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For many of us, the sight of Jimmy Page playing his cherry red Gibson EDS-1275 is one of the classic iconic images of rock guitar. Page began playing one after recording “Stairway To Heaven,” and used it extensively both live and on Led Zeppelin’s recordings, including “Rain Song,” “Celebration Day,” and “The Song Remains The Same.” Page commented on his use of the 1275 in a 2006 London interview conducted by guitarist Slash (currently available on YouTube and presented here in edited and clarified form): “I knew Gibson had made a doubleneck, and I was sort of aware of its presence. After having recorded the fourth album, which had ‘Stairway,’ which was definitely going to have to be played live, and was recorded with 12-string acoustic and electric, I needed something that would affect the pacing of that, you know, while still using the electric 12-string and electric 6-string neck. So that was it. The doubleneck was the one instrument that was going to fulfill it. The Gibson doubleneck became sort of iconic, you know? I had to use the doubleneck to play ‘Stairway’ live, and then it started to take shape.… The doubleneck was tailor-made for that.”
When asked if he had seen another guitarist using a doubleneck, Page remarked, “It probably was an American country guitarist, but it wasn’t Joe Maphis. He played a doubleneck, but it wasn’t a Gibson. It would have been accessed from that arena if you like. It was almost a calling, and there was no other way to do it. By that point in time, most people know I used a Les Paul in the early days, so I continued on the theme of using a Gibson, and it didn’t let me down.” Page recently donated a later model EDS-1275 for charity, but it was not the famous one he used with Led Zeppelin. That guitar remains firmly in his possession.
The Who’s Pete Townshend also used a Gibson 1275 for a brief period, from approximately September to November 1967. Unlike Page’s, Pete’s 1275 was painted black. Several photos of Townshend playing this guitar exist, most with the necks not in straight parallel, but at an odd angle, although one photo with the necks straight in line doesexist. Some have theorized that Townshend smashed the guitar, which was broken lengthwise, repaired with an off-center body joint, and possibly refinished. This repair caused the necks to have a slight “V’ shape. According to whotabs.com, a fascinating and exhaustive source of information on the band’s equipment over the years, this guitar made its first appearance at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 1967. It was the band’s second-to-last date on that tour after a four-day break, so Townshend may have bought it in California during that time. Or, it may have been purchased at Manny’s in New York City before the band went out to Los Angeles, where they were recording The Who Sell Out.
Another well-known proponent of the EDS- 1275 is Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles and now a bandleader and solo artist in his own right. Felder used the guitar live on “Hotel California.” His Gibson is finished in white and has custom wiring with double input jacks that allowed him to run the 12-string neck through a Leslie speaker while running the 6-string neck into his amps and pedalboard. Felder also used a capo on the 12-string neck.
Steve Howe, guitarist extraordinaire of Yes, is another white EDS-1275 user. He also owns two other Gibson doublenecks, an EMS-1235 in black, and a very old doubleneck antique harp guitar. Howe used the white 1275 extensively on tour in the seventies on songs like “And You And I,” and “Starship Trooper.” The guitar has been retired from live use.
Mike Rutherford of Genesis owns quite a few doubleneck instruments. His first was a Rickenbacker 4001 joined to a Rick 360/12 that was used on the Selling England tour. He then switched to a Rick 360/12 with a Micro-Frets Signature baritone neck built in, which proved to be troublesome onstage. Both guitars were built by luthier Dick Knight, who then built Rutherford a 12-string with a baritone 6-string neck, which also proved to be unstable. Finally, Rutherford went to Shergold instruments, and owns five or six in various combinations of 6/12 and 4-string bass/12-string.
Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee
Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush have both used doubleneck instruments onstage and in the studio. Lifeson’s original EDS-1275 was broken by a falling speaker horn at a gig at Nassau Coliseum in the late 1970s, but was repaired and repainted afterward. Lifeson gave the guitar to Eric Johnson as a gift, but it was stolen within weeks. Lifeson has since replaced the 1275 with another that he has used only in rehearsals as of this writing.
Rik Emmett in 1982 with his Ibanez Artist doubleneck. Photo by Neil Zlozower.
“In 1989, I ordered and purchased a Steinberger doubleneck, hoping the body would be a lot lighter and that the lack of headstocks less head-heavy to wear. It was a lot more balanced, and was unbelievably good for tuning stability, but it was also very heavy. I stopped using doublenecks in 1991 or so, as I started having trouble with my neck and back. But in 2008, when Triumph had its reunion, I had also just struck a new endorsement with Gibson, and they sent me a gorgeous white doubleneck, the lightest one they could find in the Custom Shop. It still weighs a lot, and I only use it for a song here and there onstage, but it is by far the best sounding doubleneck I have ever owned. The 6-string neck has that absolutely killer Angus Young SG sound to it, and the 12-string neck rings like a bell.”