The SG 2000 was a guitar built by Yamaha Musical Instruments between 1973 and 1988 before being reissued in 2004. The guitar combined a modern feel and sounds with a more traditional look and went on to become the guitar of the British post punk era.
The SG 2000 is a solid body electric guitar, the SG in the name means Solid Guitar, it has a simple but elegant twin cutaway design to allow access to the high notes, and two humbucking pickups. In it’s basic construction and lay out it is similar to the American Gibson Les Paul and SG guitars. However it is also unique.
During it’s production life there were variation models, but the basic guitar remained the same. Most of the changes were cosmetic, the heartbeat of the guitar is it’s simplicity and that would always remain.
Many will point to the SG 2000 as being the guitar that proved to the world that Japanese guitars were not just cheap, but actually incredibly well constructed instruments often built to a higher standard that those in the US. Something that was underlined when Carlos Santana started to use a Yamaha.
However for most people the SG 2000 is most associated with the post punk era in the UK. The late John McGeoch used his Yamaha in Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Public Image while Midge Ure used his in the early days of Ultravox, Robert Smith of The Cure had one and they were the guitar of choice for the jobbing session guy in that era.
The reason for the SG 2000’s popularity was as much economic as artistic. The SG 2000 was not cheap, but it was cheaper than a Gibson, and due to tariffs and trade agreements a lot easier to get hold of. American guitars were not easy to find in the UK in the 80s, as late as 1993 seeing an American made Gibson, Fender or Music-Man new in a shop was rare. So the SG 2000 was a high end guitar for a good price that was easy to find.
The other thing is the sound. An electric guitar works by the magnetic pickups turning the vibration of the string into sound that is then amplified. The way pickups are made can influence the sound greatly. The SG 2000 came with pickups that were very clean and sharp at high volume, perfect for playing fast intricate jazz lines, the sort of thing was extremely popular in Japan at the time. Also perfect for creating the jarring sounds needed by guitarists mixing in with synths in the post punk movements.
‘Live Aid’ was arguably the high point, at the London show there were a lot of SG 2000s played. However soon after the guitar’s popularity waned. US guitars became easier to find and styles changed. By 1988 when Yamaha discontinued the SG line music had changed and the guitar was seen as old fashioned.
Yamaha’s fortunes in the UK market also suffered. A bad distribution deal meant that through the 90s and into the new century the great products made by the company just were impossible to find in the shops. However things are now looking up, the company have a new distribution deal, a flagship shop in London and the SG 2000 is back in production.
While the SG 2000 isn’t always seen as iconic, I think it is every bit as iconic as the Les Paul, Strat or Tele. On top of that a vintage Yamaha is a sold well made guitar that can still be used today and won’t break the bank.