buy music!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Les Paul and Punk Rock?

Johnny Rotten & Steve Jones
Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones
Gibson Guitars liked this image so much they used on their site illustrating an interview with Jonesy!

Ninety-four year old musical technology innovator and guitar hero, Les Paul passed away this week. The guitars that bear his name link him to my favorite genre of music.

Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones played a Gibson Les Paul. Its an awesome solid-body guitar... heavy as can be... I should know. I've schlepped many a Gibson Les Paul in my day... once in the hot hot humid NYC summer of 1981, I carried Sham 69/Wanderers guitarist Dave Parsons's black Gibson Les Paul in its flight case through JFK airport.

wanderers rehearsal 96
The Wanderers rehearsing in LA - Stiv Bators, Dave Tregunna and Dave Parsons

Another guitarist who played in a Stiv Bators-led band wielded the Gibson Les Paul as well -- George Cabaniss originally of Akron, OH's Hammer Damage, pictured below. Oh - and today is his birthday! Happy Birthday George!

george beer small
George Cabaniss during the recording of Disconnected, in LA

George also played a Les Paul Junior and so do or did the Waterboys Mike Scott (pictured) and Georgia Satellite Rick Richards.

mike scott

My favorite pop punk glam new wave genre bending band of the 70s - Mumps featured the Gibson Les Paul stylings of Rob duPrey who went on to play in Iggy Pop's band for a few years.

guitar god pose

One of punk rock's most enduring anthems is "Sonic Reducer" by the Dead Boys, who, next to the Ramones are my favorite American punk rockers. Cheetah Chrome, a dear friend, is also one of the best guitarists you could hope to hear. He does great things with noise, as a good punk should.

Rogan & Cheetah
Cheetah Chrome and his son, future guitar hero Rogan O'Connor, in 2005

I am always impressed by the Cheetah Chrome guitar style and here's a video clip of him teaching you how to play "Sonic Reducer" courtesy of Gibson Guitar, who produced this piece I found on YouTube.

You could say that I like the Gibson Les Paul for the dirty growl it lends to punk rock - but its really what the guitar enables the player to do. I love the part in Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap where Christopher Guest's marvelous character, Nigel Tufnel describes the sustain. In a postmodern case of life imitating art, in character as "Nigel Tufnel," comedian Christopher Guest appeared on comedian-turned-pundit Dennis Miller's now defunct talk show with Les Paul and they jammed! Another YouTube clip - watch it now since I have no idea if this is a clip that's here to stay...

While I am attracted to the crunchy noise-making ability of this instrument, some players of the Les Paul utilize it to make some sophisticated and smooth sounds...slick sounds like Earl Slick pictured here in a 1979 photo from a teaching in-store he did with Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart drummer, Carmine Appice. Earl Slick gets to appear in this blog because of his association with David Bowie who single-handedly resurrected the careers of two punk godfathers, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, neither of whom plays a Les Paul...


But Earl Slick's journeyman style lets me segue to another musician who uses the Les Paul to its fullest extent, playing both the pretty and the gritty songs he's written.

Hans Rotenberry who formed and fronts The Shazam plays a gold top Les Paul that can be heard on all the pretty, gritty, powerpop and hard rock tracks on their new album, Meteor.

I must admit that upon hearing of Les Paul's passing, my true punk side emerged...

Why be sad for a man who spent 94 years on earth.... the man deserves a rest. He earned it! I personally think it would mighty creepy to live forever... I certainly don't want to. Les Paul's contributions aren't going to go away. The guitar players pictured here only scratch the surface of great musicians who choose the Gibson Les Paul... who have I omitted? The late Mick Ronson... Mick Taylor... Keith Richards... Mick Jones of the Clash... Slash... Jeff Beck... and those are only the guys whose pictures are hanging up on the wall in front of me right now!

Les Paul - you did good. Now get some rest.


Tim said...

Couldn't agree more - Les Paul will live on for years to come.

Great post


Irocheez said...

very informative piece! thanks for posting!