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Gearhead: The Bond Electraglide

A look at Andrew Bond’s semi-digital fretless wonder from nearly four decades ago

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A closer look at the Bond Electraglide’s “staircase” fingerboard and LED readout.
A closer look at the Bond Electraglide’s “staircase” fingerboard and LED readout.

In the 1980s, as synthesizers and drum machines threatened to take over popular music, electric guitar manufacturers tried to come up with instruments that were more relevant to the times—or at least looked that way. Guitars made from non-standard materials like graphite and fiberglass began showing up in music stores; many of them (the most famous being Steinberger’s “headless” axes) were visually striking, indicating that a major guitar-design rethink was underway. 

One of the oddest examples of this was the Bond Electraglide, devised by Englishman Andrew Bond (an ex-bus conductor) and produced in a purpose-built factory in Muir of Ord, a village in the Scottish Highlands. Its black carbon-fiber body, graphite neck, and aluminum fingerboard set it apart immediately from more traditional wooden models. But even more distinctive was that it lacked one of the central characteristics of your typical guitar: frets. 

This unusual design feature didn’t mean that you could just slide up and down the neck with no barriers, though. Instead of being divided by the usual horizontal metal strips, the Electraglide’s fingerboard was shaped much like a staircase, with each “step” representing where a fret would normally be. As if that weren’t strange enough, all the guitar’s controls for volume, tone, and pickup selection were digital, and it had a built-in mother board, like a computer. (In the photo above, note the LED readout screen on the body’s lower bout.)

A view of the Bond Electraglide from the top.
A view of the Bond Electraglide from the top.

Bond built about 1,400 Electraglides between 1984 and 1986. The guitar’s most famous adopter was probably U2’s guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans, who used it extensively on the band’s Grammy-winning 1987 album The Joshua Tree. Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, Mick Jones of the Clash and—at the time—Big Audio Dynamite, Will Sergeant of Echo & the Bunnymen, and John Turnbull of Ian Dury & the Blockheads also gave it a try (enticed, no doubt, by Bond’s business partner Ian Flooks, one of the most successful talent agents in Britain). Beyond those rockers, however, very few took an Electraglide home. Unfortunately, the same digital features that made it look so alluringly futuristic also required that it have an external power supply, and most guitarists aren’t fond of the kind of plugging in that involves a bulky charger pack and a wall outlet. Manufacturing these injection-molded instruments for a mass market proved tricky as well, and the company dissolved after only two years in business. Andrew Bond died in 1999.

These days, the Bond Electraglide is more a curiosity than a collector’s item, but it remains an interesting early example of what you can get when you combine digital technology with good old-fashioned guitar making.

Scroll through the slideshow below to learn about new instruments and musical gear.



Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.