Ultimate Interviews

Ultimate Interviews

Friday, July 25, 2014

108 Rock Star Guitars

The Girl Who Makes Guitar Art

In a world where everything is becoming more digital and available on iPads, tablets and portable readers, it's still nice to pick up a book, hold it in your hands and flip through the pages. You get a greater appreciation for the author and the subject when you can turn the pages and be taken in by the work that appears on the pages.

I was first introduced to Lisa S. Johnson on Facebook when we decided to collaborate on a contest between her page 108 Rock Star Guitars and mine LedZepUFP. I had checked out their website and was instantly captivated by the images that she had taken of some of the world's most recognizable guitars.

I would soon find out that it's one thing to see these photographs on a computer screen, but when you have the book in your hands and you're turning the pages you realize how amazing Lisa's eye for detail really is.
I was sent a copy of the book, courtesy of Lisa and her team and it quickly became a treasured item on my bookshelf. But before we get to a review of the book itself, we have to answer that question "Who is Lisa S. Johnson and why did she spend 17 years photographing some of the most iconic guitars known to music fans worldwide?"

Photo by: Ewasko
Leaving behind the glamour of Hollywood when she was only seven years old, Lisa found herself living on Indian lands in Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada. Lisa recalls memories of her father and time there on her website "...a hootenanny every summer where serious musicians would come together and play.  He let me sing on stage there; I had a couple of favorite songs I had learned from both of my grandmothers."

          "I'm so in love with what I'm doing."

Photo by: Ewasko
The love of photography grew when she found herself working for Kodak, where she met some of her mentors. There, she met fine art photographer legend, Joyce Tenneson, who she says she owes a lot of gratitude to for her encouragement.
Since then she has not only met, but photographed some of the most influential people in the music world. After meeting the legendary Les Paul, (who would be the first guitar she photographed) Lisa made it her mission to travel the world, seeking out some of the most famous guitars to photograph.

From the first photograph to the last, which was Bruce Springsteen's Fender, it has taken 17 years to complete the book. Actually, it's not just a book, it's an encyclopedia for guitar fans and music lovers of all ages. Lisa has done a fantastic job capturing every scratch, dent and chipped paint on these guitars. Only she can bring the fan that close to their idol's instrument.  You can read more of Lisa's biography, including memorable photo shoots, the most unusual spots to photograph and many more details on this wonderful project on the official website: 108 Rock Star Guitars.

At this year's annual Graphis Competitions, '108 Rock Star Guitars' was awarded the very impressive Silver Award.Congratulations to Lisa, SMOG Design, Inc., and Nick Steinhardt. Well deserved. Check out the entry here: Graphis Competitions/108 Rock Star Guitars.

Now onto the review of the book itself.
Hardcover: 396 Pages/486 Colour Photos
Dimensions: 33.8 x 29 x 4.6cm (13.3 x 11.4 x 1.8 inches)
Weight: 3.9 kg (8.60 lbs)
Publisher: Glitterati Incorporated (October 20, 2013)
Author: Lisa S. Johnson
Foreword: Les Paul

The first thing you notice when you have this book in your hands, is the weight and feel of it. This is no flimsy hardcover book folks. The amazing details and quality of materials used, make this one of the most beautiful coffee table books I have seen and own.

The edges of the 396 pages are cloaked in gold, which compliments the intense, yet beautiful red front and back covers. Incorporated into the exotic designs on the front cover, is the number 108. Not only is it the number of guitars photographed for this book, it is also a very cosmic number to Lisa, who finds spiritual significance in the study of numerology.

Taken from the official 108 Rock Star Guitars website, an explanation of the number by Lisa herself :
"...it chose me. Following me through my days as a reminder to say my mantras, and as comfort and guide throughout the duration of this project. It is, I believe, a divine number. Similarly, the music made with the instruments seen in these pages is, to my ear, divine."

The forward of the book is written by the late, but great, Les Paul himself. Every book sold, a portion of the proceeds benefit the Les Paul Foundation. The Foundation honors the life, spirit and legacy of Les Paul. It's a wonderful foundation that supports music education, engineering and innovation as well as medical research.

To learn more about the foundation or to donate: Les Paul Foundation.

Once you flip that cover and start turning the pages, the reader is instantly captivated by the photographs. If you're thinking you're just going to see photos of the guitarists wielding their instruments, you are greatly mistaken.

The images of the guitars fill the pages and every tiny detail is visible to the reader. Lisa has allowed angles and lighting to be her assistants while shooting the guitars. No one else can get you this close to such iconic guitars.

"I just fell in love with what I was seeing in my viewfinder." 

