SGs from the 1970s Norlin Era. Pros and Cons.

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by SG Champagne, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. hydro

    hydro Member

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    Champagne,

    I have a 74 (or possibly late 73) SG Standard, bought used in the late 90s. To me, there is simply no better SG. I love the harmonica bridge, which suits my playing style. I love the tone and the tarback pickups. I love the neck and the fingerboard - which on mine, appears to be an unbound ebony board. I like the speed knobs and the Grover style tuners. In my opinion, they are the best SGs ever made and since they don't have the panache of the 60s SGs, they are still affordable. In fact I just bought another walnut 74 Standard which I am in the process of cleaning up and getting playable.

    I've gotten some great feedback and comments from some of the guys on this forum and there are plenty of guys like JohnP and dbb who appreciate this era and are really knowledgeable. I will say this - to me, they aren't the prettiest SGs ever made - but if you want a warhorse, a real, functional player - they can't be beat.
     
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  2. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    And that is the feature I love on these - a bit darker neck pickup sound.
     
  3. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Unbound fretboard on a Standard?

    That's interesting. I thought that all SG Standards from these few years were all bound.

    Yes, I agree that the build, fit and finish of this era of "Tar-back" SGs was excellent. These SGs were all made in Kalamazoo, I think. Kalamazoo is where it all started, and some of the folks from the Gibson days are still there making Heritage guitars. I don't own a Heritage, but, I'll bet they are nice.
     
  4. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Tarback Humbuckers !

    I suppose that the black resin sealant on the underside of these pups is designed to seal the pup and sort of "pot" the pups to prevent microphonics?
     
  5. hydro

    hydro Member

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    That's my understanding, yes -

    Sadly the other 74 I just bought had the stock bridge pup replaced with a Dimarzio. Those tarbacks are getting expensive on ebay. I bought a Seymour Duncan 59 to replace it, I will see how it sounds. I am not sure what modern pickup(s) there are that match those tarbacks in sound.
     
  6. hydro

    hydro Member

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    Yes I think they were only unbound for a couple of years from what some of the other guys on the forum have said. It's hard to tell in the old catalog pictures but you can kind of get an idea -

    1975 Gibson solid body Guitar Catalogue Page 9 SG Standard and Special
     
  7. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

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    Those SG 100's & SG 200's were made to be the entry level guitars of the day. I believe they took the place of the Melody Maker in 71. How wonderful was a Melody Maker & honestly wasn't an SG I & II just a little better than those single coils in an old MM and the SG 100s & 200s?

    Below, 72 SG 100 & a 71 SG 200 w/single coils, & a 71/72 SG I & II w/mini hums.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I do have a Norlin era 77 LP Deluxe & find it to be one of my nicest sounding guitars.
    [​IMG] 77 LP Deluxe.

    I also have an 81 LP Standard that sounds amazing with a broader response & its a bit ballsier due to its original Shaw era humbuckers. They both play perfect with no issues with nothing bad to say about either. I still own a 71 SG Deluxe (Belladonna) as well as a 72 LP Signature & I previously had a 76 LP Deluxe (sold) & a 74 LP Deluxe (gave it back to ex girlfriend so she'd leave me alone) (that hurt)(loosing that guitar).
    [​IMG]
    Above 72 SG Deluxe with embossed pups. Below 73-74 SG Pro.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]72 LP Signature. 335 meets LP meets mini humbucker.

    They all sounded amazing to me & I'm not just talking out the arse or making it up. I enjoyed the sound of everyone of them immensely. I absolutely loved that 74s vocal quality & it was the first mini hummed guitar that blew me & my previous misconceptions away & made me a real believer about the mini hums beauty & tonal potential. My 71 SG Deluxe has patent sticker T Tops so yall can believe it sounds just as proper as the SGs prior to with the same pups.

    In fact, I don't know too many people that actually own a Norlin era guitar that talk $#!T about them. It usually is people with pre-formed opinions (like I used to be) that never game them a fair shot or simply don't like the way those guitars were made or the way they look.

