Every so often, I take a hard look at the gear I’ve accumulated over the years, with an eye to whether it might be better placed with someone else
[though, in reality, I seldom actually get rid of anything!]
So it was that I spent some time revisiting my first ‘proper’ guitar, a 1985 Tokai Super Edition VS-80.
Though my first ever guitar was an Encore Stratocaster copy
[black, with white pickguard which I subsequently swapped out for a black one, and painted the pickups black]
my Tokai was the first I bought with my own money – the stereotypical working of weekends and school vacations to earn the money – based upon a review in Guitarist magazine
[still one of my go-to sources of gear info and reviews]
There’s very little information online about the model, so I thought I’d drop some here for folk who may be looking.
It’s a pretty cool guitar, Made-in-Japan S-type, mahogany (I think) body – it’s heavier than my Les Paul! – with a figured maple cap and medium C-profile maple neck, medium jumbo frets. The tremolo is Tokai’s own locking unit, a bit of a pain to restring, but fairly stable
[though I rarely use a whammy bar, to be honest]
As for electronics, it has twin humbuckers
[proprietary to Tokai, I think]
with coil split on a push-pull tone pot. The secret weapon is a boost on the third push-pull pot, which offers up to 20 db
[as I recall, though it may be 18db]
of boost, more than enough to push any clean tube amp channel into gritty overdrive.
I haven’t played it much since the early-90s, when I began to add other guitars to my collection. Spending time on it the other day, I was reminded how it really is a great guitar – top-of-the-line for what was a budget line with a great reputation to this day. The neck pickup is nothing to write home about – unless using the coil split, then it has some spank – but the bridge is nice in both HB and single-coil modes.
As far as I can tell, Tokai lost their way
when they got pulled into the hair-metal madness – before that, they’d built a strong brand for copying Les Pauls and Strats on a budget. I think the brand was always more popular outside of the US.
As my first guitar, the Super Edition holds such a sentimental weight for me – I can still remember waiting for it to be delivered from
Peter Cook’s guitar shop in West London. The box arriving, opening up the hard case, the smell of it. I learned my basics on this guitar, before I lost my hands for 15 years. While I wouldn’t use it live now
[I have several much, much better axes]
it’s still nice to play once in a while, and has aged well. Interestingly, when I think of making my own guitar, it usually ends up looking something like this one
[though I’d definitely swap out that floating trem for a fixed bridge]
which to me at least feels like a subconscious nod to how much the Tokai meant to me at the time
ps: Let me know if you like this stuff, I have a couple of other rare guitars which I’d be happy to share with you.