The holidays have come and gone, and it’s a brand new year! Hello, 2012! And Hello, readers! I guess you can consider this an update. Im not going to fill in the blanks of my absence with boring life-happenings (no, i did not go to jail, unless you consider corporate work to be a prison… which to me it is! ha!). Instead i’ll bring you a worthy acquisition: a 1981 GIBSON LES PAUL XR-1, in GOLDBURST! Again a craigslist find, brought about by relentless trolling the site due to boredom.
This is significant to me in a whole host of ways. I have been craving a TRUE Gibson Les Paul since the first fake set-neck les paul i bought. That was what started me in learning how to be a proficient guitar tech. The fake les paul was black with chrome hardware, and it was a dog and a pig. So I tore-apart the cheapo pickups, changed the tuners, replaced the plastic nut and cut up my own bone nut from raw beef bones, peeled and sanded down the paint, cut-up and carved the body, successfully refretted the frets (yes, on a brand new, off the rack guitar), re-radiused and scalloped the fretboard. It was frankenstein beautiful when i got done. I miss that monster.
Fast forward to 2007, and i revitalized my craving for guitars, and subsequently my craving for a les paul. or something similar that i can cut up. again. towards the end i figured out i STILL like and love guitars and modding them, that im done experimenting for its own sake, and go out there and get a decent guitar for my own. 32 guitars later, and im STILL craving.
I looked at the army ive assembled (and took apart and re-assembled), and thought ” my god, im a fucking hoarder!” DISGUSTING! I need to stop, and trim the herd to the absolute minimum! I still love a lot of them, so i figured a rough number would be good – say, 13. My favorite number.
And finally drew up 12, and left off one spot. This was for an upcoming and imminent purchase of a current production Les paul GOLDTOP studio. It was well within reach ($849, not over $2000), and it was no frills, no superfluous bindings, all wood, WITH a carved maple cap (not just all mahogany body). Just the way i like it.
At first i wanted the 60’s tribute, even though the pickups were P90’s. That’s cool, i love that tone, i can deal with it. Then Gibson came out with a 50’s tribute, but with HUMBUCKERS. Finally!
What i had in mind was to get that, and then drop in a set of Seymour Duncan P-Rails, the combination i had in the Epiphone Oxblood lp. Like i said, i love that P90 sound, but this gives me a humbucker AND a single coil rails option as well.
Now let me backtrack a bit.
About a couple of years ago, i stumbled on an article online that exposed Gibson’s dirty secret – THERE ARE HOLES IN THE LES PAULS!!!
Apparently, unbeknownst to the majority, Gibson has been drilling out holes in the mahogany right before the put on the maple cap, to give it weight-relief. And theyve been doing this since 1982!!!
Les Paul players know about it and have complained about it for years – Les Pauls are HEAVY! The older les pauls weigh in at around 10-12 pounds. On stage for 2 to 3 hours, it can break your back. ANd gibson thought theyre losing their customers to lighter guitars, so to offset this weight issue, they started boring holes, some 9, some 14, in the mahogany, and then capping it off with a maple top. And then more drastically in the early 2000s, they started CHAMBERING the mahogany. This is basically routing a good chunk out of the solid body. Gibson finally released a press statement in 2008, saying they’ve done this without any effect to the “classic” les paul tone, and at the same time gave the player the guitar they can play for hours on end.
The reason you want an electric guitar is to rock! Those classic sound and tones you hear from Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and and peter Greenwood and countless other les paul slinging rock guitar icons from the 60s and 70 is because they played an all-solid body les paul thru those tube-saturating amps.
If i want to play something SEMIHOLLOW ill get me an ES-335.
It may not really mean much to most people, a guitar is a guitar is a guitar, its how you play it. Its the guitarist. Sure. But since i want something classic, i want it to BE classic. Purist? Sure. Guitar Snob? hell, yes! Simply put, i know what hear, i know what i want, and i know what i want to sound like. A “chambered” les paul is NOT what i want.
But there are only two ways to get an all-solid, non-routed, non-hole, non-chambered les paul these days: either get the newer one that’s called “VOS”, or Vintage Original Spec, or get one thats 1981 or older. Anything AFTER 1982 is suspect, and most likely “tampered” with.
