Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So.... Why do I want a Les Paul?

Ok, here I am, killing time as usual, surfing through the world wide web, and what do I find but a new line of limited edition Gibson Les Paul Studio guitars.

For the longest time, like the fox in the Aesop's fable who couldn't reach the berries at the top of the tree, I had decided that Gibson Les Pauls were all played by people with more money than sense, people who would pay all that money just to have the mother of pearl 'Gibson' logo emblazoned across the top of their headstock... Whether they could play the damn thing or not wouldn't matter, as long as they had the same guitar Slash had. (Insert here any of the following: Jimmy Page, Gary Moore, Slash, Pete Townsend, Zac Wilde, The Edge, Etc Etc)

See, I always thought that Gibson Les Pauls were good, just not £1,800 good. Mind you, £1,800 is entry level for a Les Paul, at least if you want one with any shine to it. If you want one of the fancy ones, budget £2,800 - £5,000 for it, and that's just the new ones.

If you'd prefer something with a bit of history to it, you could look out for the Holy Grail of electric guitars, a 1959 Les Paul Standard sunburst. Considered the pinnacle of collectable guitars, if you can find one for less than around £200,000 you'll be lucky. Think about that for a moment. If you're young and starting out, That guitar is probably worth more than your car, your house and your girlfriend... Combined.

So, it's easy to sit back and consider Les Paul players some kind of snobbish elite. They've got one, and you don't. You aren't worthy to join the club yet. (some people collect them, search the forums... You'll find guitarists boasting about how many Les Pauls they have in their collection. Only the Gibsons mind, if it doesn't say Gibson on the headstock, it isn't really a Les Paul now, is it?) So, yes, it's easy to dismiss this all as show for shows sake, but that is to ignore one little problem.

Gibson do make a damn good guitar.

Ok, they have had their moments when the quality control hasn't lived up to their customer's expectations. What company which has been churning out products for sixty years hasn't had a blip or two along the way? The truth is, that sell the blasted things because everyone loves them. There is just something about seeing a cherry sunburst Les Paul swinging around Slash's knees which makes you think rock n' roll. The shape of the Les Paul just seems to scream rock, and that's before you plug the thing in. When you plug it in, it takes a moment to re align your thoughts to the sound that you are hearing. See, you've been judging guitars against all the wrong criteria. Until you hear a Les Paul played by someone who knows what they are doing, you didn't even know what the criteria was. But now you do. Whatever you have been playing, well... It should sound like this. This is rock n' roll. This is the thunder and the pulse, the chug and the squeal... This is the sound an electric guitar should make, and everything you have been doing up till now sounds worthless compared to the noise coming out of that amp's speaker.

All of this is a long winded way of me getting round to say that I have fallen in love. With a Les Paul. Yes, a Gibson Les Paul. I need it with every fibre of my being. My friends think I'm crazy, and they are probably right. This is a real Romeo and Juliet moment, after all I have spent years avoiding Gibsons in favour of Patrick Eggle guitars.

For those of you who haven't heard the name before, Patrick Eggle was a fantastically talented guitar designer and Luthier (that's guitar builder, people) who churned out hand finished boutique guitars from a small factory in Coventry. Unfortunately, his talents didn't seem to run to the business side of things, or he trusted the wrong people... Whichever way, he not only lost the business, but managed to lose the right to use his name. Yes, Patrick Eggle could no longer make Patrick Eggle guitars.

When the dust settled, someone else bought the company and started making guitars with the Patrick Eggle name on them, but they weren't the same. Patrick, well he went off and started to build some of the most amazing acoustic guitars you can buy, if you have enough money, having cleverly worked out that, while he couldn't make any Patrick Eggle guitars, there was nothing stopping him from making Patrick James Eggle guitars. Lawyers get rich, we all get poorer and life goes on.

I have played a Cherry sunburst 93 Patrick Eggle Berlin Deluxe for a long time now, and before that a honey burst Berlin Pro. I have sworn by these guitars for a long time, and to be honest, even when I couldn't afford one, this was still the guitar I lusted after. Sure, it's been gigged, it's got chips, dents and parts are so worn the bare wood is showing through, but it's mine and I have always treasured it.

So why do I want to throw it to the back of the cupboard and start again with a Gibson? You know what? I don't know.

No, really... That isn't some clever writers ruse, I really don't know.

I guess for years I felt like the Les Paul was all show and no go. Sure it made a good noise, but that good? I didn't think so. Then, in 2010, a strange thing happened. It's called the Studio Tribute.

See, for between £620 - £800 depending on how good you are with Google, you can now buy a Gibson Les Paul. No flashy binding or mother of pearl, but a Gibson. The same wood, the same pick ups, the same factory. You can even choose from five finishes. What's more, if your Googling skills take you to a certain German on-line music shop, you can choose to have humbuckers instead of the standard p90 pick ups. See, it was easy to sit on my high horse when entry to the Gibson club relied on how much money you had, but now... Well, everything has changed.

Yes, you can still choose to spend £5,000 on some historically accurate replica of a 59 Paul. Hell, if you want to, you can spend £200,000 on the real thing. Now though, you can get the same tone and feel for £600. With 'Made in the USA' stamped on the back of the headstock. I am tempted.

Only time will tell if I cave to the pressure or I stand my ground and stick with my little Eggle, but maybe a change is as good as a rest, as they say.

Sorry for the long post, but let me say this. If any Eggle Berlin fans stumble across my little blog here, or any Les Paul fans. PLEASE PLEASE leave your thoughts in the comments... I really need help here! Do I buy a new guitar, or do I believe in by choices up till now?

You decide :-)  

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