The Norlin Era SG Custom and SG Standard.

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by SG Champagne, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. robbothorp

    robbothorp New Member

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    I'm no expert in the field whatsoever, apart from having owned a number of newer Gibson SG Standards. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a 1977 left handed Gibson SG Standard and the guitar absolutely blew me away. It's all original except for the tuners that seem to be period correct Gibson ones instead of the Schallers I think they came with (you can see the old screw holes). The build quality and the wood is on a completely different level and the Tarbacks are the best humbuckers I've played. Very good tone and separation. The neck is slimmer than the newer SG:s, but it's very comfortable to play (I've got pretty big hands, not Donald Trump-style, but still). If you can get your hands on one of these you shouldn't hesitate.

    9450688158.jpg
     
  2. gball

    gball Well-Known Member

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    I've come to believe that the myth (yes, myth) of Norlin-era inferiority was actually propagated by Gibson itself when Hank J took over, with the assistance of a handful of prominent musicians. The biggest competition he had at the time was Gibson's own recent past, so they decided to convince everyone that the "best" guitars in Gibson's history were actually made in the '50's and '60's, then set about building guitars to those older specs.

    I was there, buying and playing guitars, during the Norlin era. We were not fixated on old guitars (they were readily available at good prices), we wanted NEW Gibsons and that's what we lusted after and saved for and played. They were updates of the old designs, not compromises of them, which is an important distinction that has been lost over the years of Norlin-bashing that have gone on since. 3-piece maple necks, revised control layouts, redesigned hardware and pickups, etc., all done to make the guitars better than ever. And there have been plenty of old Gibson employees that will attest to the fact that they didn't suddenly forget how to build great guitars or run out of the wood they had been seasoning the day Norlin took over. Those guitars were built by the same people and from much of the same timber that the older ones were.

    And know what? I'll happily stack the Norlins up against anything Gibson has ever built: Take the hype out of the equation and evaluate with your hands and your ears and you'll find they are, in the aggregate, as good or better than anything big G has ever made. T-Tops crush the old PAFs (unless you want to sound like your grandfather). The neck profiles an fretwork are miles better for fast, fluid playing.

    I currently have a '79 LPC and an '81 SG Deluxe. I've owned and played Gibsons from every era of the solidbodies, but these are the ones that do it for me. I've no desire for another pre-Norlin, and while I do like some of the newer models they really don't stack quite up to the Norlins, even the CS models. If I ever buy any more Les Pauls they will only be Norlin-era.
     
  3. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Sorry but the Norlins were not well received even when new. Many of the changes could not be explained as anything other than cost-cutting. However, that is not to say the guitars were bad. But by most objective measures they weren't as carefully crafted as the previous decades. I mean, dedicating the time it took to carve such deep bevels on every single SG made in 1961 is a real statement of craft. But hey, "Not quite as good as some of the most valuable guitars in the world" is not such an insult, is it?

    The demand for a '59 Les Paul replica significantly pre-dated Henry's acquisition of Gibson. Norlin even made several attempts.

    Some changes were improvements, like the 3-pc neck. Some were not. The front-mounted control plate does absolutely nothing functionally and clearly did no favors aesthetically. It only made the guitars easier to assemble. The lack of a neck angle does nothing positive. They also started using lower grade Mahogany; look at the beautiful, even grain you see on '60s SGs. Norlins were hit or miss in that regard.

    I do agree that T-Tops are great pickups, but most Norlin era SGs used Tarbacks. And most people cannot get along with a 1 9/16" nut width.

    I will also agree that '50s and '60s Gibsons are built up to be more than they are. They certainly had their share of issues; bridges placed incorrectly, those awful "Fretless Wonder" frets. Newer guitars are absolutely more reliably playable and issue-free.

    To be clear, I'm not ragging on Norlins, I just don't think we need to over-praise them to counter the '60s overrating. There are great Gibsons from every era and surely dogs from every era, too.
     
  4. SG standard

    SG standard Well-Known Member

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    I got into guitars in the mid-70s, and I was reading anything I could find in the music press. What I kept hearing (in the UK) was how badly made new Fenders and Gibsons were, and how poor the QC was, (some things never change!). But I couldn't afford a Gibson or Fender - far from it. I recently found online the catalogue I ordered my first guitar from...
    What a trip!
    [​IMG]

    Guess which one I bought.... Yup, top right!

    And here's the page for the Gibspns - which I looked at endlessly, and always lusting after those top two - Norlins!
    [​IMG]

    So I understand where you're coming from - Norlin made some desirable guitars - especially when set against the competition of the time, rather than Gibson's history.

    But, these days, when I hear 'Norlin SG' I don't think of those two, I think of something like this:
    [​IMG]

    Which is very different to this:
    [​IMG]

    It takes a lot of effort to build a good reputation, but it can be destroyed in a moment.
     
