“To me it wasn’t violence or random destruction, it was art.”- Pete Townshend
Musicians everywhere have one dream- To smash a guitar on stage and smash it good. Considering how most of the guitars smashers have been men, it probably stems from their primal instinct to break rocks. Now a full blown tradition, guitar smashing is not a thing to be taken lightly. There’s an art behind every good smash, a technique which makes it the wonder that it is. A G-smash (as we like to call it) derives it’s power from your very soul, your G-spot if you may. Thus, if your inner being is not really into it, the smash will just end up being a half-hearted bump against the floor and you will end up embarrassing your guitar to no end!
Guitar smashing, like everything else, has a beginning a middle and a wham bam! Here are some of the most iconic Guitar smashes:
1) PETE TOWNSHEND: Accidentally awesome
Guitar Make: 1964 Rickenbacker Rose Morris 1998 and then some.
It so happened, that in 1964, during a show at London’s Railway Station nightclub, Pete’s guitar started humming and buzzing. So in frustration, he began shaking and waving it, and in the process, he hit it on the low ceiling, thus wrecking the neck completely. What happened after, was that to cover up the incident, he smashed the whole thing . And whaddya know, the crowd LOVED it and expected him to do it again in his next show.
“I had no recourse but to look as though I meant to do it, so I smashed the guitar and jumped all over the bits … it gave me a fantastic buzz,” he said in the Who biography “Before I Get Old.”
And thus the face of Rock and Roll changed to a glitzier version. 48 years later, it’s still going strong!
2) JIMI HENDRIX: Let me stand next to your fire
Guitar make: Fender Stratocaster and countless others
Hendrix, young and rising, took up the guitar smashing business seriously. In one of his shows in 1967, Pete confronted him backstage and accused him of stealing his act. Jimi, obviously, didn’t give a shit about Townshend’s disapproval and went on with it anyway. Him setting fire to his strat at the Monterey Pop Festival, still remains one of the most moving and the most talked about incident in the history of music.
3) PAUL SIMONON – No Reason
Guitar make- Fender® Precision Bass®
On the cover of Clash’s London Calling (1979), Paul Simonon is seen smashing his bass to smithereens. In the process of smashing it, he broke his watch and handed the shattered pieces to a photographer standing nearby. The time was 10:50 pm. The exact time Paul Simonon broke his bass to pieces.
When asked about the photo, the photographer who took it said on live TV that, “I went over to that side of the stage because Paul was lookin’ a bit Pissed off”.
4) KURT COBAIN: Smells like frustration
Guitar Make: Black and white left-handed Stratocaster etc.
Kurt Cobain and the rest of the band were veterans in smashing up all their equipment habitually. In the video below, Kurt, being frustrated with the monitor, smashed his strat on the monitor board. He, like an artist (or Hannibal), would do various things to his guitars like try to drill a whole into them and whatnot.
Also, soon after, he tried to smash his guitar on the bouncer’s head. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well.
Many would argue that it’s a waste destroying something so expensive and so loved. But this is a different kind of love. It’s not the kind of love which brings flowers and chocolates. It’s not the kind of love that remembers anniversaries and first kisses. It’s the love for the pure pleasure that we all derive from destruction. It’s the love for Rock n’ Roll.