    As far as SG 100s & 200s go, Hey, an SG 100 or SG 200 was made to be & looks like an entry level guitar & is going to sound like a single coil instrument that replaced the Melody Maker. Comon' man! They are what they are & will never sound like a humbucker but the 71-72 SG II is a little different than the SG 100 & 200 because of the Mini Humbuckers & very capable of playing nice sounding Rock n Roll and still offer some of todays best deals in vintage SG's.

    The SG Pro & SG Deluxe were outfitted with P-90s & full sized humbuckers respectively.

    Bill Lawrence did an awesome job with his 'tar-back' Super Humbuckers & they deliver real nice & consistent tones for a change.

    Bottom line, don't be scared away by everybody repeating whats been repeated since the 70s & is ingrained in the psyche about Norlin era guitars & pick ups. Give them an honest shot & judge for yourself. If you find one you like it is sure to be one of the best buys in vintage Gibson guitars we are going to find out there & whats wrong with that compared to turning up our noses at a Norlin & not giving it a chance because everybody feels comfortable saying they all suck & ain't no good etc etc etc. Now thats just wrong & we all should know better than to believe something like that without giving these guitars an honest listen the next time we might have a chance & keep our minds open to the possibilities until then.
     
  8. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    Those Gibson and Fender guitars from the "bad" years are really very good, just like you said.
     
  9. sgtbeefheart

    sgtbeefheart Well-Known Member

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  10. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    “the guitar looks far too cool for it's own good...”
    I’m actually about to agree – I have a crush on yellow at the moment…

    -Where has that “white” lady been hiding? The owner must have been chain smoking some corrosive stuff…Anyway, wow that’s ultra cool…

    But look at the serial number stamp at the back of the peg head – does that look right to you? –could it have been refinished? Mine has the number “engraved” in the wood

    Thanks for posting!
     
  11. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    OK, all good:

    "In August 1977 the stamping of serial numbers into the backs of headstocks replaced the use of the decal" (John Bulli)

    I save a pic for future reference:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

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    Thats good JohP, you answered your own question.:applause: I like a man that doesnt sit around & wait for someone else to find him an answer when they are completely capable of doing a little research with todays tools & tech and educating themselves with the knowlege and answer they seek. Hats off to you brother.:dunno:
     
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  13. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    That is a lovely-looking vintage guitar ! Looks just like my 1979 SG Standard, except mine has the cherry red/wine red finish.

    That is weird looking wear on that SG. The frets and bridge say that it hasn't been played much, but the gouges in the back of the body and the extreme yellowing say that it sat on a guitar stand for long years in a very smoky room. It's a puzzle, to be sure.
    Those wood gouges are disturbing.
     
  14. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    What do people think of those Schaller "harmonica" bridges, as opposed to the more common style to be seen on SGs and LPs. Most seem to dislike the Schallers just because of how it looks.
     
  15. hydro

    hydro Member

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    This is just my opinion; I have played with both and I much prefer the Harmonica. It fits my hand right and seems to work better with palm muting and also gives me more support for heavy riffing. I always feel like the new tuneomatics are going to come off because they are lighter and also because I dig in farther toward the top of the guitar on chords. And they aren't as comfortable to my hand.

    That being said a LOT of people hate the harmonica bridges and I guess it's whatever you are used to. The harmonica bridges are a PITA to take apart and clean - I just spent two evenings reassembling a working harmonica out of parts from two different ones, for my 74 SG rebuild. I would guess that guitar techs hate them because you can't adjust them easily with the strings on, unlike a regular tuneomatic.

    JohnP among others has warned that replacing a harmonica with a tuneomatic is dodgy because the harmonicas are straight across and the tuneomatic posts are offset so your intonation will get hosed. I think that there are threads or advice out there for switching them, but it is non-trivial to do so as I understand it.
     
  16. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

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    I believe the SG minis hums started off in 71 looking like a regular pole pieced pup in a black plastic cover like below.
    [​IMG]

    Around 73-74 the black minis turned to what you have posted & what is shown below with no pole pieces and 'tar back' potting to cut microphonics just like the full sized mini hums of the day thanks to Bill Lawrence.
    [​IMG]


    Now as far as the screwdriver experiment, the SG mini hums have one Alnico II magnet down the center & the coil winds should be opposite of each other. They no longer have any visible sign of any pole pieces.

