Gibson: The True Sound of Punk
Ever since the raw, ragged sound of punk snarled out of the working-class basements and garages of the world—and for all intents and purposes, we could go all the way back to Elvis and Scotty Moore, or Link Wray and “Rumble,” or the none-hit wonders of the Nuggets era or the Stooges and MC5 in late-’60s Detroit—Gibsons have defined the thick, buzz saw howl of punk guitar. Gibsons are truly able to deliver the throaty, growling ferocity of punk. Other guitars can render the music tinny and thinner than a skinny tie—more New Wave than “New Rose” for you kids playing at home.
The influence of the great New York Dolls cannot be overstated. The dual-Gibson attack—three if you count gentle giant Arthur “Killer” Kane’s Thunderbird bass—caused a rock and roll commotion that picked up where the Stooges left off, and inspired a new generation of dead-end kids on both sides of the Atlantic to pick up guitars. Helmed by the legendary and infamous Johnny Thunders on a ’59 TV Yellow Junior (above) and Sylvain Sylvain on a Les Paul Custom (that later fell into the hands of another punk legend), the Dolls strutted like a low-rent Rolling Stones and dressed like downtown drag queens. Check out the full Gibson profile—with rare live footage of the Dolls in their prime—here!
Not unexpectedly, the Dolls imploded, leaving guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan to form the ferocious, and totally doomed, Heartbreakers. The band released the classic albums L.A.M.F. and Live at Max’s Kansas City, playing with Les Paul-wielding guitarist Walter Lure (later of the Waldos), and showed the power of New York punk on the ill-fated Anarchy Tour of the U.K., with the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Check out the Gibson article on Johnny Thunders, featuring a hellacious version of “Pipeline” that shows the power of a single P-90, here!
The two great Joneses of the punk movement (besides Thunders’ tragic one)—Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and Mick Jones of the Clash (right)—fell totally under Thunders’ musical spell. While still struggling, working class London street kids, both had gone to see the Dolls open for the Faces at Wembley Stadium, a now legendary show. Check out the Gibson profile of Mick Jones, as Jones discusses Thunders’ influence on him—both musically, which would be evidenced by Jones’ incredible Junior playing throughout his tenure with the Clash—and on his early glam rock outfits, much to the shock of his grandmother, who he lived with in a small London public housing apartment. And take a look at the review of Jones’ new band Carbon/Silicon with Tony James of Generation X, and download the band’s free MP3 for “What the F*&%?!”
The Pistols’ Steve Jones (below) not only admits to a Thunders love of his own, but he also inherited the white Les Paul Custom that Sylvain Sylvain played in the Dolls, courtesy of the notorious Malcolm McClaren, who managed both bands. As legend has it, as the Dolls folded, McClaren tried to draft Sylvain to join a nascent version of the Sex Pistols. Sylvain agreed and gave McClaren his white Les Paul Custom to sell for a plane ticket for Sylvain to get to London. At last word, Sylvain is still waiting for the ticket, and the white Les Paul Custom he gave McClaren became one of the most famous guitars of all time in the hands of Steve Jones in the Pistols. Read the Gibson interview with Jones right here.
Not to be outshined by any man, woman, or band, the great Joan Jett (above) paid her dues being taunted and heckled as guitarist for the pioneering all-girl punk band the Runaways. But Joan had the last laugh when she set out on her own, fronting the Blackhearts with her famous white Melody Maker, and scored one of the biggest hits of all time, the all-too-true “I Love Rock n Roll.”
To get a taste for how varied, powerful, and dynamic punk can be, check out this overview of some of the greatest punk albums of all time. What do they have in common? Well, besides being the ragged, visionary works of artists who play with all their heart and soul, and totally believe in the power and intensity of raw, no-frills musical expression, there is one other thing: Gibsons. Check out these artists and check out these albums, grab all the downloads you can on our downloads page, and get inspired. That’s how all these artists did it—they listened, and then they strapped on a guitar, got up there, and did it. And that’s what punk is all about.
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