Evolution of the Frankenstrat – Mark II

After going through the original Frankenstrat and the VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, Eddie became a little unsatisfied with both original guitars. The original Frankenstrat was continually becoming copied everywhere and Bumblebee sounded unsatisfactory to Eddie’s continual search for the perfect sound and tone for the guitar.

For Eddie Van Halen, good enough is never good enough. He always seeks out the best possible option for his sound.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMDHwYTeZd0

He went back to the drawing board inside his mind and instead realised that although the other guitars were brilliant in their own way, he needed a new one that could become potentially better than the others. So he decided to make a simple guitar so interesting that people could not copy it directly like the previous two guitars.

So he retired the VH2 guitar and set out to create a new one. He began with the same guitar the previous Frankenstrat with the Fender style guitar shape and neck.

This is the guitar that Eddie started to play around late 1979.

Picture courtesy http://forum.metroamp.com/viewtopic.php?p=203670

In any case Eddie began playing that new guitar in concerts during late 1979. It was initially only with a black and white stripe paint job, not in any way dissimilar to his original Frankenstrat paint job. This new guitar initially sported a Charvel style headstock as well which was later changed.

Charvel played a part in the Frankenstrat Mark II as the company was no longer on good terms with Eddie Van Halen.

Logo courtesy http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=1225972

Additionally, Ed whacked into the Frankenstrat one Mighty Mite single coil pickup in the neck position, initially in an attempt to use it on the guitar. However, since he had limited knowledge of hardwiring electronics he could not use this pickup. Belief is that he merely used it for decoration.

He also place a white pickguard on the guitar initially, later making various modifications to that pickguard, replacing it initially with a black piece of vinyl, then later replacing it with a torn up black pickguard, which came later.

The thing which made this particular guitar the most noticeable out of all Eddie Van Halen’s main guitars was the paint job. It was done in the same fashion as previously, yet with a red, white and black design. Needless to say, this drew attention to Eddie and his new guitar. He again used the Schwinn bicycle paint to do the paintjob on the guitar.

The paintjob on the Frankenstrat is so awesome and memorable that it is on The Best of Both Worlds compilation, proof that you can stare hours at it and not get sick of it.

Picture courtesy http://www.amazon.com/Best-Both-Worlds-Van-Halen/dp/B000286S8S

He also used a three way switch on the guitar, which was simply decorative, as well as the “Tone” knob on the volume pot, the latter a feature of  Eddie Van Halen’s guitars from the original Frankenstrat onwards.

The Frankenstrat sure is one beast.

Picture courtesy http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/220/EVH-Frankenstein-Replica/

Ed then placed truck reflectors on the back of his guitar to further confuse copycats and to create the guitar as a unique addition to his setup.

Shortly afterwards Eddie added a prototype Floyd Rose to the guitar. This was a recent addition of the time, but Ed made sure that all his main electric guitars from then on had a standard Floyd Rose tremolo, as well as a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. Despite using a number of different guitars over the years, Eddie has retained these basic principles to this day. Eddie later changed the prototype to a standard Floyd Rose when the upgrade came.

Ed and Floyd Rose changed the sound of the guitar with the unique Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Picture courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/parts6.htm

Eddie initially placed a white Gibson PAF, likely not dissimilar to the one on the original Frankenstrat which was from his Gibson ES-335. He also used the technique from his early days of dipping the pickup in hot paraffin wax using a certain dipping method and technique to prevent pickup feedback from being extreme. The bridge pickup was wired directly to the volume pot and all other electronic wiring was ignored, simply as Eddie did not know how to wire all things together. Although Eddie is arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever and a genius of sound, he found it more difficult on the technical aspects of making a guitar work.

Ed used PAFs made by Gibson for the Frankenstrat, although he did swap it out for other pickups later on.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarhq.com/paf.html

Interestingly, Eddie also added a 1971 quarter to the edge of the Floyd Rose tremolo system to prevent it from going out of whack when using it, with a hole drilled into it. There were also small dot holes all over the guitar. Additionally there were cigarette burns on the guitar after some time as Ed loves placing cigarettes in the headstock of the guitar while playing onstage. Later on one of the truck reflectors snapped, and also the pickup was changed to a black DiMarzio humbucker.

DiMarzio pickups are not to be underestimated in the creation of the Brown Sound.

Picture courtesy http://www.bestbassgear.com/bass-wiring-diagrams.htm

So by 1982, we had the Floyd Rose tremolo system updated and the Frankenstrat that everybody knew about. In fact this era of the Frankenstrat was modelled by Fender later on, but this will be followed up later in the article.

The 1982 Frankenstrat can never be truly imitated in terms of form.

Picture courtesy http://listverse.com/2011/05/06/11-iconic-guitar-combinations/

But Ed was not finished with his Frankenstrat yet. Eddie changed the tuning pegs to Schallers to differ from what he originally used. He then replaced the DiMarzio pickup with one manufactured by Seymour Duncan. He later placed a prototype Kramer Pacer neck on next, removing the original Boogie Bodies neck that he had. Still, even later he placed a Kramer Banana style neck onto the guitar, later on returning the guitar to its original 1982 era form.

From his beginnings with using a Gibson Les Paul to the constant process of tinkering around with his own guitar the Frankenstrat, Ed was an innovator, and still is.

Pictures courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/5150f

What is absolutely mind blowing about this particular guitar is that every single detail on it is carefully thought out. It is truly a unique icon, and blew everything out of the water before or since in relation to guitars. From the moment that this guitar was conceived in Ed’s mind, to the days where it was all the rage in rock circles, to the present and beyond, there is no doubt that this guitar is worth remembering.

If you are chasing this particular guitar to own, there are a few options to consider. Firstly there are a variety of very similar guitars under all various brands. As mentioned beforehand, you could easily pick out the EVH Gear Striped Series retailing at around $1,398.59 US RRP.

This particular Striped Series EVH Model by Fender is a winner.

EVH Striped Series Red with Black Stripes

Picture courtesy http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/gear/subpage/?partno=5107902503

Or, if you really are well off, and can afford this, then pay EVH Gear $25 000 US (not including shipping costs) and then a Frankenstein™ Replica Guitar is yours for that much. It is not the real thing, but is very close to being it.

Another option is to build your own. This, of course is very timely and a little expensive to construct, but it costs much less than a proper Frankenstein™ Replica guitar. A good place to start is this website: http://www.shredaholic.com/frankie.html

You may need your woodworking skills to create your own Frankenstrat of this era.

http://www.motorcyclesplanesandrevolution.com/?page_id=717

In any case, this is Eddie’s most famous guitar out of all of them. It is such an interesting, unique design that it is virtually inimitable. It is amazing and untouchable, but given that it is so original and unique, it still is often imitated to this day. For a long time this guitar will be forever remembered and cherished as an ultimate rock icon. Its place is well deserved for that reason in rock history.

The David Lee Roth era has a very distinctive sound, particularly in the guitar work of EVH.

Picture courtesy http://www.bellazon.com/main/uploads/monthly_07_2010/post-37737-1278950920.gif

Sources:

  1. http://www.evhgear.com/frankenstein/
  2. https://frankenstrat.wordpress.com/history-of-the-frankenstrat/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2mh7zGfFRM
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICXeYawQqFs
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9_ZDxoxhoc

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