Ten Iconic Les Pauls
by PGS Fitz
Appetite for Destruction came out over twenty years ago but stands the test of time as one of the greatest rock records ever made*. In a sea of superstrats and Aqua-Net, Slash came on the scene with an arsenal of Les Paul copies (as the legend goes, Guns was too poor to afford high-quality instruments in the early days) that later became the basis for his Gibson Signature Les Paul. Though he has been seen rocking a number of other instruments throughout his career, Slash is associated only with the LP.
Pearly Gates. I rest my case.
Though Page played several Les Pauls (slung as low as possible) during Led Zeppelin’s heyday, consensus seems to point to #2 as being THE ONE. Page took a ’59 Sunburst LP and customized the hell out of it: he had the neck shaved down to a thinner profile and more notably designed his own switching system for the guitar, employing push/pull pots and hidden push buttons to adjust the phase of the pickups.
Zakk’s playing got him the gig with Ozzy when he was just a kid; his radical Les Paul gets him included on this list. Everyone knows this guitar on sight (no bullsye pun intended).
You can’t picture Neil Young without Old Black—a heavily customized ’53 Les Paul Goldtop that has been with Young since 1969 and has appeared on essentially every record and tour since then. Both stock pickups have long been replaced, a Bigsby was added, and of course—the roughshod black paint job now covers up the goldtop. It may be a Frankenstein, but it’s an adored and irreplaceable Frankenstein.
Whether all three pickups are wired to work or whether one of them is just a housing for a smoke bomb, Ace Frehley’s cherry sunburst LPs are icons of seventies rock.
Townshend had a small arsenal of numbered Les Pauls (numbered to make it foolproof for his techs to know which guitar he needed for which song), but I’m going with #5, made famous by its appearance in The Kids Are Alright. Given Townshend’s onstage antics, we’re lucky he didn’t smash it.
I missed the boat on Frampton as a kid (and as an adult)—but I know the cover of Frampton Comes Alive by heart and I love love love that triple-humbucker ’54 Les Paul Custom.
The odds seem improbably that a guitar could have such an amazing life story, but Lucy is no ordinary instrument. Before winding up in the capable hands of George Harrison, Lucy belonged to Eric Clapton, Rich Derringer, and John Sebastian. This is the guitar that was used by Clapton on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a legendary song with a legendary solo.
This guy and any guitar he touched obviously top this list forever and ever.
As a recent convert to LPs (thanks to my friend Josh for loan/trading me his Les Paul for my thinline Tele for the last year!), I'm sure I'm missing a bunch... and I'm sure you won't be shy about letting me know which ones I missed. Bring it!
*according to data found in my elementary school Trapper Keeper