Like many Les Paul vintage and vintage-style “Burst” owners, I’ve acquired a fascination not only with the guitar itself, but with the history of the Les Paul; from the various guitars’ provenance to the stories of how people have gained ownership of them. Could be new, could be old, doesn’t much matter to me. There’s a magic about a Burst that seems to force owners to search beyond the wonderful tone they produce.
So when “Sunburst…” by Tony Bacon was released, I knew that I had to get a copy to review it. I was intrigued by the sub-title because it seemed to be the first book that I can recall that dared broach this subject. Oh, people have documented some interesting historical tidbits about various Les Pauls, and I’ve read and heard many accounts.
Admittedly, I was expecting sort of a scholarly treatise on the subject of how the Les Paul gained legendary status. In that fashion, the author/researcher will “put a stake in the ground” then build his or her argument around it to prove their point. In this case though, Tony Bacon doesn’t do that. Instead he uses a chronology of events – specifically the acquisition of Les Pauls by famous and influential guitarists from the early 60’s to the present day – to infer that the guitar gained legendary status because of these events. In other words, instead of directly answering the “why” he describes the “how,” all the while assuming the Les Paul is a legendary instrument.
That’s actually a clever approach as it allows him to avoid the inevitable debates and challenges that invariably accompany a “why” argument. Here, Tony Bacon assumes the reader already knows the Les Paul is legendary and he uses historical and allegorical commentary to enforce the guitar’s legendary status. Frankly, it’s great storytelling, going back to the 60’s, starting with Clapton’s first Les Paul, and closing out with today’s Les Paul giants such as Joe Bonamassa.
But intermixed with the storytelling is also a bit of analysis from a collector’s point of view. Again, Mr. Bacon doesn’t necessarily take a stand, but it’s clear he sharing tidbits he has gleaned from conversations with collectors. Let’s face it, Bursts are highly coveted guitars, so having a discussion not just from the point of view of great players but also collectors is valuable as it lends further insight into the Les Paul’s legendary status.
A thing that I noticed is that the author doesn’t really go into monetary value of the various guitars all that much. For goodness’ sake, we know how much some of these guitars – especially the ’59’s – have gone for at auction. Instead, his focus is on what has turned players on to the Les Paul all these years. The end result for me is that in reading this book, I feel a whole lot better about owning a couple of Les Pauls. I even got some ammunition on justifying to my wife my expenditures to get mine. It’s all good! 🙂
So… do I recommend the book? Absolutely! It’s a quick read, but I daresay I spent a lot of time salivating over the pictures.
You can find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sunburst-Gibson-Standard-Became-Legendary/dp/161713466X
There are also a number of listings on EBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/310911669126?lpid=82