It was very unusual in that the body was not made of wood, as you might expect, but aluminium instead. As such the name was actually an acronym for Tokai ALuminium BOdy. The benefits of using aluminium were sustainability- no trees get chopped down to make enough aluminium for a Talbo body, and a different sound.
Made of cast aluminum alloy AC-4B, which is commonly used in racing car engines, the Talbo’s design is simple and elegant, combining new and traditional elements. Basically, it’s like two superimposed teardrops with the tips pointing right and left to yield a bi-level, sculptured double cutaway. Its headstock decal reads “The New Legend Of The Guitar History.”
The aluminium body was mostly solid, but with a large hollow chamber for the controls and for weight reduction. It had Blazing Fire pickups, usually a bridge humbucker and two single coils although two humbucker versions are not uncommon. The neck is made of maple and is bolted to the body.
The Talbo Blazing Fire is a quality guitar, comfortable, easy to play, with a great sound. If there’s a limitation, it’s that the three-way select limits the tonal potential, although this is mitigated somewhat with the two volumes. Perhaps the most famous appearance of the Tokai Talbo in the 1980s was in the hands of the band Devo.
Tokai Talbos were promoted briefly in American and European markets for perhaps a couple years, but after 1984 seemed to disappear from the radar. They didn’t disappear Â though. The Talbo appears to have continued in production in Japan since its ’82 debut. And what’s more, it continued to evolve. What had been called the Blazing Fire became simply the Talbo, in its present state offered with twin humbuckers. In 1999, Tokai introduced the Talbo Woody, an all-wood version made of two hollowed-out pieces of maple.
A more interesting variant was the Talbo Junior that debuted in 2000. It takes the teardrop-shaped sound chamber and encapsulates it in cast aluminum, then hollows the top of the body and cutaway horns, making them just a frame. Then, to spice things up, it adds a built-in amplifier under the strings. That same year, the Talbo’s body was extended and turned into the Talbo Bass. And finally, Tokai brought back the Blazing Fire moniker on a fantastic blue-tinted transparent plexiglass version, still with the 3-D Talbo shape, but with no aluminum. These are produced in Korea.
So what of the original Talbo? Well, prices probably are about Â£700-Â£1000 for the guitars and basses, while the new Woody models are probably significantly less.