47. Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster
FUNNY, really. Considering what a Fender nut I am, I’d managed to steer clear of the company’s offset-bodied twins, the Jazzmaster and the short-scale Jaguar for the majority of my love affair with brand “F”. I’d literally never so much as picked one up and strummed a single chord, so focused was I on Strats (and Teles and the players who used them, I suppose).
About three years ago, that changed. I can’t really remember why, but I found myself increasingly fascinated by the idea of a Jazzmaster and started researching them.
The consensus of opinion on forums and in the many reviews I read was that the way more expensive US-made Jazzmasters were good, but there wasn’t all that much difference, quality-wise, between the relatively expensive Japanese and Mexican Fenders and the Chinese Squiers.
The other thing I kept reading was that the best value Jazzmaster of them all was the Squier J. Mascis Signature Model. I vaguely knew who J Mascis was, but hadn’t spent much time listening to Dinosaur Jr, but I did know from a couple of interviews I’d read that he was a smart, interesting guy and a serious gearhead, in a lo-fi kind of way.
One of the many good things people said about this particular model was that it wasn’t prone to that common Jazzmaster fault which means to the design of the original bridge has a habit of popping E strings off the side if you played hard. The JM model had a Gibson-style bridge and had the tremolo unit moved forward half an inch, increasing the break-angle over the bridge saddles and making it harder for the strings to pop out. Simple, but effective.
You could have it in any colour you liked, so long as it was Olympic White, I learned, and so long as you didn’t mind a gold-finished, 50s-style anodised ally pickguard (which I rather liked the look of, actually.) Something else I learned was that unlike some modern, more rock-oriented takes on the Jazzmaster, this guitar retained the original vintage-style wiring – complete with a “rhythm circuit” with slider switch, separate sideways-on volume and tone controls for the neck pickup. Oh and apparently, the pickups weren’t actually “proper” Jazzmaster pickups (something to do with the type of magnets and the way they were wound), but more akin to Gibson P90 soapbars. Hmmm…
It turned out to be really hard to find a local shop with a Jazzmaster of any kind I could try – their loss! If I’d found one I liked, I’d probably have bought it on the spot. Fortunately, my pal Mick King had a Squier JM JM and was more than happy to bring it down from Steeple, drink my coffee and put up with my awful playing so I could try it. I was pretty much instantly smitten (not with Mick, with the guitar!) and that was it. Off to eBay I went, where after a week or so, I found this rather fine example for a shade under £300. Bargain!
And a bargain it definitely was. It’s a beautifully-made guitar (a couple easily-fixed sharp fret-ends aside), nicely-finished, well-balanced and great-sounding. Those pickups might not be “authentic”, but they are fantastic! The neck pickup has as much plummy fullness as you could wish for, with just a right hint of Stratty “quack” and the bridge pickup is edgy without being overly brittle or sharp. The killer sound, though, is the in-between position, which has a jangle to it little short of magical and for lead playing, does that Freddie King/Humbert Sumlin hollowed-out thing. I love it. And the strangely anachronistic “rhythm circuit” works just fine and has proved surprisingly useful.
The trem gets a bit of getting used to – it handles very differentlu to a Strat trem – but has a sound and an action all its own. I particularly like the nice, long arm, though I did have to put it in a vice and put a slight kind in the short end to stop it flopping around in the trem unit.
The other thing I hadn’t realised was that Jazzmasters are actually considerably bigger than a Strat of a Tele – a good four inches longer. I could only find one of my gig bags which would fit it – and even then it was a tight squeeze. Still, being a trifle on the large size myself, big guitars have never been a problem for me. 🙂
To say I was pleased with this guitar is something of an understatement. I’d probably still be playing to the exclusion of everything else, had something even more amazing not come my way in May, 2016…
What was it? Well, you’ll have to wait for tomorrow to learn that…