The Irresistable Lure of Brian Jones' Teardrop Guitar

An enigmatic man needs and enigmatic guitar. No one knew this more than ex-Rolling Stone Brian Jones.

At the beginning, leader of men - notably Keith, Mick, Bill and Charlie. Originally the Stones were Brian's band. However, when manager Andrew Loog-Oldham started locking Mick and Keith into empty rooms with their guitars to create a hit songwriting duo, Brian became the odd-man out.

For a while, before drugs and his backyard pool took an end to his life, Brian was still the fashionable figurehead of the band. The Stone with style. And no more so was that evident in his choice of the Vox Teardrop guitar. This has to be one of the sexiest pieces of modern design ever conceived. Simple black on white. Male and female shapes. In many ways the yin and yang of electric guitars.

I always wanted one, but the originals are rare and are well beyond my wallet. Thankfully Phantom Guitars in Oregon makes a relatively affordable copy and I was lucky enough to find a used one on Ebay for an even more affordable price.

Here's the one I bought. Very similar to Brian's original. The knobs were slightly different (white plastic instead of metal) but otherwise an incredibly faithful visual reproduction. The finish was top-notch. These guitars play like a dream. The round shape feels comfortable against the body, the neck feels great and they are beautifully balanced. Holding one of these will also guarantee you'll stand out on any stage or bandstand.

If you are sensing a BUT here, you are right. I loved everything about this guitar except the sound. The sound was definitely thin. Well the guitar has narrow single coil pickups so that was to be expected. There's always a trade-off between thin and bright right? Not here. Not only was the sound thin but it lacked any brightness at all.

I was tempted to see if I could find new pickups for it even though they were an oddball rectangle design. However, I wasn't sure that was the problem. I think it was more likely a lack of good string tension. The strings merely passed through the back of the bridge rather than through the body (such as on a Telecaster or Strat) I could have tried to get someone to custom make me a new bridge but that seemed a lot of work since I couldn't guarantee it would solve the problem.

Reluctantly, I traded it in when I bought my next piece of gear. It's too bad. Looking back I should have had more photos taken of me playing it. Of course, I could never be quite as cool as Brian Jones.


  1. I don't think the VOX teardrop guitars sounded good. Brian Jones had a prototype. I guess in those days when you bought a VOX teardrop it was something a lot cheaper than the Brian Jones guitar.
    It's my theory.

  2. What were you plugging it into? Not all guitars sound good with all amps. Jones was into VOX gear, especially the AC-30 and the AC-30 Twin. That's a pretty unique amp as far as sound goes, especially with the top-boost channel. Pickup-wise, the VOX Mark III used what amounted to Strat pickups; at most, you might have required a rewind job.

    If you really had a string-tension issue, you'd have to play with string gauges until you got the right tonal balance. I doubt this was the issue, based on your description.

    Best suggestion: check the neck pocket and make sure you had maximum neck-to-body contact; paint in the neck pocket is a real offender here. Makes for bad sustain and a dull sound.

  3. Sorry for the lateness of the reply. I've been away from the blog recently. I had the guitar plugged into a Fender Pro Jr. which is a pretty bright amp. I did try lighter strings but you were right, they didn't quite work well.
    Since the guitar I had was a US made copy (although an officially licensed one) and not an original VOX I'm not sure if the pickups were the same. They certainly didn't seem too strat-like in terms of tone.

    I never thought about the neck pocket. Looking back, I should have checked it out. Except for the sound it was a great guitar to play, hold and look at.