Gibson Week: Les Paul Moments
Published on 13 September 2019
Gibson’s most iconic creation, the Les Paul, is one of the most desirable electric guitars available. It’s timeless good looks (which are more complex, contoured and carved-out than the competition), famously thick, cello-like sound and easy playability combine to make the LP an instrument with a huge amount of vibe.
Today, we want to think a little bit about these ‘moments’: times where the Les Paul has been an instrumental (sorry) part of a certain moment in history.
Now, here’s the thing: we fully understand the significance of Clapton/Beck/Richards in terms of these iconic moments. Bluesbreakers, Keef’s first Les Paul on TV...these great moments have been pretty well documented already, and even we are a little tired of mentioning them!
So, it’s time to bring some other people into this! The choices we’ve gone for today are all still legendary, important moments in music; they just aren’t ALL these usual suspects that you’ve already encountered in our blog posts. We want to have a fresh take on this and talk about some moments that we still all know about, but maybe don’t celebrate so readily.
This isn’t definitive, it’s just fun! Lets’ see what made the shortlist...
Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing video
What a build-up...what a riff! What a sound! Mark Knopfler’s lyrically dodgy tale of an obnoxious delivery man is a strange tune for sure, but that stun-gun of a riff saves the day.
Now, as we know, that is indeed Gordon ‘Sting’ Sumner on the high backing vocals, but here’s something that guitar fans may not know about that tune: apparently Knopfler’s fantastically unique tone does not rely on a half-closed wah pedal! We know, we know! According to the guys who recorded the song, it’s all about how the mics happened to be placed that day in the studio.
We know you don’t believe us. It’s still true!
Slash’s Car Crash/Guitar Solo in Don’t Cry
Nothing beats standing on the edge of a cliff, shirt off, tearing out a face-melter of a solo on a beautiful Les Paul. Hair blowing in the sea-breeze, half-smoked snout hanging out the lips...it’s even better if you’ve just survived a spectacular car crash like Slash inexplicably did in this gloriously OTT clip for Gun’s ‘n’ Roses’ overblown epic Don’t Cry.
Depending on where your sensibilities lie, Slash’s climactic chucking of his LP over the cliff is either awesome or a horrendous act of wanton vandalism. Either way, this moment out-November-Rain’s November Rain in its scope, and for that, it’s worth remembering here.
No, his guitar wasn’t plugged in during either of these epic moments. So what?
Jimmy Page’s violin moments
Yes, we did say at the beginning that we’d be dodging the more obvious British Invasion guys in favour of slightly less well-trodden paths, but it’s pretty hard to ignore this type of approach to the guitar!
Instead of making a big thing out of Page as a Les Paul guy in general, we’ll be specific and talk about his inspired use of a violin bow across the strings during Dazed and Confused. For sure, it was a bit of performance value, but the fact remains that this is an effective and musically legitimate thing to do! The arched top and pitched neck angle of the Les Paul makes it just the right guitar for this technique.
Also, fans like to point out how the ever Les Paul-toting Page actually used a Telecaster frequently in the studio. Therefore, this stands as an undeniable Page Les Paul moment!
Steve Jones’ boat trip
It’s hard, when you weren’t even born in 1977, to really understand the cultural impact of the Sex Pistols in 1970’s Britain. The outrage of them swearing on TV, the record label sackings, the destruction of 25000 copies of the God Save the Queen single...it seems amazing now to think that a band could actually have that much power and influence, compared with music today.
Still, it isn’t hard to understand the unshackled energy, intelligence and determination of John Lydon. One of the best moments was a gig played on a boat as it sailed along the Thames, right outside the Houses of Parliament. This was a mere two days before the Queen was due there to celebrate her Jubilee! It certainly puts a slant on their God Save the Queen tune!
Steve Jones’s Les Pauls were of course some of the most visible of the Punk era, particularly the cream one with the stickers of the pinup girls. Whether it was given to him by Malcolm McLaren or bumped from another gig, we may never know, but it all adds to the rebellious mystique.
The Wuthering Heights guitar solo
We don’t often get the opportunity to include Kate Bush in guitarguitar’s blog world. This is despite the fact that David Gilmour not only ‘discovered’ her, his playing is all over her records! He isn’t on this particular record, though.
This was Kate’s first single, and turned her into an instant international phenomenon. The song, a beautifully baroque gothic phantasm based on the Emily Bronte novel, features a quite incredible, melodic guitar solo at the end. The player? Session ace (and Alan Parsons go-to guy) Ian Bairnson, who played the part on his 1973 Sunburst Les Paul Custom.
It’s a melodic masterpiece that we feel deserves more attention.
Les Paul hanging with Eddie Van Halen
This final entry has a Les Paul in it, but not as you’d expect! It’s Les himself, from a concert in 1988 called Les Paul & Friends. The original Les Paul, if you will!
This following clip shows us some warm and friendly banter between Les and stupendous virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, before Eddie rips into a blitzkrieg of a shred-fest! His backing band aren’t bad, either: that’s Tony ‘King Crimson/Peter Gabriel’ on bass and Jan ‘Miami Vice’ Hammer on keys!
No, there are no Gibson Les Pauls in this particular clip, but it would be remiss of us not to include the guy who started it all off; the guy form whom the guitar took its name!
It wasn’t really too different in the end, was it? He still had Jimmy Page, Slash, Eddie Van Halen AND Mark Knopfler in this list! Sorry for leaving out Messrs Clapton, Back and Green, but hopefully you’ve found out other choices to be refreshing and fun. We were about to include the Peter Green Les Paul, now in the hands of Kirk Hammett, but even that has shown up in recent blogs!
We always want to hit you up with fresh entertainment!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and we’ll see you for the next one.