The creation of the Jaguar began as Fender's answer to the growing popularity of Gibson guitars. Although it was intended as a feature-heavy top-of-the-line guitar, it never really caught on beyond that of the surf music scene – probably because Fender purposefully featured plenty of beach-centric Jaguar ads with classic beach babes and the like – and didn’t even compare to the success seen with the Telecaster or Stratocaster. Then came the punk rock scene which essentially gave the Jaguar new life!
Much like the trend-bucking, social-norm hating hipsters of today, if it was mainstream, it wasn’t punk, and if it wasn’t punk, you weren’t punk; good news for the Jaguar was that by the mid-seventies, it was very much not in – making it very punk. But better yet, they were now much cheaper than a Stratocaster or Telecaster (originally, the Jaguar was priced much higher than both). Fueled by the likes of New Wave guitarist Tom Verlaine of Television as well as several others, the Jaguar quickly became just as much an anti-style statement as it was a great economic choice over guitars of similar quality – pretty much a win-win for the forgotten guitar.
By the ‘90s – with major help from several well-known guitarists such as Kurt Cobain, Black Francis, and John Frusciante who employed them at the time – the Jaguar pretty much exploded in popularity, leading Fender to reintroduce the ‘62 model as part of their Vintage American brand back in 1990.
Today, it remains just as popular, especially among the current independent music scene due to the Jaguar's superb tonal properties.
And with a total of eight onboard controls—four slider switches, two inset control wheels and two standard knobs, the jaguar introduced players to the most elaborate control layout ever presented on a Fender guitar.
First, the Jaguar has two pickups, each of which can be turned on and off. On the rounded lower horn is a chrome plate with three slider switches (located to on the right side of the picture). The first switch is the on/off control for the neck pickup. The second (middle) switch is the on/off control for the bridge pickup. These two switches make it possible to mute the Jaguar’s output without turning the master volume knob down; you can simply turn the pickups off. Careful though—you don’t want to accidentally switch the pickups off with a sweep of your hand while playing aggressively.
Second, the pickups can be used in series or in parallel. That’s what the third slider switch on that chrome plate does (bottom-most of the three switches). With this switch in the up position (toward the strings), the pickups are in series, which delivers a bit more output and hence a bigger and louder sound. With this switch in the down position, the pickups are in parallel, which delivers more of a classic sound. The series/parallel slider switch only works when the bridge pickup is on or when both pickups are on.
The two large rotary knobs near the input jack are master volume and master tone (passive treble roll-off, more precisely).
The chrome plate on the upper horn has a single slider switch and two inset control wheels (located on the left of the picture). The switch selects active or passive electronics circuits; passive in the down position (toward the neck) and active in the up position. The adjacent inset control wheels are active treble cut and active bass cut, and they function only when the switch is in the up (active) position. The passive master tone knob near the input jack still works when the guitar is in active mode, which allows even more tonal possibilities.
So there’s a lot going on aboard a Jaguar, but if you take the time to familiarize yourself with all the controls, you’ll find that it all adds up to one of the most tonally versatile Fender guitars ever made.