Being poor and always short of funds, i decided to just deal with it, and get me a Goldtop Les Paul, especially since the new 50’s tribute is very close to what i’ve been looking for. the chambered insides is, well, tolerable enough. I shall therefore save up and get me one in the near future, maybe in three months’ time, be done with it.
Until that fateful day of Tuesday, December the 27th, 2011.
I was bored, and was surfing online on my cell phone, trolling craigslist when i stumbled upon a simple, no-nonsense ad about a Gibson Les Paul. XR what? What’s an XR-1?
A few google clicks later on the main computer, and i saw what it was.
An XR-1 was a precursor to the Les Paul Studio. Stripped down of all bindings and ornate inlays, it was made from 1981 to 1983, then discontinued. Around 1983 was when the first Les Paul Studio was made.
The XR-1 had two Dirty Fingers humbuckers (arguably the loudest, hottest output pickups Gibson made, and only recently have been re-issued), and a nifty coil tap mini-toggle switch. Everything else was pretty much a les paul.
It came originally in 3 factory colors: Tobaccoburst, Cherryburst, and Goldburst. Although later models and maybe custom colors were known to exist.
The ad said it was from 1981, and it was HEAVY. which piqued my curiosity even more. Could it be?? The ad did not specify a specific price, only a best offer. Another google and ebay expired listing search showed the averaged the price as something i can actually afford!
So i responded to the ad with my best offer, and didnt wait long. a counter offer was put forth, which still was well under my spending limit. I didnt push it any further and commited to it, and the guy replied back and committed to me, not withstanding the issue where funds wont be available to til that friday (payday!). I spoke to the guy on the phone, and aside from the 30 years of dings and scratches and usual wear, he guaranteed it didnt have any neck breaks or repairs (my main deal breaker), and it wasnt a “FACTORY SECOND”. Friday was no good for him, so it got pushed back to saturday.
The longest 3 days of my 2011. ha ha!
Saturday came, and i was ready by 10AM with the cash. I even had some problems before that – apparently my bank doesn’t allow more than a certain amount of cash to be withdrawn in a single day. FUCK! Good thing i had this issue before, and the trick is to go to those stores which allow you to debit cash along with a purchase. had to do TWO transactions, but problem solved!
I called him up, and he should be ready by 3:45pm, as he was helping his GF move furniture. More waiting! but good things come to those who wait…
Finally drove over to the dude’s place, and there it was! a bizarre color indeed – A GOLDBURST! Looks like a tobacco burst, only the gold is gleaming thru the burst in its yellowish greenish gold hue, depending on which angle the light bounces off of it. The whole back and neck are all dark, almost but not truly black, more of a dark chocolate color. There are some considerable finish flaking off around the top of the headstock, but that’s it. No factory “SECOND” stamps, no breaks or repairs on the neck at all.
The body showed scratches more on the back than it did the front, but no buckle rashes. There were small dings here and there, more on the bottom parts. The lower bout top edge had a sliver of the finish rubbed off, showing the maple top grain, along with the two layers of gold and dark brown coats. By Rubbed off i meant not flaking off or scratched off. it was smooth, as if it was worn down by constant use over time.
What’s great is the finish on the carved top- compared to the rest of the body it was relatively pristine. No big gashes, cracks, dings, residues. It was simply decent looking.
The best part was the neck. Neither baseball chunky or ultra thin, it had a middle of the road feel to it – perfect for my freakishly disproportionate large hands. And it was smooth without any dings to trip you up when sliding up and down the neck. There werent any part of it sanded off or flaking off – the finish was completely intact. And it had a LOW action!
I got to talking to the guy for another hour, just talking shop, and playing the guitar (his other guitars) to demo it. It was cool to meet good people with the same interest.
As i drove off, i noticed my grin start to creep across my face, til it reached from ear to ear. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!! I have a les paul – THE perfect les paul ive always wanted!!!
1) it’s NON-chambered (full solidbody!)
2) it’s older – over 30 years old (a vintage!)
3) it’s no frills (more wood – just the way i WANT it!)
4) it’s a LES PAUL.
5) it’s a GIBSON les paul.