A legendary guitarist deserves a legendary guitar. Steve Hackett’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul has been featured on an amalgam of Genesis albums and tours from November 1973 to July 1977, as well as Steve’s solo material and tours. It was seen live until 1986 with GTR and then was retired, although it can be seen the music video for The Hunter. The Gold Top Les Paul can be identified by the PAF pickups that Gibson began using in 1956.
Gibson Guitars owned by Steve Hackett:
- Gibson Melody Maker – used on his first tour with Genesis in January 1971
- Two Gibson Black Les Paul Custom – both were stolen (see image)
- A Sunburst Gibson Les Paul – also stolen
- 1957 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top – purchased whilst on tour in America with Genesis.
The exact point in time the guitar was acquired is not certain. One possibility is the Gold Top was purchased during the North American leg of the Selling England By The Pound tour in November to December of 1973. The Sunburst Gibson was stolen and held ransom during a show at the Felt Forum (22nd November 1973).
Other recent information suggests that when a series of 6 guitars were taken on the 5th May 1974 in New York (causing the cancellation of a show at the Academy of Music in New York) the Gold Top was bought to replace the stolen guitars. Several guitars were ransomed and returned to the band for the following night’s performance. In fact Peter Gabriel makes a remark during the show after Watcher of the Skies on a bootleg from the night. Whether the guitar was purchased or simply stolen and returned is not clear in this instance.
Robert Ellis however was able to provide a photograph as evidence that Steve did indeed have this Gibson LP Gold Top at the Genesis gigs at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London in January 1974. With this information we would assume then the November date is near to when the guitar was bought.
The Gibson LP Gold Top features in the Chapter and Verse book on a number of pages, particularly the Wind and Wuthering section. The guitar features in photographs taken at the Farmyard Rehearsal Studios in Little Chalfont, during late November of 1976 when Genesis were rehearsing for the 1977 Wind and Wuthering tour. Steve is pictured with the Gibson and his pedal board along with his brand new Roland Jazz Chorus 160 amps.
Steve Hackett’s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop is a late 1957 model with a Tune-o-matic bridge with Patent Applied For humbucker pickups. A new design, the Tune-o-matic, replaced the stopbar in 1955. It consisted of a separate bridge and tailpiece attached directly to the top of the guitar, combining an easily adjustable bridge with a sustain-carrying tailpiece. This design has been used on most Les Pauls ever since. The tuners were produced by Kluson.
A P.A.F. or simply PAF is an early model of the humbucker guitar pickup invented by Seth Lover in 1955. Gibson began use of the PAF on higher-model guitars in late 1956 and stopped ca. 1962.
Les Paul Goldtops and Customs were the first solid-body electric guitars to receive PAF humbuckers, In late 1957, a black sticker with gold lettering was applied to each pickup’s underside that read, “PATENT APPLIED FOR.” This name was shortened to “PAF” to create the nickname these pickups have been known by since. US patent 2896491 was eventually issued on July 28, 1959. In 1958, the Goldtop model was dropped from production, and the sunburst Standard took its place.
Tune-o-matic (also abbreviated to TOM) is a name of fixed bridge design for electric guitars. It was designed by Ted McCarty (Gibson Guitar Corporation president) and introduced in the Gibson Super 400 guitar in 1953 and the Les Paul Custom the following year. In 1955, it was used on the Gibson Les Paul Gold Top. It was gradually accepted as a standard on almost all Gibson fixed-bridge guitars, replacing the previous wrap-around bridge design, except on the budget series
This particular Les Paul Goldtop body is made of mahogany-with-maple-cap which was how the bodies were made for the Goldtop, rumour has it there are some solid mahogany bodies out there and these can be identified if the pickups are removed. In 1957, the Custom was fitted with Gibson’s new PAF humbucker pickups these replaced the P90’s that had been used previously on the Gibson LP model range.
We have translated from the advert that their was some kind of Children’s show or carnival on the same day at the venue where Steve was also performing.
Incidents and History
This particular Gibson LP had an accident during a gig in Sittard at the Stadsschouwburg, Holland on the 16th November 1980 during the Defector tour. Upon arriving at the venue the road crew had to set up earlier than usual owing to an odd combined booking at the venue. With the Stadsschowburh also hosting an Agricultural show on the same day (this is something Steve remembers accurately), whilst the stage was abandoned the guitar inexplicably fell from its guitar stand resulting in the fixed neck being snapped. It was repaired to a high standard by a guitar luthier.
The Gibson guitar has been used on a number of studio albums but it is retired from touring, Steve ventured into using a Black Burny which was a forerunner to his current Gold Top replica made by Fernandes, who happen to also own Burny. Fernandes are based in Japan and the two guitars that Steve owns by them were made in Japan. Steve has had the Fernandes self sustaining pickup installed on his ‘new’ Gold Top enabling him to produce haunting guitar swells that last infinitely.
To be continued: We remain flexible and open to any new information, you cannot know it all hence the open information policy.
Thank you to the following:
Steve Hackett: for this information during an interview on the 21st February 2016
Chris Leet: for use of the Genesis, New York Felt Forum ticket from November 1973
George German: for his contact in Holland (The Netherlands) who accessed a digital archive of Dutch newspapers and thus found the advert used here for the Sittard concert, and other materials which have not been used.
Links to research materials:
Steve Hackett – Official site and initial guitar info
Steve Hackett interview with The Evil Jam
Dutch Newspaper Digital Archive (Sittard concert advert)
Gibson Les Paul info
Tune O Matic