The James Hetfield Flying V – One Tough Guitar

James Hetfield playing Flying VMetallica is without a doubt a band that completely turned the world of metal upside down. It really brought this otherwise obscure genre into mainstream.

Before them, only a small sub scene listened to trash metal among other similar genres. After Metallica, trash metal was so spread out through the world that many people these days consider Metallica to be the kind of band everybody listens no matter what genre of music they enjoy the most.

A lot of that success can be attributed to James Hetfield. He has what is probably one of the most unique voices and singing styles in the business. However, it wasn’t just his talent that got Metallica to where it is today. It’s his charisma as well. Hetfield is the kind of guy that just radiates with positive energy.

The kind of energy that will get thousands of fans in the audience to sing along and just feel the music. During his long career, Hetfield formed a strong bond with one of his instruments. James Hetfield Flying V is probably one of the most iconic guitars out there, and this is why.

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The Iconic Guitar

Every musician has that one instrument that they establish a strong relationship with. Whether it’s their first or just an instrument they used during a memorable time in their career.

Same thing happened to James Hetfield when he purchased a Gibson Flying V replica made by a Japanese company Electra. This guitar was cheap, even back in the day, and was the second guitar Hetfield ever owned.

Gibson Flying V replica made by a Japanese company Electra - ConcertHe bought it in 1980 and used it extensively throughout 1984. Even though it was no where near as good as the original, Hetfield used his Electra 2236 to record some of the best songs Metallica ever published.

We are talking Kill Em All, Death Magnetic and so forth. The guitar in its original shape didn’t really have the quality of sound which Hetfield required. For this reason alone, he swapped the stock electronics for a set of Seymour Duncan Invaders. At the time, this was the only modification he made on this oddball guitar.

As years went on and his career started to accelerate, Hetfield started to care less and less about his Flying V. After all, it wasn’t a Gibson, right? The whole band treated it like it was the original Flying V, but since it was so affordable, Hetfield pushed it to the limits. In just several years that guitar has been exposed to incredible amounts of wear and abuse. The headstock was broken and put together, the neck finish almost completely worn off. Basically the guitar looked like it went through hell and back.

These years of heavy use are the reason why Hetfield has so much affection towards this Electra guitar. The abuse it went through gave it a unique character. For a certain time, it was the guitar an average Metallica fan would first think of when imagining James Hetfield.

Just how iconic this Electra became can be deduced from the fact that many hardcore Metallica fans are buying all kinds of Flying Vs and artificially wearing them out in order to make them look like the one Hetfield owns. It’s almost as popular as Hetfield himself.

A very unique guitarThese days you will rarely see James playing a Flying V, especially that Electra. Funny enough, when he broke the head on that guitar, he had to use the Gibson Explorer which he had as a backup.

This prompted him to completely switch over to the Explorer camp, which is why he is almost exclusively seen playing one of these guitars in the past decade or so. That Electra 2236 is partially responsible for the rise in popularity of Gibson’s Explorer series.

In closing

James Hetfield Flying V is a very unique guitar. It’s the type of instrument that can’t be reproduced or copied. The years of use and abuse gave it a unique character that can only be achieved when an artist puts his instrument through hell.

If you ask any musician, chances are they still own their first instrument no matter how bad it actually is, or how outdated it has become. Those are really hard to get rid off.

3 thoughts on “The James Hetfield Flying V – One Tough Guitar”

  1. Hetfield Forever

    I’ve actually replicated this guitar using a dean flying v. My advice? Don’t even try to do it. It’s not worth it. Costs too much and at the end it’s not what you were hoping to get anyway. Better buy a new guitar for yourself and get some miles on it. Much more valuable that way.

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