This is a short extract from an interview I did with Jeff Beck in 1993 during my research for The Les Paul Book.
TB: Do you remember the first time you saw a Les Paul?
JB: I remember going to see The Bluesbreakers in Brixton, Eric already playing this thing [sunburst Les Paul], and it sounded great. I already knew Les Pauls sounded good because Jimmy Page had a Custom. They had this deep sound, and I really needed that power in a three-piece, to help fill out the sound. So I went sorting around. There was a guy at Selmer’s shop in Charing Cross Road, I think it might have been Mick Keen, he worked there but he said he’d got a good one at home. It was him or one of the others who worked there – that was the shop to go to. So this guy said yeah, meet me at so-and-so and I’ll bring along the guitar.
TB: Was it expensive?
JB: The original sunburst ’59 cost me £150 – with a Tune-O-Matic, that one was. It was my favourite Les Paul of all time. It was stolen in New York along with a Telecaster Bass that I’d bought for Ron Wood. I’d done two gigs with it, this was 1969. That first one had a very distinct flame, bright and beautiful – someone told me that it wound up with Marc Bolan, about ’73, ’74, maybe, but it was debatable, I thought. Anyway, Mickie Most was coming over, and he got this chap from somewhere, came out with 40 Les Pauls or something. It was right before a gig, and I played the guitar that night, right out of the box. That second one got smashed: some idiot knocked it off a stool, the headstock snapped off and it cracked near the body. The young lady was surgically removed, ha ha. It didn’t bother me. This was the latter part of 1969.
TB: What made you, er, modify the look of that one?
JB: I saw a pale guitar in a 50s book, so I stripped off the sunburst in 1968 to make it look like that. I went to a carpentry shop and bought some paint stripper, in Nine Elms [London]. I was a painter in the car business, so I knew what I was doing. I didn’t want it to look shiny.
From Tony Bacon’s interview with Jeff Beck, February 12 1993