Seems from photos that EVH did not change the stock Destroyer pickups until sometime after he chainsawed the guitar. Since Ed constantly messed with just about everything, this is very odd. So what does it tell us?
He liked the stock Super 70 pickups.
Why? Probably because they were (or sounded like) a higher-output pickup. Check this out, from the July 2011 issue of Vintage Guitar mag, interview with Jeff Hasselberger who was a big part of Ibanez in the early days:
VG: If there’s any rap on vintage Ibanez solid-bodies, it’s that the Super 70 and Super 80 humbuckers weren’t very good. They tended to be thin, which is why so many vintage models now have replacement pickups on them.
Jeff: Early on in the ’70s, we were focused on making pickups as hot as we possibly could. Of course, we overshot and made some pickups that were too powerful for their own good….This makes sense because Ed liked and still likes “powerful” pickups. He appears to have used DiMarzio Super Distortions (possibly with the ceramic magnet switched to an alnico magnet), Mighty Mite copies of Super Distortions, and as we all know had at least one of his favorite Gibson PAF pickups rewound by “someone” (possibly a little-known-at-the-time Seymour Duncan) to be a bit hotter.
That was the old days. His newer pickups also are “powerful.” So he definitely likes higher-output pickups.
Cutting a chunk out of the Destroyer changed its tone, and at some point after that happened Ed tried a variety of pickups – maybe with his EQs (MXR 6-band and Boss GE-10) – to get that guitar’s mojo back.
Someone pointed out on the metroamp board that the similar sounds of Frankie and the Destroyer on Van Halen I could mean that both guitars were using high-output pickups: a DiMarzio or Mighty Mite in Frankie, and the Super 70 in the Destroyer. Interesting thought.
So the last line in the GW article I don’t think counts for much: “The chrome-covered pickups appear to be stock, which suggests that the secret to Van Halen’s sound was more about his fingers and not some magical Gibson PAF humbucker.” Few items:
1. There’s no evidence Ed used a Gibson humbucker on the first Van Halen album – although he might have because there’s no evidence for anything he used on Van Halen 1!
2. It completely misses the point that the pickups were left stock because Ed liked them as is. Ed changed everything, so the more interesting question is why didn’t he change those!
3. Obviously his fingers, heart and brain are the keys to his tone that us mortals can never have.
From owning a Destroyer I can tell you that the Super 70 pickups sound higher output, at least partly because of the Alnico 8 magnets used, and take some tweaking height-wise so they don’t sound harsh or thin.
In those old photos (1977, pre first album), the Destroyer looks white. We’re all assuming it is white – painted by Ed himself or someone else – because at the time Destroyers only came in natural to replicate the Gibson korina guitars.
BUT the Shark is painted red over silver. No one has explained that one yet, and it all points to a simple explanation: Ed painted the thing silver, then red.
Wonder if this was the first guitar Ed painted. Also wonder if Ed found a Destroyer he liked better than the white one, then painted it silver then red. Doubtful, but who knows!
> The GW article points out that Ed “replaced the Gibson-style top hat knobs with knobs from a Stratocaster and swapped the original chrome-plated bridge for a gold-plated unit.” I presume he did the former for color/style and the latter either for tone or out of necessity.
All I got on the Shark. Unload your thoughts below.
Here’s a sliver of the Shark live, starts at about 3:40. Sounds ballsy!
– End of part 2 of 2 –