Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 32

HEAVYTheMETAL
THUNDER
Fender Performer
F

BY MICHAEL WRIGHT
THE DIFFERENT STRUMMER

ender is not usually associated with heavy metal, though some
guitarists of the genre used a Strat, likely modified to sound unlike
itself. However, at the crest of the hard-rock trend known as the New
Wave of British Heavy Metal, the company introduced several models
aimed directly at its players. One was the Performer.
That "new wave," often referenced with the
clumsy acronym NWOBHM, began in the late '70s
and swept several styles into its fold. Its biggest
names were Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, but
the list included Judas Priest, Motörhead, Saxon,
Diamond Head, Ozzy Osbourne (whose touring
band included Americans Randy Rhoads, Rudy
Sarzo, and Tommy Aldridge), and Germany's
Michael Schenker Group. Its bread and butter
was songs delivered by vocalists honed to inject
upper-register verse lines with shrieks and wails
serving as points of interjection for virtuosic guitar
soloing. And then there was the hair... lots of hair!
And because presentation mattered, players took to
instruments with eye-catching, angular ("pointy")
shapes usually finished in bright colors and/or
dressed with exotic graphics; examples include the
Jackson Concorde played by Randy Rhoads and
Vinnie Vincent, the contrasting black/white Dean
V made for Schenker, and anything B.C. Rich.
Fender's John Page was given the challenge of
answering to the genre's penchant for in-your-face
instruments, and the Performer - once described
as "Strat meets Warlock" - was his first effort.
The launch of Fender's first "heavy metal"
guitars collided head-on with the desire of
corporate parent CBS to altogether remove
itself from the guitar-making business. The
company's sales were in steep decline and it
(somewhat rightfully) blamed competition
from less-expensive imports. It's difficult
to say whether outré guitars had anything
to do with that, but regardless, Page's
pointy guitars were stalled getting to
market.
In 1984, CBS put Fender up for sale.
In January of '85, an investor group
headed by William Schultz, formerly of
Yamaha, purchased rights to the name
and instrument designs for about half a
million dollars less that CBS had paid Leo
Fender in '65. The hitch, though, was the sale

VINTAGE GUITAR

32

October 2017


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open

Contents
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Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IFC
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