How the Fender Electric XII Became the Sound Everyone Chased During the Late ’60s 12-String Jangle Craze

For a brief period in the mid-1960s, the 12-string electric guitar set pop soundscapes on fire, and it seemed like the instrument would be with us forever – until, practically overnight, this is no longer the case.

Rickenbacker’s 1964 360/12 certainly set the standard, played by both George Harrison of the Beatles and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds on some of the era’s most influential recordings.

The 1965 Fender Electric XII was a cleverly designed attempt to grab a piece of the market. And while the 12-string fad faded faster than society could have predicted, the Electric XII found its way onto a surprising number of iconic recordings.

The ’60s were a time of proper swing at Fender, and the company launched
a number of new models plugged in before and after CBS took control of the operation in early 1965.

Like much of the guitar gear market during this decade, the massive success of the Beatles may have led to such ideas, including the Electric XII and the electric Thinline Coronado that came out alongside it. , a guitar within a mile of design. The Epiphone casinos that the Fab Four used.

(Indeed, Fender was actively courting the Beatles and successful in late 1968, as evidenced by the plethora of guitars and guitar amps, and the Fender Rhodes electric piano, in the band’s recording footage. So be it in January 1969.)

Like so many things launched behind a trend, neither the Electric XII nor the Coronado had much longevity, but both certainly made a splash here. Members of the house band in the 1968 Elvis Presley film Speedway mimes on an Electric XII, Stratocaster and Precision Bass, while Presley briefly shreds, kicks and strums a Coronado II.

Besides the elongated “thumb-sore” headstock, the Electric XII is recognizable to Fender in many ways, including its bolt-on neck, an offset-waisted body that’s a clear relative of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar, and the scale 25 ½ inches. length found on larger Fender flagship models, which adds tighter low end and extra harmonic sparkle to this 12-string jangle compared to guitars of shorter scale lengths.

Fender’s flagship electric 12-string has proven to be more of a studio weapon than an easily identifiable stage prop. Jimmy Page played an Electric XII on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”

The Electric XII’s two split single-coil pickups had not appeared on any previous Fender guitar, but they seemed to be a clear descendant of the Precision Bass pickup, and would carry over to the 1966 Mustang Bass, as well as the Custom, the Frankensteinian six-string effort that would help utilize unwanted parts from the Electric XII in a few years.

These pickups were wired via an unusual four-position switch which, in addition to the traditional neck, two, and bridge settings, offered a fourth setting with the pickups together in parallel but out of phase, for a funky, scooped chime breed. .

Fender Electric XII

(Image credit: Maddie Patch)

Along with the two prominent rows of six tuners on the headstock, the bridge is another substantial piece of hardware and a pretty clever creation.

It starts with a trapezoidal steel plate like the one used on the Duo Sonic II, released the year before, but it raises the bar with 12 individually adjustable barrel saddles (perhaps inspired by those of the Mustang tremolo bridge), held firmly in place by a metal support structure.

It’s both solid and fully intonationable, and it’s arguably superior to the Rickenbacker’s 12-string bridge, which, despite individually adjustable saddles, is rather clunky and clumsy.

Fender Electric XII

(Image credit: Maddie Patch)

Like many Fender guitars of the time, the Electric XII was standard in sunburst, but
it can also be easily found in a range of custom colors since this program was running on all cylinders at Fullerton in the mid-60s.

The stunning 1965 example featured in this issue was factory sprayed in Firemist Gold Metallic, a color that remains incredibly bright and vibrant today.

Gene Clark happened to play a Firemist Gold Metallic Electric XII much like this on the Byrds’ performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the TV show fuss on May 11, 1965, featuring the double irony of putting down the tambourine he usually played on the song and standing right next to Roger McGuinn playing his Rickenbacker 360/12 (the guitar used in the actual session, and of course sure the very instrument that helped launch the 12-string sensation in the first place).

Otherwise, Fender’s flagship electric 12-string proved more of a studio weapon.
than an easily identifiable stage prop. Jimmy Page played an Electric XII on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” while Pete Townshend used one on “Sparks” and “Underture” from the 1969 rock opera Who’s, tommy.

The model has also been used in the hands of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Billy Strange of the Wrecking Crew (who played that 12-string role in the Beach Boys’ 1966 hit “Sloop John B”), Tim Buckley and of the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison.

As the 12-string electric craze waned, so did the Electric XII’s popularity, and it was dropped from the Fender catalog after 1969. Apparently, having pre-cut more bodies and necks than the demand would require, Fender introduced the soon-to-be-renamed Custom Maverick that same year, using parts intended for the Electric XII.

The bodies were hacked into a modernist staggered profile to disguise their origins, but the unsightly headstock remained, albeit with only six tuners fitted. The guitars featured a pair of the XII’s split single-coil pickups, its four-way switch and Mustang tremolo tailpiece and barrel bridge.

Some 600 to 800 examples were made before the Custom was phased out in 1972. Despite its short lifespan, the Electric XII from 1965 to 1969 remained a powerful chime and jangle tool, especially in the studio, and is the one of the relatively few post-CBS Fender designs to make it into the collection.

About Laurence Johnson

Check Also

‘The Voice’ Contestant Sings Journey’s Big Hit, Everyone Is Blown Away

Season 22 of The voice debuted on Monday night (September 20), and we just might …