70's Norlin era Gibsons vs 70's CBS era Fenders

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Timmo, Mar 16, 2006.


  1. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    I was just wondering what you guys think about Norlin Gibsons vs CBS Fenders from the 70's ?
    Who made a better overall product and why you think so?
    :)
    I'm not really interested in how they compare to today's products because both are pretty dang good nowadays.............:BEER
     
  2. Thwap

    Thwap Member

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    Well, I had a Norlin Les Paul custom that was a really good guitar. It was close to 12 lbs, but other than that I really loved everything about it. Sold it because I was young and stupid.

    On the other hand, I also had a mid seventies strat. One of the 3 bolt models, with the tilt-o-matic neck or whatever the hell feature. That guitar, after 30 years of playing, stands out in my mind, undoubtedly as the biggest POS I've EVER laid my hands on. The neck pocket was too big, and every time you tuned it the neck would shift. It was heavy for a strat, and just sounded dead no matter what amp I played it through. I did play a few others in that era, and I've got to say the quality that I experienced was overall quite bad. I'm sure you could find good ones, I just couldn't. It turned me off to strats for close to 20 years.
     
  3. kingsleyd

    kingsleyd Frikkin genyus Gold Supporting Member

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    No offense, Timmo, but I'm wondering what on earth the point of such a discussion might be.
     
  4. ToneRanger

    ToneRanger Member

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    I actually think it's an interesting topic! Which was worse, would be nice to know..
     
  5. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    Hmm..........I didn't really think I had to write a disertation on "why" one would post a certain topic.
    No ulterior motive here .
    I just had a slow down at work, I have been enjoying my "Norlin Les Paul" as of late and was thinking back to some 70's Fenders I once owned and how AWFUL I thought there were compared to my LP and was wondering if anyone else felt the same way.
    Now, any other questions I can answer for you? :AOK
    By the way Kingsley
    "NO Offense" but.......what on earth possessed you to ask me such a question? ;) :jo
     
  6. jonny guitar

    jonny guitar Member

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    For me this is 73 Sg versus 78 tele. The 73 Sg is still my main guitar after 25 years of playing it...it is a limited one with ebony board and no huge neck tenon. It is a wonderful guitar and imo much nicer than todays SG's. The 78 Tele was a nice sounding guitar and had a really nice nice neck when plugged in but it was dead acoustically and was just way too heavy to enjoy playing. For me I have to go Gibson.
     
  7. kingsleyd

    kingsleyd Frikkin genyus Gold Supporting Member

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    The background info would have helped a lot! The original post just read like a "let's all spew some worthless opinions about F and G" to me.

    The thing about the 70s... I was there. Them's the guitars I grew up with. With a few notable exceptions, in my particular case more on the F side, ALL of 'em basically sucked IMO. I'm much happier with, say, my R9 and relic Strat, to say nothing of the Johnny A I just snagged.

    But that's only MO. Both companies made a bazillion guitars over the course of the decade. Not sure any of us has played enough of 'em for our opinions to be worth sharing. Odds are that at least some from each corporation were fine or even superfine instruments to be treasured and played hard.

    Personally, I'd just as soon forget that decade ever happened, at least when it comes to guitars. But whatever, carry on, don't mind me. Sorry for the curmudgeon routine.
     
  8. teddy boy

    teddy boy Member

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    A very interesting topic IMO. Both are known for being bad quality in the 70's but would one favour one over the other if it came to a choice between the two?
     
  9. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    It's cool Kingsleyd.........no big deal one way or the other.
    I'm just thinking my '74 LP Custom 20th Anniversary might change some people's opinions on what 70's guitars are all about now. I mean, after 30 years have been put on them.
    Unfortunately I don't think anything can save Fenders from the 70's though.......:BEER
    You also say you'd "just soon forget the whole decade ever happened".
    Most of us that grew up during the 70's can't remember most of what happened anyway........:)
     
  10. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    Yet, we ALL reminisce.........
     
  11. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Interesting question. I prefer the Norlin Gibsons generally. I started playing in the early 80s, so the majority of used 'big two' instruments around were from exactly this period, and for several years I really thought Fenders were junk. I still feel basically the same about them, especially if you're comparing Strats and Teles to Les Pauls and 335s. The Gibsons were made wrong in many ways, like the Fenders were - over heavy, with sandwich bodies on the Les Pauls, wrong body shapes and huge headstocks - but at least the actual woodwork quality was higher, and they played much better and sounded better, to me. Some of the changes which are now looked down on (like the 3-piece necks) were actually for valid structural reasons too. Fenders had more obvious quality problems - particularly the loose neck joints, poor smoothing of the wood and expecting that the half-inch of plastic finish would hide it (it often didn't), horrible neck profiles and finishing, and significantly worse machineheads... not to mention the awful soft-alloy bridges they put on the Strats. And wrong body shapes too, especially on the Teles.

    The odd thing though is that further down the range it was the other way round - Mustangs and Musicmasters suffered far less from CBS-isms in many ways... they kept the four-bolt necks and steel bridges, and seemed to me to generally be made more carefully than the more expensive models (which surprised me then, but I still find it to be true even looking at them today). But the cheap Gibsons like the S-1 and Marauder often had neck-joint problems worthy of a CBS Strat, very cheap-looking finishes, and were obviously cheapened rather than just more basic like the student Fenders were. And then there was the Sonex... :(

    So on balance I'd say a draw, without much honor either way.
     
