In punk music, a disregard for what is considered the mainstream “cool” gear of the day (Les Pauls, Marshalls, etc) is part of the aesthetic: You don’t need to have expensive gear to play great music.
But, while having “the right gear” is of little importance, in some scenes having cool-looking alternatives (like Tina Weymouth’s bass which was nice and super quirky and stylized) is highly-appreciated. That’s why the gear of punk is so interesting—it was all personalized/stylized and interested. Let’s take a look at four influential guitar/bass icons and the gear that they used.
Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads played a few different basses, most notably (seen on the concert movie Stop Making Sense) the Höfner 500/2 Club Bass, a hollow-body, violin-shaped archtop. Tina learned bass just to play for the Talking Heads, having minimal prior musical experience. Her bass lines are funky and full of syncopated cleverness.
Viv Albertine’s first guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Jr. She learned to play guitar from her friends, who happened to be in popular bands like the Clash and The New York Dolls. After playing in the Flowers of Romance with Palmolive and Syd Vicious, she joined the Slits and proceeded to tour with the Clash in ’77. She now plays a Telecaster in her self-titled solo project.
Dianne Chai of the Alley Cats played a Gibson SG bass. Chai’s upfront and riff-driven bass playing was perfect for the power trio, which were a largely forgotten fixture in the early Los Angeles punk scene. The band was originally signed to the famous Dangerhouse Records (along with X) and later became the Zarkons.
Poison Ivy, the guitarist, songwriter, arranger, and producer from the Cramps is a really interesting guitar player inspired by rockabilly, hillbilly (think Wanda Jackson), and early rock ‘n’ roll. She was really into collecting old gear, records, and the like. Early on, Ivy played an rare, quirky Bill Lewis guitar made in Canada. Then, in the ’80s, she fell in love with a 1958 Gretsch 6120 hollow body—the perfect rockabilly guitar—and never looked back. The Cramps were major innovators of the psychobilly genre and influenced essentially all garage punk bands that followed!