OUT ON THE LASH
Back in the ’70s virtually any guitar was ripe for carefree remodelling. These days, warns Phil Harris, there’s a sinister side to the vintage guitar trade
Here the 21st century, there’s a lot of people who know about the quality of Les Paul Standards built between 1958 and 1960. These guitars have attained iconic status and command sky-high prices. Back in the early 1970s, there were plenty of players who already loved them and used them: Page, Kossoff, Clapton… the list goes on.
However, even though the prices back then weren’t anywhere near as high as they are today they were still pretty steep for the time. I could have bought the Les Paul that Kossoff used on All Right Now for £550 in Orange Music, but that was about £549 more than I had to my name. So what players started to do was get much cheaper guitars – in particular the 1968 models – and convert them into something more akin to their ancestors. This kind of guitar became known as a ‘lash-up’.
For example, Mick Ronson had a ’68 Custom, and he sanded the front’s original finish off and painted the pickup surrounds with Airfix paint because cream surrounds like a ’58. They wouldn’t have fooled a blind man, but from a player’s point of view they played and looked the part.
Now, what was done by players is fine. However, as time has gone by the practice has become used for more unscrupulous ends.
Lash-ups by players are fine, but the practice has become used for unscrupulous ends you saw on a ’58 weren’t available at the time. Many other guitarists did something similar, myself included. By 1974 I had obtained a 1958 Standard, but didn’t want to take it on the road with me, so I had my two ’68s resprayed and converted into something more
It’s fine if you declare it to anyone who’s looking to buy it… but nowadays people are being sold lash-ups thinking they’ve got the real thing. It just isn’t right. To give you the gist, here is an example of before and after, as well as a guide on how to spot a real ’59…
96 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012
1968 GIBSON LES PAUL STANDARD
To be contrary, let’s start with the ‘after’
transformation first. I came across this guitar four years ago. I’ve always loved the look of Marc Bolan’s Les Paul Standard, which had been resprayed orange on the front because Marc loved Eddie Cochran. This guitar started life as a 1968 Les Paul goldtop, and the guy who owned it asked Gibson to fit it with humbuckers in 1970. Unlike some lash-ups, the serial number is still a 1968 and the cutaway and neck profile haven’t been altered. When I bought it I fitted it with 1950s pickups and hardware, and even put an old truss rod cover with the thick white edge around it. It’s an amazing guitar, which is why I wanted it with me for the photo that appears with the column every issue. And, most importantly, this is one of the very few guitars that my wife Sue actually likes having around the house!