  12. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    "Without much honor either way" sums it up rather nicely John as usual from you.
    I find it interesting that Norlin guitars seem to get ragged on way more than CBS guitars and I have found the exact opposite to be true.
    While many Norlins are pretty awful, every once in awhile you'll find a decent Norlin Les Paul. I can't say that I have personally found a Strat that I would give a plug nickel for after 1973. Same with Teles.
    Talk about a strange sensation .........I can deal with a "heavy Les Paul"...nature of the beast for the most part BUT a 'boat anchor' Strat and/or Tele just never worked for me.
    To this day a heavy Fender gets put back on the stand without me touching the fretboard.
    A brick of a Gibson will still get my time and a thorough going over.
    Funny thing is.........I'm a Fender guy for the most part! :eek:
     
  13. Lex Luthier

    Lex Luthier Member

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    The Noriln era wasn't built bad, they just changed things so much - Pancake bodies, multi piece necks, volutes, oversized headstocks, multi piece tops, heavy wood. I don't think the actual build quality was much different than Gibson glory years to be honest, just with all the changes they were very different guitars.
     
  14. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink".
    Your turn...........;)
     
  15. Timmo

    Timmo Member

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    I agree with that on the Norlin side.
    With the CBS side it was just lousy build quality and heavy wood.
    I remember tuners and bridges not lining up too well on Strats in those days.
    All in all I'll take a Norlin over a CBS Fender.
    Is it me or was 1979 the worst year in the history of guitarmaking?
    Never played ANYTHING from 1979 that was worth a damn!
     
  16. ZenFly06

    ZenFly06 Member

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    I had 2 Norlin era Gibsons: a '71 or 2 LP Deluxe gold top and a similar year ES355stv. I don't rememeber much about the LP except it was heavy and I didn't get along with the neck too well. The 355 was a nice guitar except the neck was a noodle. It was all over the place and had massive tuning problems. I changed tuners, junked the vibrola for a stop piece even used flatwounds on it in order to stay in tune. ALL Gibsons back then were subject to changing out the tuners for Grovers or Shallers. You just did it. When Yamaha came out with the SG2000, I jumped and haven't gone back to the well again.

    As for Fenders, my buddy had a '71 sunburst Strat that was quite nice. although he ended up getting a LP Professional a couple years later.
     
  17. DanR

    DanR Member

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    What exactly is a pancake body? And what is the preferred body construction method?

    DanR
     
  18. Teleplayer

    Teleplayer Silver Supporting Member

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    Ah...........nothing like a 37 pound sunburst Strat with a headstock you could barely fit into your car, fabulous micro-tilt three bolt neck, and ice-pick-in-the-eye tone......

    :AOK
     
  19. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Exactly the same here :). Although some of the Gibsons really do feel like they're made of depleted uranium... I've played - or more accurately 'carried' :) - a Les Paul Deluxe that I think weighed in the 14lb region, and was uncomfortable even sitting down. Anything over 10lbs is a definite dealbreaker for me even with a Les Paul.

    I agree - although I almost like the volutes, and certainly the reduced headstock angles... they do actually break less often (though maybe not much). They didn't really cure it until they started using maple, and that really does change the tone a lot.

    I think you might be right... :) Although I did have a 1979 Fender Bronco (same white finish as the abortive first-issue Anniversary Strat, and cracked all over in the same way) which wasn't bad, like I felt about all the cheapo Fenders. Much better than an Anniversary Strat, in fact :D.

    Some of those Strats are salvageable if you take truly drastic action - strip the necks and bodies, recontour the body, line the neck pocket down to the right size, refinish in something thinner, and replace the bridge :). Actually, the wood quality is pretty nice, and removing the Thick-Skin finish alone takes off over half a pound :eek:. Recontouring probably loses another one. And the pickups are very good, in fact. I've seen a couple done like that, and at least one was a nice guitar. Whether it was worth the effort I'm not quite sure...

    A pancake body is where they made the mahogany section out of three layers, laminated horizontally - the top and bottom are about 3/4" thick, and there's a very thin layer about 1/16" thick in the middle with the grain running crossways (sometimes mistaken for maple because the light catches the grain differently and it can appear paler, but it's actually still mahogany). The idea was to stop warping, which some of the earlier bodies had apparently suffered from... probably because the wood hadn't been seasoned properly. They're not truly awful, and some of them even sound good, but it looks odd. Single piece is the right way.


    I'd still possibly pick a decent Les Paul Deluxe as my choice from all the Norlin Gibsons and post-'72 (when things started to really go downhill IMO) CBS Fenders. I've owned a couple, one better than the other, and I might have kept the second one except that I was still bothered by the oversized headstock and the pancake body, truthfully :(. It wasn't even that heavy - 9lbs 12 or 13oz I think. It's one of the models that really belongs to that period, and although they reissued it recently I prefered my old ones, to be honest.
     

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