Les Paul 1915-2009

Posted by PH on August 15, 2009
Music & Technology

Just a quick post by way of paying my respects to the sadly deceased Lester William Polsfuss:

les_paul_tinkering

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trotting out all the usual known facts. (Get those here or here. See also my Brief History of Electronic Music.) Suffice to say that of the three things he’s best known for—his music, the invention of multitrack recording, and that guitar—it’s the first two of these that have always impressed me the most.

Clearly, the two were inextricably intertwined. From the early 1950s the originality of Les’s music largely depended upon his technical prowess: firstly overdubbing layer upon layer of sounds using acetate discs, then later the development of the 8-track ‘Sel-Sync’ tape machine in conjunction with Ampex.

I still find his records from this time completely thrilling: despite the often cheesy material, the overdubbed and speeded up guitars and thickly layered vocals have a futuristic “space-age” sound to them that is absolutely redolent of the Sputnik era.

Here’s a video I’ve had up on YouTube for a couple of years now that uses his (and his wife, Mary Ford’s) arguably best-known track How High The Moon as the soundtrack. What a fabulous and extravagant piece of music!

[Thanks to Julian for the BBC link.]

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