Gibson recently partnered with the legendary guitarist of BLACK SABBATH, Tony Iommi, to create the Tony Iommi "Monkey" 1964 SG Special Replica, a limited edition of his beloved 1964 Special SG.
The Tony Iommi "Monkey" 1964 SG Special Replica is a heavily modified 1964 SG Special that was used extensively with the original lineup of BLACK SABBATH and heard on every album and tour of the 1970s. Thanks to the meticulous reverse-engineering and painstaking attention to detail employed by Gibson Custom Shop, 50 exact replicas have been created, 25 right-handed and 25 left-handed like the original, each guitar is signed and numbered by Tony Iommi himself. No detail was overlooked in the construction and aging, telling the complete story of the "Monkey" from the zero fret to the stop tailpiece bushings to the legendary pickups, which were hand-made in the U.K. by the apprentice of the late John Birch.
Instantly identified by the cartoon monkey sticker, Iommi's 1964 Special SG became the main instrument when the bridge pickup on Tony's white Stratocaster failed after BLACK SABBATH recorded "Wicked World" on the "Black Sabbath" album. It was not, however, without its problems. Due to the thin neck profile at the heel, there were always tuning stability problems and the single coil pick ups were always susceptible to picking up interference.
The guitar was donated by Tony to the Hard Rock Café organization and is on display at the Times Square location in New York City.
Speaking to Guitarist magazine, Iommi stated about his original guitar (see video below): "All the first four or five albums it was used on — and bits on the others after that. Eventually, I retired it, because I was worried about taking it on the road. 'Cause it used to always travel with me in the room, and I'd never lose sight of it — I wouldn't leave it on its own, you know, in case somebody nicked it. Because that was — for me, I couldn't just pick up another guitar; it had to be right. So it was really precious for me. And I was really worried about it, if I left it in a room and if somebody took it. 'That's it. I'm finished. No gigs.' 'Cause I didn't have a backup of it.
"I was always very careful with it — I mean, I really was," he continued. "On the flights, I'd always have it with me. Which is another thing — later on, you couldn't take 'em on the plane and stuff like that. So eventually, I retired it. And I felt sad about it being stuck in a case, really, at home. And that's where the Hard Rock [Café] came in. I thought it'd be better if people could see it in a showcase than me having it tucked away with another load of guitars in a box, you know?"
On the topic of the Tony Iommi "Monkey" 1964 SG Special Replica, Tony said: "I'm amazed that they've been able to duplicate this exactly — even down to the screws and the rust on them. It really is amazing. To me, if you put the two together, I wouldn't be able to tell. It's great, and I'm really proud of it. It feels comfortable to have. I'm very happy with them. They've done a great job.
"Being at the [Gibson] factory as well the other week, it was lovely to meet all the people who have been involved in making it," he added. "They really, genuinely are great craftsmen, you know? I watched every stage — they went through all the stages they do — and it's fantastic. And they're really dedicated, and the new owners are dedicated to it, which is a great thing for guitar players. It means they're always gonna be improving."
Each Tony Iommi "Monkey" 1964 SG Special Replica includes an exclusive replica of Tony's silver cross necklace with a coffin case, a replica of Tony's leather touring guitar strap and a 1960s replica case.