2002 Fender Toronado. Deluxe Series beauty from Mexico, Atomic humbuckers, and wide tonal range. As orange as they come, just like the one John Frusciante played on Can't Stop. You know when you've been Toronado'd ;-).
To be fair to vintage guitar lover John Frusciante, this isn't a guitar he'd list in his collection. The story goes that the director of the Can't Stop video, Mark Romanek, asked him to play it, along with a modern-day silver Strat, because it matched the colour scheme for the shoot. Which probably explains why Flea is seen playing an orange Fender Jazz and a sparkle silver Modulus Funk Unlimited (don't quote me on that, but that's what it looks like). It also might explain why John's so relaxed about throwing the Toronado up and over his back at the end of the video. We never get to see how it recovers.
Thankfully, this one's in such good shape, we'll never have to find out. Launched as a Deluxe Series model out of Fender's Ensenada plant in 1998, this is one of the original five-year run of Toronados - vintage-style tuners, beautiful rosewood board, covered Fender Atomic pick-ups, and that six-saddle string-through-body hardtail. Later runs from the US or Korea adapted the formula, and the Squier Paranormal range has gone back towards this original design.
It's such a comfortable guitar - lovely contouring on the upper waist and lower bout, softer radius 9.5" fretboard - and it sounds as good as it looks. There's some chat out there that this was an attempt to place Fender in competition with Gibson (er, when weren't they?) - the shorter 24.75" scale, the humbuckers, the upper horn toggle switch. But, honestly, this is a Fender through-and-through. Plenty of Tele and Strat twang to it, versatile across styles, and some brutal power to those aptly named Atomic humbuckers as you crank up the overdrive. John Frusciante may be miming, but it's as actually played by guitarists as diverse as Tom Delonge, Jim Root, Frank Iero, and Brian Molko. And, obviously, one you can't stop playing.
See & Hear It In Action
Can't Stop (2002): And here it is, mimed or not, a perfect complement to the original video - and, dare I say it, the finest song the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever put out.
Little Red Guitars 2 Review: Nice review of an original orange Toronado, thanks to Little Red Guitars 2. He slightly prefers the yellow version of the Toronado, but he's still super-happy with the orange one. Damn right!
Number of Frets
Fender Atomic Humbuckers
Fender Six-Saddle String-Through-Body Hardtail
I've never had a problem with a guitar from the Ensenada factory in Mexico, but it's fair to say that Fender's reasons for moving a lot of their production there were to benefit from the local (cheaper) labour market and to have a location for competitive (cheaper) no-frills versions of their famous US models. So, it was a stroke of genius to come up with the idea of a Deluxe Series straight out of Mexico. Same lower costs of production, but the exercise of build and material choices that gave players a "premium" version over the standard build.
Fender added Deluxe Series builds in Mexico to pretty much all of their standard range from the late-90s. Smartly, though, they also started putting out designs that weren't originated from the US production line. In fact, with the Toronado, it went the other way round. After production stopped in Mexico in 2003, Fender USA produced the US Special and American Deluxe in 2004. I'm sure they're great, but they don't look as special as the original Mexican Toronados - smaller pickguard, wraparound bridge, uncovered pick-ups. And those US models weren't available in orange.
Like the colour or not, you won't be able to resist the sound. There's no mistaking the glorious Fender tones. All the twang you could wish for, with some added warmth as you roll off the tone on each of the pick-ups. Proving that humbuckers, a 24.75" scale, and a top-horn toggle switch don't make it a Gibson. But that may be all part of the cunning plan. If you're used to playing a Gibson Les Paul or SG, the design of this Toronado is going to make the transition absolutely seamless. And, once you play it, it'll be more won't stop, than can't stop. Give it a go!
Sources & Links
The Evolution Of The Toronado, Courtesy of Hub Pages: Courtesy actually of the writer, Wesman Todd Shaw, a nice quick run-through of the evolution of the Toronado from its Mexican beginnings to its adoption as a US production guitar,
Original Run Review (1999): Not sure what's happened to Gear Review UK, but before the website went down, this was a nice review of the same spec, before the orange colour was out in production. In summary: "The real joy of this guitar, other than its comfortable feel and playability, is the amazing versatility of tones it can produce." Couldn't say it better!
A Guide To 21st Century Fender Humbuckers (Stratocaster Design): When it comes to Fender, it's those single coil pick-ups that grab the purist's attention. But there's plenty on offer when it comes to Fender's humbucking cousins. Kudos to Bruce Gombrelli at Stratocaster Design for this run-through of the more recent range.