Some guitars are synonymous with iconic guitarists. Eric Clapton plays a Strat, Angus Young plays an SG, and Kurt Cobain played a Jaguar. To celebrate this iconic pairing, Fender has released the Signature Kurt Cobain Jaguar, complete with some extras and a few nods to the legendary Nirvana frontman. Let’s take a close look.
There tends to be two types of signature guitar – one where it is instantly apparent which iconic guitarist has inspired the model (such as EVH’s Frankenstrat or Michael Angelo Batio’s Speed of Light), and the other where things are a little more subtle. The Kurt Cobain Jag is definitely in the latter category, with a relatively standard Jaguar design in a timeless sunburst paintjob on a classic shortened 24” scale length body.
However, on closer inspection, Fender has added a few nods to Cobain in the design of this guitar, such as an engraved neckplate with a special Cobain-drawn Fender logo. Other features that catch the eye include the Strat headstock and the ‘50s Style Spaghetti logo, along with aged white pickup covers and white binding on the fretboard.
The body is crafted from solid alder and features a bolt-on maple neck, with an easy-playing modern C shape. On the back there’s a gloss finish, while it’s capped with a rosewood fretboard and 22 medium jumbo frets. Made in Fender’s Mexican facility, the fit, finish and setup is excellent – even for a guitar in this higher-end price range.
Of course, this Jag also comes in a left-handed version, so you can play it exactly like Cobain himself.
While the body design and build are commendable, it’s the hardware department where this Jag really comes to life. For starters, it is fitted with two powerful DiMarzio humbuckers instead of single-coils, which deliver powerful grunge and rock tones on demand. These are in the form of a DP103 PAF 36th Anniversary bucker in the neck, along with a DP100 Super Distortion at the bridge.
As with all Jaguars, the controls are wide ranging and a little overwhelming at first, but add up to huge versatility. Firstly, you have a volume control for each pickup (instead of a single master volume as is traditional on Jags), as well as a master tone control, with a three-way selector toggle. Then comes the classic dual-circuit switches for lead and rhythm. It takes a little getting used to, but it eventually becomes second nature.
This Jaguar features a cool Adjusto-Matic bridge in black chrome, along with a floating tremolo tailpiece and lock button, while the sealed Gotoh tuners keep this axe in tune nicely (providing you aren’t divebombing every few seconds). Finally, it is shipped in a very good black hardshell case, which includes a Fender-produced limited-edition Kurt Cobain book, featuring photos and plenty of discussion about Nirvana and the legend himself.
With so many controls, it’s always tricky to sum up every sound the Jaguar is capable of producing, but rest assured the excellent pickups and build make for a high-end tone. The DP100 Super Distortion delivers exactly what it suggests – huge, aggressive distorted tone that remains clear and controlled even with the highest gain. This is excellent for everything from Maiden to Nirvana and beyond. The neck PAF is less focused on face-melting distortion and more on delivering a warm and natural tone, that works well for classic rock, blues and even jazz when played cleanly.
Overall, there is very little to dislike here – whether you are a diehard Kurt Cobain fan, in love with Nirvana, or just appreciate a highly versatile, easy-playing classic Fender. The build and tone justify the price tag, while the added extras are a nice touch.