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Fender's Justin Norvell: Guitar-smashing is a "long-standing tradition" in rock

The Who's Pete Townshend smashes an unfortunate guitar against an even more unfortunate amplifier
(Image credit: Chris Morphet/Redferns)

Kurt Cobain liked to smash his guitars sometimes. So did The Who's Pete Townshend, as you can see above. Hell, Jimi Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire during his stunning performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival

Still, when Phoebe Bridgers smashed (or at least attempted to, those things are tough) her Danelectro Dano ‘56 baritone during a performance on Saturday Night Live in February of this year, the internet was set ablaze with discourse – likely fueled, as many pointed out, by her status as an up-and-coming female musician and not a long-established Rock God – over the morality of the act.

Though it's died down, embers of the debate are still lingering in folks' minds, as evidenced by a question ABC Audio posed to Fender's executive vice president of products, Justin Norvell, during a recent interview.

Given that Norvell was calling in to discuss the signature guitar of someone who was fond of occasionally destroying his instruments (Cobain and his newly reissued Jag-Stang model), how did he feel about guitarists smashing the instruments his employer works so hard to create?

“The guitar is what I call a sonic paintbrush,” Norvell responded. “It’s something for an artist to use, to create with.

“So while people look at a guitar being smashed and say, ‘That could go to someone else,’ or whatever, in that moment and what [an artist is] doing and how they’re feeling, if smashing [a guitar] encapsulates part of that…”

Norvell went on to recall seeing Cobain smash a guitar onstage himself – “I was lucky enough to go to a Nirvana show and did see Kurt smash a guitar over one of the In Utero angels at their first show of the In Utero tour” – before adding that, at the end of the day, he feels that smashing a guitar is a “long-standing tradition” in rock.

“We’re all right with it,” Norvell said. “But we also take a lot of pride in what we’re building and what we’re making. So there’s always a balance that we have to strike there.”

Faithful to Cobain's original design, the Jag-Stang is one of the most eye-catching signature models Fender has produced this year, and features a short-scale rosewood fretboard, custom pickups and a pair of Mustang slider switches. 

It's available now via Fender for $1,249. 

Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at guitarworld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.