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Paul McCartney talks about his Les Paul Gibson on CNN International

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In this exclusive clip from CNN International’s forthcoming culture show, Sir. Paul McCartney talks of his great love for his Les Paul Gibson Guitar 

“Les was the great innovator, the great experimenter…” Sir Paul McCartney

Presenter Monita Rajpal travels to the Swiss resort of Montreaux which has, for more than four decades, been home to the annual jazz festival.  She meets founder, Claude Nobs, who introduces her to music icons Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock.  She also meets Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto who has customized two classic Gibson guitars to auction at the festival and challenges him to redesign the famous red CNN logo. The show also visits Nashville, Tennessee, the heart of the country music business, where icon tours the Gibson guitar factory to learn about one of music's most iconic designs - the Gibson Les Paul.

The team talks to several famous guitarists -- including ZZ Top founder Billy Gibbons -- about their loving relationship with the instrument and witness the birth of the world's first CNN-customized Gibson Les Paul.  With the anniversary of Les Paul's death this August, icon travels to New York to the bar where he played with the Les Paul Trio until the age of 93. The show chats to his son about his father's legacy.

Plus, in exclusive interviews, we speak to some of rock's greatest living legends, guitarist Slash and former Beatle Sir. Paul McCartney. They share their thoughts on Les Paul and his enduring legacy in the world of rock.


Finally, Monita encounters a new musical icon in the form of video game, Guitar Hero and visits Guitar Hero HQ in California for a sneak preview of the latest game. While there, she talks to the designers and finds out if she can pick up enough musical tips to become a Guitar Hero in her own right.


Showtimes on CNN International:

Thursday 26 August: 1130, 1630, Saturday 28 August: 0630, 2000, Sunday 29 August: 0330, 0730, 1500, Monday 30 August: 0130 (all times GMT)



CCN International’s icon talks exclusively to Paul McCartney on Les Paul, Gibson guitars and the spirituality of music


Q:  Tell us about Les Paul’s contribution to music history


Paul: Well, I think he made contributions on a number of fronts. The first thing was that he was the original multi-tracker, multi layering of tapes which is now the norm but at the time when he started it, nobody had ever done it. And so he did what we later took for granted, so I think that’s a pretty amazing invention, just that in itself.


 He’s obviously a kind of a boffin – I don’t know that much about him – but he’s obviously a bit of an electrical boffin, to develop his own guitars, to use microphones, and electric… I think he was one of the first people to put a pick up on a guitar.


And then I think as a musician, secondly, a brilliant musician. And together with Merry 4 they made some great records. That was how I first heard of them, you know, hearing those early records. So, I’d say on two fronts, as an innovator technically and then musically.


Q. What influence did his work have on you specifically and your career?


Paul: Well I think the sound on the early records, was something we couldn’t believe like ‘wow, how has he done that?!’ The speeding up, that actually opened the doors for us to say when we started making Beatles records, we’d say ‘oh can we speed it up a bit and the technicians and producers would go ‘why?’ and we’d say ‘no, it’d be good you know, it’s an interesting thing. Can we have twice the speed?


I think the thing was when we went into the studio, we wanted to experiment and I’m sure at the back of our minds there was the idea that Les was the great innovator, the great experimenter; he opened the doors to that. I think without him we wouldn’t have known that there’s such a thing as speeding up. So, on early Beatle records we did a lot of that. We had a solo, Hard Day’s Night which is very hard to play so George Martin said well we could speed up and when you played it up (strums and hums faster) so we used a lot of those techniques and I think probably Les’s influence had made us think of that


But before that, before all the Beatles recordings I go back earlier as I say to his original records. Just hearing them on the radio thinking ‘wow! What’s that? How High the Moon, The World’s waiting for the Sunrise, and I had a funny experience. John and I were kids, before the Beatles, and we hitchhiked down to the house of my cousin Betty, she and her husband Mike had a pub in a place called Reading. And we wanted to go down on a week’s holiday and they said ‘well come down here’, so we hitchhiked down, we had no money. So we worked in the bar and we played around (air strums), we took our guitars so we were taking the opportunity during the day to goof around and play and my cousin Mike, he’d say – he was a kinda entertainmenty guy, he’d been on the stage himself, he’d done a bit of stuff, and he said do you wanna sing at the bar, do you wanna play on Saturday night? And we said yeah, sure! So he said well ok, let’s work out what you’re going to do, so we said ok, we’ll open with BeeBop Lolla which is an early Jean Vincent record.  He said no, no, you can’t open with that, he said it’s got to be instrumental and it’s got to be fast, that’s an opener. We said ‘what?’ He said, do you know any instrumentals that are fast? I said well yeah, we know How High the Moon no! - The World Waiting for the Sunrise.


