too many years experience. I started writing and posting this daily blog on Facebook at the beginning of the Lockdown for something to do and it took me something like 19 days to run out of guitars to talk about!

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