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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guitar Pickup Tattoos

I got three new tattoos today—or one in three parts depending on how you look at it. The tattoos are of three electric guitar pickups. One for each of my children. Each child has a distinct personality, set of characteristics, and unique approach to life and love and music and art. Guitar pickups are a good metaphor for my beautiful children and the tats also reflect my love for music.

Karysa, my firstborn, is a classic beauty—much like the “lipstick” pickup on my Fender Telecaster. The Tele is one of my favorite guitars because nothing says “Americana” like a Tele. Classic rockers like Tom Petty, Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen play Telecasters with lipstick pickups. My man George Harrison played a Tele during The Beatles famous 'Get Back Sessions' as well as on the Beatles' 1970 album Let It Be and 1969's Abbey Road. He also played his Tele for the Beatles' last public performance in 1969 known as the “rooftop concert.”

Lipstick pickups used to be made with actual surplus lipstick tubes when they were put in Danelectro guitars and Sears Silvertone guitars. My first guitar amp and the first guitar I ever played were made by Silvertone and had one of these pickups. I still have a Silvertone amp and play through it regularly.

The lipstick pickup is vintage. Classic. It is great for music that mixes rock with a folk overtone like the jangle rock bands of the 60’s like The Byrds or more recent bands like R.E.M. Karysa is vintage and classic. She is Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a hot cup of organic fair-trade coffee.

Lipstick pickups, like Karysa, are traditional—but not in that boring kind of a way. Far from it. They are artistic, sought after, and very unique. Look for them at pawn shops and antique stores of the coolest variety.

Karysa doesn’t need a lot of gimmicks to make her cool. She doesn’t need to be “effected.” Her tone is clear, precise, and fashionable.

Joe Strummer of The Clash played a famously beat up and stickered Tele with one of these pickups until his death. The Clash are punk rock. Karysa is a bit punk rock as well. Her tats tell the story. No one can put her in a box. She reinvents herself and stands against the system and "the man." I love this about her.

Connor is my single coil pickup—Strat style. I have three pickups just like these on my American Standard Stratocaster.

The Strat is my utility guitar. The pickups, depending on which one I select, can give the guitar a loud, but mellow and warm tone or a brighter and sharper tone. This is the guitar and pickups I choose when I need to cover a bunch of different styles of songs. It is well rounded. It says Blues, Surf, Country, and Rock with equal conviction.

Connor plays by the rules. He is kind and gentle and respected (not that my other kids aren’t but he has a large dose of these traits). The single coils on my Strat are much the same way. Everyone wants a Strat.

Then there is Kasidy . . . my humbucker.

The open coil humbucker got it’s name because of the way it “bucks the hum” of a single coil pickup. They cancel out the hum generated by alternating current. In layman’s terms, a single coil pickup usually hears all the noise created by the electronics surrounding the instrument that use AC. Amps, mixers, motors, power lines, effects processors, studio gadgets and other electronics generate sound that is picked up by a single coil. BUT, the humbucker changes that.

Kasidy is my humbucker for other reasons. First, humbuckers are loud.

Second, they are playful and give guitars a rounder tone when arranged with other pickups.

Third, they create a great natural “distortion” when cranked to the volume of 10.

Kasidy is my live wire. All my kids are creative but she must be creative every second of every day. She leaves messes wherever she goes—her distortion. She doesn’t have a slow button—until she wears herself out from moving. Then she crashes. She bucks the system and makes her presence known.

She “rounds out” the other pickups in the family. She is unique but she also has many of the qualities and characteristics of her other pickups ah-hem, sibings.

As she grows, I pray she learns more and more to submit to Jesus as He harnesses her raw energy to rock the kingdom in whatever way she carves out.

Love all my babies.

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