1977 Gibson ES-335 TD, as made famous by Johnny Marr
The exact model Johnny Marr played when The Smiths got together for the first time, to record demos of Handsome Devil, What Difference Does It Make? and Miserable Lie. History in the making.
There's a passage in Johnny Marr's autobiography, Set The Boy Free, where he talks about the first time that The Smiths got together to play, at Drone Studios in Manchester: “When we started playing the first song, which was ‘Handsome Devil’, it sounded so good to us that we did what every other band does in that situation: we started to laugh. It’s a fantastic truth and a profound irony that the very first thing The Smiths did when they got together was to start laughing uncontrollably.” That's it, that's just it - that joy you get from playing with others, when it just works - original band, covers band, open mic collection, whatever, it doesn't matter. If it goes right, that's just how it feels. So, in honour of all those moments that happen every time a band gets together for the first time, and nails it, here's the guitar that Johnny Marr played as The Smiths found themselves "laughing uncontrollably", and as Morrissey and Marr stood on the brink of becoming one of the greatest song-writing partnerships of the 20th Century.
An ES-335TD is an ES-335TD is an ES-335TD? In essence yes. But Gibson continued to make minor modifications to that essence throughout the 1958 - 1981 production years. This 1977 model is a good example of the small and inventive variations that Gibson made over the years:
- The coil-tap switch on the lower horn, introduced in 1976 through to 1978. It may have been a short-lived feature, but was a popular addition at the time to mimic the single-coil sound of rivals Fender (see our 1976 Guild S-100 for another example). To be fair, the effect of the coil-tap is subtle, to say the least, but it does open up another dimension of tone in the mid-pick-up position.
- The neck was super-narrow. With a 1 9/16" nut width, this was the leanest neck Gibson produced for the ES-335TD, before reverting to the more typical 1 11/16" in 1978.
Unique for other reasons too: for a short period between 1975 and 1977, Gibson serial numbers appeared on a clear transfer, rather than the more usual embossed or ink-stamped serial numbers.
Comes loaded with its original Bill Lawrence designed Super Humbucking pickups, which Gibson included in SGs and ES-335s predominantly from the early-70s to mid-80s. Also known as "Tarbacks" in reference to the black epoxy resin that was used to encase the pick-up, these were Gibson's inaugural "hot" pick-ups. Probably not so hot by comparison with what's on the market today, but pioneering at the time. Great warm tone, not too bright, perfect with a cranked amp.
This one has had some playing, with a very distinctive wearing of the lacquer on the back of the neck - cleaned and repolished, but not refinished, in honour of its history in the hands of devoted guitarists. Plays great. Sounds great. And perfect for getting your fingers around What Difference Does It Make?
See & Hear It In Action
Not The Smiths, but a short take on
Julie London's Cry Me A River -
chosen for the warmth of those Tarbacks!
Greg's Guitars Put the 1977 ES-335 Through Its Paces: Not one, but two masterful videos sharing the adaptability of this beauty to a more bluesy style..
What Difference Does It Make? 1984: No video footage of Johnny Marr with the 1977 ES-335TD, but just to see what that first demo session led to, here's he is with his legendary 1959 Gibson ES-355TD-SV on Top Of The Pops in 1984.
Sources & Links
Gibson Catalogue 1978: The original Gibson sales catalogue, thanks to the incredibly thorough and well-researched Vintage Guitar And Bass people. And, if you want a fuller history of the ES-335TD, check out their helpful timeline here.
Johnny Marr at Drone Studios 1982: If ever you want to find out what specific guitar a Guitar God has played, go to Equipboard. An incredibly comprehensive and verified sourcebook. This picture also appears in Johnny Marr's wonderful autobiography, Set The Boy Free.
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