Guitar Shopping with Robert Quine

Robert Quine, for lack of a delicate term, hoarded guitars. “When he found something he liked, he had this obsessive-compulsive thing where he would buy, like, five of them,” Fred Maher says. “His motto was, ‘If they make something really good, they will inevitably stop making it.’”

“If he found a guitar pedal he liked, he had to buy three of them,” Lloyd Cole relates. “He was worried that they were going to stop making them and he would never be able to get one again. It was the same with guitars. When he got into Gretsch Country Gentlemen, for example, I think he bought five or six.”

But that obsession just made the shopping experience better. “One of my favorite things to do with Quine was to go guitar shopping,” Maher says. “We’d go up to Manny’s on 48th Street and, boy, they loved him there. I think every time he walked in there, he walked out with something. At some point, I decided I wanted to buy one of the early Fender Tele reissues. We went to Manny’s and they literally brought every single one they had in the stockroom to us. He played every one of them. He had this thing where he really liked to make sure that it acoustically sounded good, before he plugged it in. He would strum it and play it a little bit, and that test was pass/fail. If it passed it, would go into the pass pile. Then he would plug them in and go through them. He appreciated the random faults of manufacturing, and the wood, and all that stuff that just can’t be accounted for in the building of instruments.” Quine’s favorite Telecaster was a ’52 reissue with Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups and a 4-way switch.

Matthew Sweet was with Quine when he started obsessing over Japan-made Strats. “We went to a place called Rudy’s on West 48th Street in New York,” he says. “I got a couple, Fred Maher got a couple—they were way less expensive than an American Fender—but Bob would go back again and again and keep buying more and more of these Japanese Stratocasters. He must have had 12 or 15 of them.”

“On an average day with Quine, he would just go to guitar stores and record stores and shop around,” James “the Hound” Marshall says. “He had tons of pedals. The big one at the end that he loved was that Yardbirds fuzz [the Prescription Electronics Yardbox]. He had all kinds of delay pedals. He would buy literally every fucking gadget.” However, Quine truly relied on a chosen few: an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, a Fender Blender, a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, an MXR Distortion+, and a Prescription Electronics Yardbox fuzz and Experience octave fuzz.

But shopping with Quine wasn’t for everyone. “I didn’t have the kind of money he had and it would just piss me off,” Ivan Julian says, laughing. “Though he did talk me into buying two things. He talked me into buying a Peavey guitar. He said, ‘This is going to be the Telecaster of the future.’ That didn’t happen. But he also loved Peavey amplifiers, especially Peavey Bandits, and they are really great amplifiers. I was apprehensive, but he said, ‘You’ve got to hear it.’ I heard it, put a different speaker in it, and I still use it for clubs and things like that.”

Quine’s main amps were a mix of Fender and Peavey. His favorite Fender was a Super Champ with the original speaker, but he also used a Pro Junior, a Custom Vibrolux, and a Reverb II, along with a 130 Special and a Deuce from the Peavey camp. His preference in guitar strings remained consistent: Fender .010–.038 sets.