Melodic Metal and the Les Paul
No other guitar has been used so frequently by melodic metal bands as the Gibson Les Paul. From classics like Def Leppard’s early work, to more recent recordings by British rockers The Darkness, the Gibson Les Paul has played a crucial part. Today we’re doing a top ten of the best melodic metal songs to feature a Gibson Les Paul, either live or on an album. Beware that we’re using the word metal lightly here.
Mötley Crüe - “Shout At The Devil”
Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars used a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Custom to record the Crüe’s first couple of albums, including the classic song “Shout At The Devil.” The Les Paul is perfect for the song’s heavy riffs, as well as the double stops and bends in the songs break and outro. Mars no longer owns the guitar, but as he told Guitar World, he made quite a profit when he sold it: “I bought it for 400 bucks and sold it years later for 25 grand. That was a good investment!” Wanna see Mick and his ‘72 Les Paul in action? Check out this clip from 1983, recorded before Shout At The Devil was released:
Guns N’ Roses - “Welcome To The Jungle”
It might be hard to believe now, but when Guns N’ Roses came on the scene back in the mid eighties they fit right in with all the glam bands on LA’s Sunset Strip. Slash, having had several Gibson custom models is rarely seen on stage without a Les Paul, and Guns rhythm guitarist and main riff-writer at the time often plays Gibson ES-175 guitars as well as Les Pauls. Check out the video for “Welcome To The Jungle:”
Def Leppard - “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”
Def Leppard’s first three albums were mostly dominated by the guitar duo of Steve Clark and Pete Willis, who would mostly be seen playing Gibson guitars. Willis was fired from the band during the recording of their third album, Pyromania, and Clark sadly passed away in 1991. Clark would almost exclusively play Gibsons, most notably Les Pauls and Firebirds. Clark was the man behind many of Def Leppard’s classic riffs. Check out the video of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” in which Willis is playing a Firebird, and Clark plays a Les Paul:
The Darkness - “Love on the Rocks with No Ice”
British retro glam rockers The Darkness had their major breakthrough ten years ago with the album Permission To Land. Brothers Dan and Justin Hawkins both play Gibson Les Pauls, with Justin often playing a beautiful white Les Paul Custom. Here’s “Love On The Rocks With No Ice” - the band’s blues rock number in which Justin is carried through the audience on his roadie’s shoulders while playing the guitar solo - what a rockstar!
Cinderella - “Nobody’s Fool”
Tom Keifer of Cinderella has been playing Gibson Les Pauls ever since getting a ’78 Les Paul from his mother as a kid, as told to Gibson.com: “They have a unique quality about them. The Sunburst and Les Paul are such unique guitars. I don’t think there are any guitars like them. I remember when Cinderella first came out in the ‘80s, we had tons of guitar companies approaching us, and their line was always, ‘We can build you whatever you want.’ I remember one time being in a dressing room and getting a hard sell, and I finally turned to him and said, ‘Can you make me a Les Paul?’ That sums up my feeling about Gibsons and Les Pauls!” Check out this great video of Cinderella doing “Nobody’s Fool” at the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. It’s got Keifer on what appears to be his ’59 Les Paul as well as guitarist Jeff LaBar playing his awesome double neck Gibson SG:
Bon Jovi - “Livin’ On A Prayer”
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora loves the Gibson Les Paul, as reported by Gibson.com in 2011: “All my heroes were playing Les Pauls, I thought it was the most powerful guitar. It was sexy. It’s got the most output. You plug it into a good amplifier, you’re going to get more out of it. That’s my staple when I go to a session, my ’59 Les Paul. I’m lucky enough to have two of them. When you put that rhythm pickup in and clean it up, there’s so much dexterity in the Les Paul. It has so many different sounds. You listen to guys like Jimmy Page, the textures they use… the tapestry that was created with a Les Paul was just singing.”
Ozzy Osbourne - “No More Tears”
Zakk Wylde had some big shoes to fill when he joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Wylde has since become a legend in his own right, with his signature Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye being hugely popular around the world, and basically synonymous with the guitarist himself. Here’s a cool live video of Wylde and Ozzy playing the title track off of 1991’s No More Tears with Wylde on his Les Paul Custom dubbed “The Rebel:”
KISS - “Firehouse”
How could we not have KISS on this list? They’re one of the pioneers of melodic hard rock, and original guitarist Ace Frehley (as well as current axeman Tommy Thayer) almost exclusively play Gibson Les Paul guitars. Frehley’s most recognizable guitar might be his Budokan Les Paul, a three pickup guitar which is basically a modified Les Paul Custom, designed for KISS’ 1977 show at the Budokan in Tokyo. Here’s Ace rocking out on his Budokan Les Paul during “Firehouse” from that same show:
Aerosmith - “Love in an Elevator”
Aerosmith made a spectacular comeback from the brink of destruction in the mid eighties, with the albums Permanent Vacation and Pump. To fit in with the changing musical climate, they traded in their trademark heavy blues-rock for a melodic hard rock sound, especially on Pump. Joe Perry did some heavy riffing on his Les Paul on that album, especially with the song “Love in an Elevator.” Perry and the rest of Aerosmith showed all the newcomers on the scene how to combine raunchy tongue-in-cheek lyrics with great riffs, and bluesy solos.
Europe - “The Final Countdown”
Ever since Swedish melodic metal icons Europe reunited in 2003, it’s rare to see guitarist John Norum on stage without a Les Paul. Check out this live video of the band playing their huge hit “The Final Countdown.” Norum shows that his blistering fast solo sounds great on a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop!