The Kinks' Dave Davies' 1977 Gibson Les Paul Artisan
Dave Davies invented distortion. With frustration pushing him to wits end, the Kinks’ guitarist lashed out with a razor blade on the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier because he couldn’t get the desired guitar tone. (We’ve all wanted to stab our gear at one point, right?) Little did Davies know that a small tear around the speaker’s cone—still keeping the cone fully intact—would create one of the most important musical sounds of the 20th century that led to the instantly identifiable riff in the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”
Davies was a man of many guitars, but probably best aligned with the Gibson Flying V. Throughout his years with the Kinks and various solo projects, he used several Gibson models including this 1978 Gibson Les Paul Artisan. During the early ’80s, he preferred to use this guitar live when playing tunes from Low Budget, Give The People What They Want, and Chosen People, including the ripper “Freedom Lies.”
In 1976, Gibson looked to fancify their tuxedo of guitars—the Les Paul Custom. The Norlin-controlled company revamped the LPC by offering a natural or walnut finish showcasing the carved-maple top’s beautiful figuring. Other changes implemented on all Artisans included gold hardware, heart and flower inlays on the headstock and fretboard (very similar to Gibson banjos), a pre-war style Gibson logo, and a TP-6 tailpiece.
Similarities between the Artisan and the Custom are the mahogany body with three-piece, carved-maple top, a three-piece maple neck, an ebony fretboard, and the bound peghead and fretboard.
Aside from the cosmetics on the Artisan, the pickups were the only major functioning difference from the Les Paul Custom it’s based on. Davies’ Artisan is loaded with three humbuckers—two are Gibson Series VII humbuckers (bridge and neck positions) and in the middle position is a Gibson Super Humbucking pickup. The pickup selector switch was wired to three settings: rhythm pickup only, middle and bridge pickup with the switch in the middle position, and the bridge pickup only.
A special thanks to Hard Rock Historian Jeff Nolan and Hard Rock International for the opportunity to feature this fine piece of gear and its story.