The Green, Mean, Pop Music-Making Machine

This is number one in a series of posts that disappear down the rabbit hole to examine the guitars & gear used by the heroes of my youth.

First up, the somewhat mysterious green Telecaster-style guitar sported by Johnny Marr in the mid-1980’s that, to this day, I’m strangely drawn to.

Disclaimer: most of what follows is subjective, don’t take it as the gospel truth. However, I have cited sensible sources where I can.

Ok, into the warren we go…

The guitar first came to my attention through the cover of Guitarist magazine and also later via the legendary BBC Whistle Test segment on the recording of Meat Is Murder.

In the magazine interview Marr describes the guitar thus:

“I’ve got a Telecaster, made by Roger Giffin, which is a phenomenal guitar; it’s in a dark green sunburst”

A cursory examination of the guitar reveals a number of differences between it and a standard model from the Fender catalogue at the time.


The green sunburst finish also highlights a figured maple wood grain. This is unusual for a Telecaster which typically have either alder or ash bodies. It is also likely to be a maple ‘top’, where a roughly 10mm piece is glued to an underlying tonewood. According to Marr, the guitar ‘weighs a ton’[1] which would suggest something like mahogany. Interestingly, you can check out the actual Giffin guitars wood pile to get a good overview of the different types of tops used by luthiers.


The neck also appears to utilise figured (birdseye?) maple for its fingerboard which would suggest it is not a standard Tele neck from the late ’70s or early ’80’s. I can also just about make out the Fender decal which looks like a transition logo[2]. It has the ‘newer’ style behind-the-nut truss rod adjustment too. The fretwire doesn’t look huge and is probably similar to what Fender refer to as vintage tall frets these days.


Along with the green finish, the various bridge parts, controls and pickguard/scratchplate make for a striking visual impact. I had always assumed this was gold-plated nickel with an anodised guard, but it seems like at least some of the parts could be polished brass[3].


The bridge pickup looks like a standard Tele-type staggered pole piece. The neck pickup is more interesting. Online forums variously describe this as a DiMarzio or a Seymour Duncan, but my bet is on a Kent Armstrong. This is because Roger Giffin used Armstrong pickups extensively in the bespoke Telecasters he created for Pete Townshend[4]. He also uses a custom wound zebra version to this day in his standard model, built since the late 1970’s.

Dwelling on the Townshend connection for a moment, Johnny and Pete shared a guitar tech in the late Alan Rogan. It is rumoured that the green Tele might have been one that Giffin built for Pete that had somehow made its way into the haul Johnny acquired from John Entwhistle via Alan. However, this recent article suggests it was custom order made directly to Roger. This was in part because Giffin had restored a ’50’s blackguard original used on the recording of This Charming Man that Marr loved.

Another feature common to the Townshend models is the use of a mini toggle switch to coil tap the humbuckers. Something suspiciously similar appears on the control plate on Marr’s guitar.

Final note on this – the original neck PU has been replaced with what looks like a Kent Armstrong Z model. Recent sightings include during his autobiography theatre tour in 2016:

Hope you’ve enjoyed this detour into one of the more famous members of the Marr Guitarchestra. A green sunburst quilted-top T-type guitar screams Bakersfield/Nashville/Albert Lee to me but no doubt it makes a lovely noise and was/is a fantastic machine for making pop music.





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