Few Gibson Les Pauls, if any, are as mythical as the Greeny LP. Not only has it been in the hands of Peter Green, Gary Moore and Kirk Hammett, it’s also got a peculiar pickup configuration that has given birth to some truly classic tones.
We’re talking, of course, about Green’s flipped neck humbucker, which is famed for the “out-of-phase” tone it contributes to when utilized alongside the bridge pickup in the middle position.
It’s this precise pickup pairing that UK-based pickup specialist Monty's Guitars has focused on for its latest set, which aims to precisely reproduce Greeny’s tone without breaking the bank.
Meet the Bethnal Green PAF humbuckers, a set made with period-accurate components, said to be “as accurate as humanly possible” to replicating the original Greeny sound.
Monty’s Matt Gleeson – who has worked with Pete Townshend, Ed O’Brien and Ed Sheeran, to name a few – recently appeared on Andertons’ YouTube channel to dissect the pickups, and judging by what he says, there could be merit in the brand’s bold promise.
Explaining the history of Greeny’s pickups, Gleeson recalled, “[Peter Green] had the Greeny ‘burst, and the neck pickup was busted and he had to get it rewound. At the time he could only get a different type of wire called heavy formvar, which is what you particularly find on Strat pickups.”
There’s one other piece to the pickup puzzle: the flipped alnico magnet. It’s unknown whether this occurred during the rewinding job or if the magnet came flipped straight out of the factory (recent findings from Gibson's Cesar Gueikian indicate it was an aftermarket mod). Either way, the quirk has also been included in the Bethnal Green spec sheet.
“What this out-of-phase thing does is give you this really nice flute-y sound," Gleeson said of Greeny's character. "True out of phase would mean both pickups would be exactly the same, and you wouldn’t get anything.
“On a Les Paul, they’re slightly further apart, so you get a little bit more treble, but usually it sounds really thin. The magic with the Greeny guitar was that it didn’t. It still had body. I think the reason for that is because it was rewound.”
Not only does Gleeson have the technical, historical and practical knowledge to back up the Bethnal Greens, he also got to study Greeny in great detail sometime before it was sold to Hammett.
“I was lucky enough to get my dirty mitts on this guitar while it was living in London,” he continued, “and hungrily took copious measurements and readings of the pickups and sat with the guitar for a while, just playing it, soaking up its sonic majesty.”
The result is what looks to be a pretty special set of pickups. In terms of the nitty gritty, each humbucker features alnico II magnets, unpotted coils, pure nickel silver covers, correct PAF decal and brass base plate screws.
42-gauge heavy formvar wire is used on the neck pickup, while regular 42 gauge plain enamel is used for the bridge humbucker. All the components are period-correct.
The Bethnal Greens will set you back £450 (approx $600), which is a far cry cheaper than what the actual guitar costs, so for our money it looks as though these might be the most cost-efficient way to get a true reproduction of the Greeny tone.
Unfortunately, owing to the Bethnal Green’s accuracy, the first batch has already sold out. A time frame on when we can expect to see them back in stock hasn’t been announced, either, due to the scarcity of components.
Nevertheless, keep your eyes peeled on Monty Guitars for future Bethnal Green updates.