    I believe all that combined would give you the result shown with the screwdriver being pulled to the center as well as the single coil sound you hear. Pole pieces would pull anything metal towards them as they conduct the magnetic field down themselves so, they would draw that screw driver right to them.

    While Firebird pups look similar they have two magnets and two blades which would draw a screwdriver away from the center & over each blade with a noticable push away felt in the middle.

    I took the pole pieces out of an embossed patent # mini hum & found the removed pole piece side of the coil lost most of its pull and the other side dominated magneticly but in the back of the pup the pull on the screwdriver was toward the center.

    Although I can understand why someone might think these pups are single coils, my belief is that they actually are mini hums with the pole pieces replaced by a blade similar to its other side and using one magnet in the middle for both coils. That would explain why the magnetic pull is to the center and why this pup looks like it does in the 'Tar Back' era of manufacture.

    As for the issues with your guitar meeting its write up, it very well could be a year or even a half of a year off its estimated & assumed date & the manufacture changing specs and often the changes didnt immediatly follow those nice model write ups. Plus, These early 70's were a real bitch to nail down by serial number.

    Here's a 73 with an adjustable bridge.
    [​IMG]

    And here's a '73 with a T.O.M. Harmonica long travel bridge.

    [​IMG]
    Honestly, I dont see Gibson trying to get away with claiming these are mini humbuckers while sticking single coils in there knowing somebody is going to open one up someday whether its to fix it, copy it or just out of curiosity.

    As we can see things were changing fast n furious back then with shoddy serialization to mess with an easy identification.

    I think your pups came about late 73 maybe 74 but I'm no expert. But as for real mini hums being in your guitar.........They darn well better be or we would have heard about that joke by now. Its been quite a while. I tend to think they are 'Tar-Back minis with removed pole pieces replaced by a like sided blade. But Thats just my best guess. Comon, take a little peek & a pic!
     
  17. DavidJ

    DavidJ Active Member

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    Hi Relic.

    Very interesting and I have an open mind about it so I could be wrong. Hmmmm - if I were to attempt open them up (in the interests of scientific research!) - any idea how I could do it without major damage?

    DJ
     
  18. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the Norlin SG pics.
     
  19. tpa

    tpa Active Member

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    The carboard case is the only not-so-impressive aspect of my '73 SG. Apart from that I am quite happy with it and has been since 1976.
     
  20. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

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    I'm thinking maybe a careful pulling at the tar back material simply to expose the back of the pickup or in the corners where you should be able to see the two curved bobbins, one in each corner if its the same metal backplate or similar as below. Otherwise, I don't think a real dis-assemble is needed to satisfy your curiosity. Then take a pic & copyright it because I cant find one anywhere on the net that shows whats under that tar crap, at least in a mini humbucker.


    I cant tell from your pics if you still have the metal ears and backplate or if the whole pickup is plastic but, if it is the same metal backplate you can see the clear colored bobbins in the corners.


    [​IMG]



    Here's a pole piece mini taken apart, one magnet down the center, one blade in the one bobbin, & the blade space in other left empty for the pole pieces to go through the middle of that coil.
    [​IMG]



    Below is a pair of black minis out of a 72 SG II, notice that not only are there no pole pieces, the wire is now that grey plastic covered stuff just like yours.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You should be able to see the two bobbins through the space in the backplate on the ends. However, I really believe your pups are this pickup after it was given the new 'Tar Back' potting treatment to cut microphonics, just like the big humbuckers got at this time. Unless...
    [​IMG]

    & If You have the plastic ears as that means that back-plate is plastic also and might not have those spaces to peak through.:hmm: I've never seen the back plate of a plastic mini hum or of a 'tar back' mini hum so I just cant tell what to expect if you do pull up some of that black tar potting material.
    [​IMG]

    It's up to you man. Science is calling. lol. Take pics & put your name all over them & get famous. lol. Heck, I'm ready to buy one myself just to take it apart & satisfy my curiosity. Cant find one picture on the web & I spent more time looking than I care to admit.
     

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