  5. ruster1

    ruster1 Active Member

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    Here is my input into the "Norlin" era as i just added to my "SG" collection by recently purchasing a 76' standard with bound rosewood board. I obviously got a deal on this as it had a head stock break, was refinished in satin walnut (actually printed serial was gone so all i had to go with were the pots dated to 76') and the neck. My preference for quick chord changes is a 1-5/8 nut.. and i wanted to try the 1 9/16 nut. None of these flaws bothers me as i want to set this up with aftermarket T-Tops regardless. Interestingly the pickups seem to be both 490T with the front one reversed. Bridge pickup was opened and modified as the bobbin screws are missing. This pickup also runs HOT and sounds huge. I am enjoying playing this even with roached frets.

    20181226_225116_resized.jpg 20190101_134609_resized.jpg 20181226_224037_resized.jpg 20181228_171756_resized.jpg Also you can note the plugged hole for a toggle which may have been a phase switch. I am maybe getting an idea for a Peter Green thing in its past? The pickup cavities also have been sprayed with silver sparkle paint which may show the disco era of this guitar. It has been well loved and played as the frets need to be replaced up high minimum, but i may opt for some wide-semi low frets in the future. These frets micrometer reading has in at 0.30 or just below.. but i love the feel as does my 86 - 62 reissue.. very low frets.. love them.. My plans are to re-fret, replace the bridge with KLUSON harmonica as the saddles on mine have seen better days. I would also like T-TOPS and Ratio Tuners from Graphtech.. new nut to go with new frets.. $ 600 and i will have only 1200 in this guitar.. playing like NEW.. will check back when the work is complete..
     
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  6. SG standard

    SG standard Well-Known Member

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    These are excellent - I recently had them fitted to my '78 Guild, and now I wish I had them on everything... :)
     
  7. ruster1

    ruster1 Active Member

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    I have never tried them.. they look engineered very well.. thanks for the advice..
     
  8. Tuija Johansson

    Tuija Johansson New Member

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    sg mini.jpg 1J3A2232 mini.jpg Here is my -74 Standard, with the original super humbuckers (tarbacks) and unbound fretboard. The cherry color has faded a lot as you can see, and some previous owner put on some little extra paint a long time ago....lots of wear and tear as can be expected of an old workhorse that has been on numerous gigs and recording sessions through the years. Yes, no trossrod cover, yet ;) Some updating had to be done when the old gal came to me a few years ago: replacement Gotoh tuners, refretting, and a handmade saddle (moose bone). Fantastic sound, perfect pups!, and always stays in tune. Let's hope for 44-45 more productive years, at least :D
     
  9. ruster1

    ruster1 Active Member

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    Great looking 74..I love the fact that these era standards were offered in both rosewood bound necks and unbound ebony..unusual for an SG standard but have a nice look.
     
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  10. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Actually, all evidence seems to suggest '74-75s had an unbound Ebony board as standard spec. I think the confusion comes from the inability to date from the serial number in that era, so people often think '73s or '76s are '74-75s.

    http://solidguitar.wikia.com/wiki/SG_Standard#1973-1979
     
  11. ruster1

    ruster1 Active Member

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    Excellent point.. my 76 since it was refinished and is missing the serial.. has only the pots dated to 76 to go by.. I did hear someone state that they came in either rosewood or ebony. but maybe never put it together that it may have been year specific.. perhaps someone with a 74-75 rosewood can help decide this question
     
  12. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Well, the 1974/75 catalog shows "Ebony fretboard" as the standard specification, and the 1976 catalog is back to Rosewood. It was basically a rumor started that the Ebony boards were a limited edition because... well, it's probably one of the most common things you see where sellers claim something is a limited edition based on any perceived irregularity, often incorrectly.
     
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  13. ruster1

    ruster1 Active Member

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    Excellent info..thank you..people say the strangest things to add value to their guitar..
     
  14. gball

    gball Well-Known Member

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    Amen to that, brother. Too many people "heard" that Norlin-era Gibsons suck, so they repeat that nonsense without ever owning one or spending real time playing one. That era gave us some of the best and most unique guitars in history, and TBH, I'm glad there are so many haters still out there - it keeps the prices lower for those of us in the know.
     
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  15. gball

    gball Well-Known Member

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    Nope, I only have a Norlin SG Deluxe. It is an incredibly good guitar, easily one of my best-sounding (Shaw in the neck and Super HB in the bridge).
     
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  16. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Not so much anymore, I remember when a '70s Standard went for the same as a new Standard or less, around $1,200. Now I see Specials asking $1500 and Standards asking $1800.
     
  17. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Well-Known Member

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    Didn't Norlin SGs also receive volutes and three-piece necks? I was under the impression they did, though I've never owned one.
     
  18. brazilnut

    brazilnut Active Member

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    I had a 1983 Standard. Stock all the way, pencil neck, volute, original pickups. It had an accident onstage and died of a broken neck 12 years ago. Other than a lot of wear and tear, the fit and finish were good. No complaints.
     
  19. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the SG saw much more extensive changes than the LP did under Norlin. The 1972 Deluxe was a radical redesign, which the LP never saw anything like under Norlin. Even after they brought back the Standard in 1973, it kept several features from the Deluxe, like the neck being set in deeper.
     
  20. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Yes. I will add that this neck was more difficult to break at the headstock than the earlier neck versions. The necks were still made of Honduran mahogany, but, laminated to make it stronger.
     
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