Question:  Is there a viable, modern replacement for a mid-70s "lawsuit" Ibanez Destroyer? Note: This is not a wild goose chase!

Bottom Line:  We have a new pickup available.  Send us an email if you are interested.

The Ibanez Destroyer has taken on an almost mythic status. We know that the first notes most people heard played by Eddie Van Halen were played on a 1975 or 76 Destroyer.  Ace Frehley used one, too.  John saw him play it on the Destroyer Tour in 1976, and there's even one of Ace's Destroyers in the Singapore Hard Rock Cafe!

Like many of you, we have gone to great lengths to duplicate Eddie Van Halen’s elusive brown sound heard on Van Halen’s debut album.  This has included buying Variacs, original Echolplex EP-3s, and building replicas of his black-and-white S-Style guitar.  However, most overlook the fact that Eddie recorded about half of that first album album with a Destroyer.  You can hear it on “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “You Really Got Me,” “Jamie’s Cryin’,” Feel Your Love Tonight” and “On Fire.”

The Destroyer allowed Mr. Van Halen to create sound effects that he couldn’t produce on his modified Strat, such as the high-pitched metallic scrape on the “Runnin’ with the Devil” intro (picking the strings between the bridge and stop tailpiece) and the stuttering effect on the solo to “You Really Got Me” (Setting the neck pickup volume at “0" and flicking the pickup selector switch).  Note: I believe the neck pickup may have already been unhooked at this point.

Eddie modified his Destroyer shortly after recording Van Halen by cutting a large V-shaped chunk out of the body below the bridge.  This guitar can be seen on the cover of "Women and Children First".  He admitted that this modification adversely affected the tone.  This is important - It was so bad that Eddie reportedly borrowed Chris Holmes' Destroyer for the recording of "Women and Children First", which was recorded December 1979 - February 1980 at Sunset Sound and released on March 26, 1980.

For an interview of Chris Holmes on the subject click here.  You may remember that Chris Holmes was the lead guitarist for W.A.S.P. and had a particularly disturbing appearance in the movie "Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years".

So -- The Destroyer.  Where's the evidence Mr. Van Halen used one?

Here is a  shot of Mr. Van Halen playing his modified Destroyer.  Note the touches:  White Strat Knobs have replaced the stock gold top-hat knobs, but the pointers remain.  The hardware is still chrome - which came stock on the Destroyer, but the entire guitar, including the headstock and the back of the neck, has been painted white. 

A couple of theories -

1.  The knobs came from the old Black Strat Ed is picture with frequently.

2.  The white paint is likely the same he used to paint his black and white Strat, i.e. acrylic lacquer.

3.  The pickups are likely stock Ibanez/Maxon Super 70s which came on the guitar.

This model Destroyer was manufactured between 1975 and 1977.  There is a possibility it is also a Greco, but if so, it was built in the same factory with the same materials as the Ibanez.  It is literally the same guitar except for the headstock logo.



Here is another shot of the guitar supposedly taken at the Starwood Club in January 1977.  I thought it was interesting that Ed was using a coiled cord.  Was this an essential part of his sound?  Killer!  

Live from Japan.  Here is a shot of Mr. Van Halen with what I believe to be the hacked-up version of the same Ibanez Destroyer.

A couple of notes:

1.  Note the gold Ibanez tune-a-matic bridge.  This was the stock bridge on the Destroyer, but not in gold.  This was a replacement for the original.

2. The covered Super 70 is in the bridge position.  The uncovered pickup in the neck may be a Super 70, also.

So, we know that Van Halen 1 was recorded September – October 1977 at Sunset Sound, Hollywood and was released February 10, 1978 . 

Eddie was interviewed in Guitar Player magazine on July 23, 1978 in which he discussed the modifications to the Destroyer.  On that day Van Halen and AC/DC opened the show for the Pat Travers Band, Foreigner, and Aerosmith at the Day on the Green concert at the Oakland Coliseum.

Therefore, the modification to the guitar took place sometime in the during the Fall of 1977 and the first half of 1978.  I also believe that Eddie actually borrowed the guitar for the recording of Van Halen II as well, which was recorded December 11, 1978 - January 1979 at Sunset Sound Recorders.  It was released March 23, 1979. here for more tone discussion at the MetroAmp forum.

If you 're a Van Halen fan and want a Destroyer, you probably already know that they are pretty hard to come by, particularly in original condition. 

Let's see if there is something we can do about that using a recent Epiphone Explorer.


On the right you can see our original 1975 Destroyer.  It is in excellent condition and it is a joy to play.  It sounds like "victory" through a Variac'd Marshall, an original EP-3 Echoplex, and a Phase 90.  In our opinion, this is probably very, very similar to the guitar Mr. Van Halen played on the first Van Halen album -- without the white paint job.

On the left is a 1998 Korean-made Epiphone Explorer, purchased recently off of the Used Wall at a local Guitar Center.  It is a completely original example, a very nice guitar, and will be the test case for building a Destroyer Substitute.

Let's take a look at their similarities and differences.  On to the next page!

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