The Perfect Guitar for the Perfect Player: The Graceful Marriage of a Gibson and a Legendary Player
Zeroing in on the instrument that’ll capture the exact sound you’ve set your mind on is a lot like finding love. Lots of trial and error, lots of patience.
You might narrow your search a little, though, by eyeing some famous players who found their stringed soulmate and focusing in on why the match worked so well.
Jimmy Page and his double-neck Gibson EDS-1275
If there are two characteristics that define Jimmy Page’s playing with rock legends Led Zeppelin, they’re fire and fearlessness. Which made the EDS-1275 he played on stage for “Stairway to Heaven” something of a perfect voice—the inclusion of both a 12-string and six-string made it versatile, but more, the instrument funneled the precise crunch of an SG into a massive piece of furniture you certainly had to be fearless to wield.
“After knowing that ‘Stairway (To Heaven)’ was going to have to be recorded live and the fact it was recorded with 12 strings acoustic and electric, I needed something which could reflect the pacing of that song,” Page said in an interview that coincided with the announcement earlier this year that Gibson would produce replicas of the guitar.
It reflected the pacing of that song, maybe, but the guitar’s capacity for growl and chime also reflected Page’s ability to flit between gentleness and all-out attack as a player. Its bold look reflected his bold playing, too.
Last month, U.K. newspaper The Independent called the EDS-1275 the “double-barrelled weapon that summed up everything that was over-the-top about Led Zep and the often bludgeoning music with which they excavated an entire new realm of rock in the early 1970s.” Well said indeed.
Slash and his Gibson Les Paul
It wasn’t so much a particular guitarist or album that inspired Velvet Revolver/Guns N’ Roses’ Slash to pick up the instrument, he told Creative Loafing in Tampa early this month, but the tone achieved by a particular guitarist on a particular album.
“The album that sort of epitomized the sound I was into was Aerosmith’s Rocks record,” he said. “That really had a huge impact on me as a guitar player, and then teenage rebellion set the wheels in motion.”
It makes sense that he picked up a Gibson Les Paul, a guitar that’s tightly tied to Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry’s fluid but beefy playing. Slash certainly made the Les Paul his own, though, and the tone he’s pulled out of it—alternately built on bluesy howls and hard-rock growls—is one that many a player has sought to emulate.
That Slash was weaned on early metal along with blues-rock players like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck comes through in that tone and his playing, full of as much reckless energy as soul. And the Les Paul’s natural clarity and full-bodied warmth—along with the kind of weighty heft that lets someone dig in ferociously—made for an ideal marriage.
Angus Young and his Gibson SG
It wasn’t just the fact that a Gibson SG fares exceptionally well, sonically, with controlled bursts of aggression that made it ideal for AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. A consummate performer and a player who’s worked his loveable-troublemaker image almost as intensely as he did the band’s stinging chords, Young needed the total package —a visual that matched the audio.
“The shape of the SG has the little horns,” the guitarist told Gibson in 2001. “It’s red and it’s a little devilish.”
Young’s compact but energy-riddled stature played into AC/DC’s sound—his style is as explosive as it is precise and economic—and the guitar certainly had to fit there too. Which made the light, speedy SG a pretty obvious match.
“I tried a Les Paul once,” he said, “but I’m a little guy and the SG just felt more balanced for me. The SG has just always been the right guitar for me.”
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