Each photo shows you the wear and tear of these beloved instruments. You can see scratches on the pick guards, patches of worn paint and little dents, all from years of touring and being played. From afar, the guitars may look to be in prestige condition, but Lisa shows you otherwise. Every little scratch, dent, worn spot tells a story of its history with its owner. The photos are vibrant, visual storytellers.

Not only do the pictures themselves tell stories, but so does the author. Some of the memorable moments in Lisa's travels to photograph these guitars, is told alongside their striking pictures.  From being presented with Roger Waters' "still warm from playing bass" or arriving at Don Wilson's home to photograph his Fenders, Lisa has included personal memories of each photo shoot alongside the photos that she captured on those occasions. It's also interesting to read details about each guitar. Little pieces of history, such as when the guitar was produced, how the artist acquired it and other little trivia friendly information.

For those artists who affectionately name their guitar, she has included that as well, and any details about modifications that the artist may have had done since owning the guitar. Some guitar techs who had a hand in making these shoots possible, have also been named.

"I'm not trying to show you a mugshot of a guitar; I'm trying to show you the soul."

The writing doesn't take away from the photos being in the spotlight. They compliment them. I particularly enjoyed how you not only see the front of the guitar, but you get to see extreme close ups of the frets, wiring, strings, pickups etc. Lisa gets you the nooks and crannies that other guitar publications overlook. The layout of the photographs are warm and inviting, not just mugshots of guitars.

The selection of guitars chosen for this book, highlights all time eras and all genres of music. From the quiet and reserved Robby Krieger of The Doors, to Megadeth's wild frontman, Dave Mustaine, Lisa has done an incredible job of including some of the greats. No era is left out, just like no genre is forgotten. You couldn't have a guitar book without some of the biggest names in the business: Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Brian May, Eric Johnson, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Chrissie Hynde, Johnny Winter, Robbie Robertson, Steve Miller, Willie Nelson, Rick Derringer, just to name a few. If there's a guitarist that has been influential to anyone picking up a guitar and learning to play, you can find them in this book.

The book's very first photo, belongs to the legendary Jeff Beck, while the book's last photo, belongs to the inspiration himself Les Paul. 108 Rock Star Guitars is a must-have for any music lover. Even if guitar is not your first instrument of choice, you can't help but look through the pages with great appreciation for this important instrument.

Spaced strategically throughout the book, are some special 'vellum' pages. These include quotes from the guitar's owner.A very nice touch for an already amazing book.

You can read quotes on these specialty pages from Michael Wilton, Alex Lifeson, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons, Wayne Kramer, Richard Thompson, Mick Jones,Tom Morello, Bonnie Raitt and Tom Scholz.

So, you've turned every page, admired the photographs, read the stories behind each one and you think you've come to the end of the book. Think again. In the back pocket you find a little bonus. In the pocket is a randomly selected '108 Rock Star Guitars' guitar plectrum and a booklet 'The Inspiration Behind 108 Rock Star Guitars'. The booklet is like a passport of Lisa's travels around the world. A wonderful display of guitar picks from some of the most talented guitarists in the music world. Concert tickets, seating plans, tour passes, backstage passes, and some special photos of Lisa with some of the guitarists. It's a nice little accompanying booklet to see how she spent all these years working on this project and how it all came to be.

This book is fascinating to everyone of all ages. My teenage son has spent a great deal of time looking through this book admiring all the photos. I, myself have spent countless hours reading and looking through the pages. It has become a welcomed addition to our coffee table and it will be to yours as well.

Lisa S. Johnson  has put her heart and soul into this project. Years of travelling around the world to seize the opportunities to photograph some of the music world's most recognizable guitars. She does so with impeccable attention to detail, all while making it fun and exciting for the reader. With new guitarists taking the stage every day, it's almost definite that we will see 108 Rock Star Guitars-Volume 2 in the near future.

"It's Been a long, fun ride." ~ Lisa S. Johnson



We couldn't have done this review without the generosity of Lisa S. Johnson. Thank you for sending us your beautiful and amazing book. It is a treasure in our home. Thank you for the photos used in this review and the countless emails while working on the joint giveaway with '108 Rock Star Guitars' and 'Led Zeppelin~Ultimate Fan Page'. Was truly an exciting venture with you, your team and fans and look forward to the opportunity to work together in the future.


You can purchase '108 Rock Star Guitars' on their official website : Buy 108RSG.

For the serious collector, there is also a Deluxe version available for purchase on the Official Website. This edition features a die-cut collector's box that includes a padded-leatherette hardcover book signed and numbered by the author, booklet, guitar pick and exclusively designed, hand-woven silk chiffon scarf.


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