Q: I wanted to ask about a very rare, real – the Gibson Les Paul guitar tell us how a musician forms a relationship with an instrument


Paul: the thing about Les Paul guitars is that they are beautiful guitars and that’s due to Les’s knowledge of the instrument and due to his technical knowledge. So he together with Gibson developed this amazing guitar. So for me it’s just beautiful to play, it’s a classic and one of the ones I have is 50 yrs old, so it’s a sort of great antique as well as being a classic… it plays great and I think that’s due to Les’s expertise and so you grow to love it cuz it’s just a beautiful guitar.


Q: How would you describe music?


Paul: Yeah, I mean I think there’s something spiritual about it.  For instance, when you’re writing a song, it’s particularly evident cuz you start off and there’s nothing. You sit down and you think, ‘I’m gonna’ write a song’ and you start goofing around. You get an idea and you follow the trail and the idea …of like, well how do you do that and sometimes it can be even more spiritual than following that trail, sometimes you find idea just coming to you. I think the biggest instance for me where I’d have to agree with that theory was with the song Yesterday which I dreamed, just woke up one morning and just had this song in my head, and it was, the melody was fully formed. The words weren’t, so I blocked it out with crazy words but the tune was there. I had heard it in a dream and unlike most people, I remembered it so it was like, if I ask myself where did that come from I think you do have to think it’s some sort of higher place, some sort of spiritual place that just delivered it to me that song and its been covered by some 3000 people, so may be they feel this spiritual thing too.


So it is an amazing thing and with music, I don’t actually ask too much where it comes from. People  say to me how do you sing 3 hrs a night and how do you sign the same song still in the same key? I say I don’t know and I don’t really want to know. I just trust it’ll be there and its there (looks up) thank you.


Q: Les Paul has been an unchanged guitar


Paul: yeah, I think it’s just a classic. I’m probably the least technical person you’d know, I’ve got guys who know all about em… I just play em.


It is very good looking… I’m not really interested in the look; to me what it is, is that it plays great. So when I pick up the guitar I want it to sound good, I want it to sound great. And with Les Paul’s, with Les’s knowledge, he’s made a great guitar. So when you pick it up, you fall in love with it.


Q:  What does mean to you and why should it continue to be in people lives?


Paul: Music is a very special thing. I think maybe it’s best quality is it’s healing quality. I’m very blessed because I’ve a lot of people come up to me and say I was going through chemo or I was going through this or that and your music got me through – that’s kind of wow! I heard recently about a guy who had been in a coma and Hey Jude came on the radio and he woke up and said ‘that’s Hey Jude’ and everyone went aaahhhh…and he came out of his coma … so for me you can imagine what’s that like.  It’s so emotional and so gratifying, because the great thing is I don’t even know how I do it. I wouldn’t mind if I was some brain surgeon I’d know what I’d done with Hey Jude and with music that heals people, I and many other musicians, don’t know how you do it, you’re just very blessed. I would say that’s the greatest thing about what I do, just to think some kid from Liverpool comes out, gets in a group we’re trying to make money we’re just trying to get a  job, we suddenly do this stuff that’s reaching out to people, that other musicians want to cover and finally its greatest pay off is that its actually healing people, physically.


So you know, sometimes I’d hear about someone who’s really ill and the mum often would say the kid really loves your music I say would you mind if I send you some CDs so I just you know (gestures) just play ‘em, you never know. So it’s just the best thing, months later you hear he’s in remission! And you go (thumps his heart) whoa!




Last Updated: 08/20/10 11:33

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Paul McCartney talks about his Les Paul Gibson on CNN International

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In this exclusive clip from CNN International’s forthcoming culture show, Sir. Paul McCartney talks of his great love for his Les Paul Gibson Guitar. “Les was the great innovator, the great experimenter…” Sir Paul McCartney