1976 Gibson Explorer
Ahead of its time when released in the 1950s, the Gibson Explorer fits right into the rock 'n' roll landscape two decades later. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Apple is born
Also in 1976, a couple of longhairs named Steve and Woz start a little computer company you might have heard of.
Rocky KOs the box office
Sylvester Stallone becomes a Hollywood heavyweight after his 1976 boxing movie turns into an unexpected hit.
VHS storms the screen
JVC's HR-3300 video cassette recorder, unveiled on September 9, 1976, becomes the first VHS-based machine to hit the market.
Jimmy Carter wins the White House
The humble peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, defeats incumbent President Gerald Ford.
Kiss goes to 'Detroit Rock City'
Hot on the 7-inch heels of surprise hit Alive!, the paint-faced rockers unleash Destroyer in 1976.
U.S.A. blows out 200 candles
The nation's Bicentennial celebration drapes the United States in red, white and blue.
Howard the Duck gets his own comic
One of Marvel Comics' most unlikely heroes goes solo in 1976.
Mission to Mars
Viking 1 puts a lander on the Red Planet on July 20, 1976.
Wacky Packages peter out
The parody stickers' highly successful second run fades away with the 1976 series. Bubble gum was never so fun.
Cuckoo's Nest is crazy successful
Director Miloš Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest wins big at the Academy Awards in 1976, sweeping the "big five" Oscars.
To me, the 1976 Gibson Explorer means lust at first sight, love at first feel and that rarest of man-machine crushes: an enduring passion that persists long after I plunked down my hard-earned cash.
Gibson’s luthiers prototyped the Explorer (alongside pointy siblings the Flying V and the apocryphal Moderne) in the ’50s. The space race was on, rock ‘n’ roll was coming into its own and cars boasted bold curves and sci-fi fins. The Explorer and Flying V were released in 1958, a year after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1. (The Moderne didn’t makes its official debut until 1982.)
Like the beautiful but doomed Power Mac G4 Cube, the radically shaped guitars were clearly ahead of their time: These pointy instruments, which years later would become staples of heavy metal and hard-rock style, flopped hard. Gibson discontinued both lines within a few years.
In 1976, spurred by the success of competitors’ Explorer clones, Gibson came to its senses and reissued the Explorer. The natural mahogany finish on the best of these, much like the lighter Korina of the original models, gave the strangely shaped guitars a retro-futuristic look. That marriage of old and new is coming back into fashion now as designers tumble to the innate beauty of natural materials.