A comprehensive look at the guitars, amps, and effects that defined rock movements from the 1950s to today.

We musicians love analyzing our heroes’ gear. We pore over tomes and fan-generated websites dedicated to chronicling the instruments, amps, and effects used by rock’s most celebrated artists—and not just what they used, but the when, where, how, why, and with whom of it, too. In the case of out-and-out icons, a single writer will author multiple full-color volumes inventorying everything from the gear itself on down to minutiae such as cosmetic changes and original purchase receipts. And if the hero’s big enough, the gear knowledge even spills over to the general public: For instance, plenty of everyday folks could tell you Hendrix played a Stratocaster, or that Page blasted through Marshall stacks during Zep’s heyday.

But rather than revisit what’s already been done in that regard, we thought it would be both interesting and enlightening to take a look at the gear of influential rockers from a slightly different vantage point. Instead of talking about stuff like when and why Lennon installed a Bigsby on his ’58 Rickenbacker 325 Capri, or whether Keith Richards’ famous ’53 Tele was used on such-and-such track, we decided it would be telling to take a look at broader patterns in the gear trends within eras and movements. For the sake of simplicity, the most logical route seemed to be breaking it down by decade. And for digestibility and space, we also limited each decade to two guitars, two amps, and, where applicable, a smattering of effects we feel epitomize the era.

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