Thursday, August 6, 2009

John McLaughlin's Rex Bogue Double Rainbow

John McLaughlin has always had a penchant for unusual instruments.

And the Rex Bogue Double Rainbow was easily the most visually striking guitar that McLaughlin has used in his illustrious career.

An earlier custom built double-neck by Gibson left him largely disappointed. According to McLaughlin, Gibson had generally ignored most of the specifications he had requested.  "It took them a year to do it -- they had strikes and everything.  Finally I got it, but they had only done one thing I had asked, and that was the writing of 'Sweetest Is My Lord' on the necks.  The one thing they'd done was the least important as far as the music.  The electronics they hadn't done, the neck they hadn't done, the body shape they hadn't done, they hadn't even used the right wood."

But all was to soon change. California luthier Rex Bogue introduced himself when McLaughlin was playing at the Whiskey club in LA.

Bogue had brought with him a guitar he had built with "flowers going down the neck and this beautiful ebony board". Taken by the high degree of workmanship and attention to detail, McLaughlin commissioned Bogue to build him the double-neck of his dreams.

Bogue took exactly a year to build the instrument, completing it in July 1973. From that point, the Double Rainbow, as it came to be known, became McLaughlin's signature instrument, closely associated with the early days of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

According to Bogue, the 24 3/4" scale Double Rainbow had a body made out of fiddleback maple, laminated necks made from maple and Brazilian rosewood, and Gaboon ebony fingerboards with 22-frets. An ornate 'Tree of Life' inlay traversed each fingerboard to symbolize a musician's progress in achieving his ideals.

For its electronics, the Double Rainbow had individual volume controls for each of the four pickups and a single master volume that controlled the overall output from the guitar. There were no individual tone controls for each pickup; instead, a master tone controlled both necks. In addition, the humbucking pickups were rewound with coil divider taps so that inter-coil phasing and adjustable quad-coil phasing were obtainable with the flick of a switch. Finally, a preamp was also built into the guitar.

Sadly, McLaughlin has said that the Double Rainbow fell off a bench in 1974 under "perculiar circumstances" since no one was near it. It hit the ground on its front, splitting it down the middle and according to its owner "would have to be virtually rebuilt".

It is not entirely clear if the Double Rainbow was the only one of its kind.

Ibanez copied the famed Double Rainbow and came out with their own model around 1975, the 2670 Artwood Twin as shown in the ad on the right.

The Artwood Twin featured a simplified 'Tree of Life' inlay based on Rex Bogue's original design which Ibanez later also featured on their Bob Weir signature model in the late '70s.

The 'Tree of Life' inlay is a design that Ibanez continues to use to this day on their higher end models -- in particular, the Steve Vai Jem signature series.

Another notable design idea 'borrowed' from Rex Bogue is the 'cloud' tailpiece design as shown in detail in this previous article.

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