“The most flexible but uncomplicated electronics available” – they must have been kidding! Phase switch, dual sound switch, 6 position varitone switch, power booster switch, booster volume, plus the usual pickup selector switch and volume and tone knobs. And a little trap for the unwary – an inbuilt preamp that doubles the volume with a heavy overdrive sound at the flick of a switch.
However, the B.C. Rich Eagle is actually easy to drive once you become familiar with the switches, and it’s a fine guitar to play.
Bernardo C. Rico, an accomplished Flamenco guitarist, established the B.C. Rich company in Los Angeles in the late sixties. These days B.C. Rich guitars are generally associated with heavy metal bands, and most models are made in Asia. However in the 1970s they were high-end handmade instruments. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford (both of Aerosmith) were notable early users.
I first became interested in B.C. Rich guitars after attending an Alice Cooper concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in March 1977. This was part of the Welcome to My Nightmare world tour, and the show featured two great guitarists – Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. Their duelling lead guitar segment was a highlight of the concert for me, and I was really impressed with the sound from their unusual looking guitars. When I discovered that they were both playing B.C. Rich guitars, I decided to try and get hold of one. I’d seen them advertised in guitar magazines, but had not taken particular interest prior to that concert.
Shortly after this I came across a couple of B.C. Rich Eagle guitars on display in a Fitzroy guitar shop, which had imported them for an industry trade show. I arranged to purchase this one for $1,455. At that time a Gibson Les Paul Custom was retailing in Australia at $995, so the B.C. Rich was an expensive instrument. This Eagle is a 1977 handmade USA model, with maple and koa woods, ebony fingerboard and one piece neck-through-body construction.
I played this guitar a lot, eventually wearing down the bridge pickup with my plectrum, shorting out the pickup winding. I put the guitar aside for many years, but recently took it to guitar tech Phil Bowen at Syndal Music to see what he could do with it. Phil sourced an identical DiMarzio pickup and replaced the failed unit for me, so the guitar is working as new again. I’m now rediscovering the unique sounds and “uncomplicated electronics” of the B.C. Rich Eagle.