The steampunk movement started with French author Jules Vernes in novels like 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea, in which his descriptions of imaginary industrial steam-powered machines have inspired legions of writers, filmmakers, designers and even guitar modders! This SG Monark is a perfect example of what a steampunk-themed Gibson should look like. It started its life as a modest 2008 SG Standard, which Billy Gibbons decided to make extra special with a little help from Thomas Nilsen (founder of Cream T Pickups) and Raymond Eide (of Faust Guitars, a workshop in Trondheim, Norway).
The two started by stripping the finish from the SG, then proceeded to age the wood and finish it back with a much lighter polish. But that was only the beginning. They used leather for the headstock cover (sporting a Gibbons logo in lieu of the usual Gibson) and the four knobs, found a beautiful metal logo from the Norwegian Monark bike company dating back to the sixties and used it as the truss rod cover and used parts from a WW2 US-military aircraft for the jack output, the pickup selector ring (that says “Outer Marker”) and the clock switch that says Inter / Radio.
Yup you’ve read that right: the ultimate steampunk attribute of this guitaristic work of art are wheels from a 1950s British clock shaped like a horn that replaces the wooden upper SG cutaway, just like a bionic eye on a regular human. This stunning mechanism can be activated and creates a big roaring sound from the Cream T pickups. In fact, this guitar is so special that it has been featured in the Summer 2018 issue of the UK magazine Guitarist, as part of a cover feature on guitar modding.
Group : ZZ Top
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Just Got Paid
Billy Gibbons is the boss. The boss of guitarists with his sensual tremolo and the fat sound like a burrito he gets from his Les Paul. The boss of singers with his rocky and twangy sound. The boss of bandleaders with ZZ Top, his trio whose lineup has remained the same since 1969. The boss of engineers, with an impeccable sense of staging. And finally the boss of collectors, with several hangars filled with several thousand guitars that he has acquired over the years. Legend has it that he would have a copy from every year of every model from the major brands, and that may not be just a legend... In any case, the guitars that we know he has are enough to turn heads. From “Mistress Pearly Gates”, the famous Les Paul 59 that has always been with him, to his 54 hardtail Strat that we often hear in addition to Pearly Gates, along with his many custom hotrod guitars.
His career began in 1967 with The Moving Sidewalks, one of the few psychedelic Texas rock bands inspired by the 13th Floor Elevators. They opened for Jimi Hendrix before breaking up in 1969, when Gibbons founded ZZ Top.
The trio began with rich and traditional blues rock before going in a more electronic direction, starting with Degüello in 1979. That direction was confirmed with the Eliminator/Afterburner/Recycler trilogy. Three albums where the blend of Gibbons’ blues with the synthesisers and drum machines of the time produced a result that won over many fans, whether they came to trio’s music through singles like Gimme All Your Loving and Rough Boy, or through the band’s excellent videos that were often played on MTV. Since then, ZZ Top has reinvented its music once again with a fatter, more organic, and fuzzy sound. Gibbons has made multiple appearances as a guest star on other musicians’ albums. He has also released two albums under his own name: Perfectamundo, which explores Cuban music, and Big Bad Blues, which returns to his first loves, between Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. The circle is complete.