Re: What is with the Gibson Les Paul craze?
The reasons are multiple but fairly simple, actually. Endorsments factor into it, for sure, but look at what's going on - sonically - in "mainstream" Rock and Hard Rock these days. Ever notice that the general guitar tones across the board are pretty much the same? From Evanescence to Disturbed, and everything in between, you'd be hard-pressed to tell one player from another in the tone department. It's a cookie cutter mentality brought on by studio engineers and producers.
Chunky, over-compressed guitar through a Rectifier amp. That's basically it. The Les Paul is perfect for this kind of thing, right out of the box. And it's consistent, which means that the producer knows exactly what they'll get when they have the players use them. This cuts down on time spent tracking guitars, and that's all these guys care about. Time is money, and the production people get paid to crank out as many acts in a space of time as they can with nearly the same sound... whatever may be in style at the time.
The gear gets pushed on the players when they go to record an album. Then they have to replicate the sound live. So, they start playing the same stuff out. On the flip side, if you're playing in these kind of bands you're not there to be a virtuoso kind of player. You're just the backers for the singer, pretty much. It's a very, very different world than the guitar-centric crowd,(like most of us here) are used to. At that stage of the game, guitars become little more than tools. It's a business and you do what's making you some money at the time.
Personally, I own a Les Paul Special that I just lucked out on. Only paid about $500.00 for it. I use it mostly for recording rhythm tracks,(whenever a song calls for it. Once again, the right tool for the job at hand, whatever it may be) but I have a blast playing it in any capacity. Sometimes it's just nice to get back to the basics and there's nothing more basic than a Paul. I have to say that I agree with the "heavy" statements but I solved that problem by using the same kind of strap on it that I use on my bass; a Planet Waves padded bass strap. Really takes the load off of the shoulder.
As for the one-dimensional tone comments, I might suggest that some of you should go back and listen to the various works of Jimmy Page. Not just Zep but as much else as you can find. There is a plethora of unique tones that he has wrangled from the Paul throughout the decades. What has pushed the Paul into single tone territory has more to do with the Marshall amp than the guitar itself. Great combination but used far too much by too many guys. Same can be said for the modern Paul/Rectifier combination too.