by Jef | 4,6 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
Sex Pistols Guitar Tone

Sex Pistols Guitar Tone  ·  Source:

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The Sex Pistols guitar tone is back again on your TV and stereo following the new Danny Boyle series “Pistol”. If you’re looking to capture those classic punk guitar tones, then read on! In this article, I’ll share with you the gear Steve Jones used and analyse his technique and tone.

1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Never Mind the Bollocks set the world alight when it hit the airwaves during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. The album was released on 28 October 1977 by Virgin Records and was an instant hit. Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones was the man behind those epic riffs and his guitar rig was mainly “borrowed” or lent to him at the time.

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Get that Sex Pistols tone and look

If you watch any of the period footage of The Sex Pistols, then you’ll have undoubtedly noticed Steve Jones’ distinctive 974 Gibson Les Paul Custom; finished in white with pickup covers removed.

If you believe the legend then the guitar was given to him by Malcolm McClaren and had once belonged to New York Dolls’ Syl Sylvain; a band that McClaren managed before the Sex Pistols. It was Sylvain who supposedly added the pinup girl stickers and removed the pickup covers and the guitar’s pickguard.

Gibson Steve Jones reissue

Gibson Steve Jones reissue

Gibson did a limited run of the guitar back in 2008 which is now discontinued.; however, you can pick up a modern version of the white Les Paul Custom * fairly easily new these days.

All you need to do is get yourself a couple of pinup girl stickers to complete the look. Nicotine helped to turn the original Arctic White finish yellow over time; I would avoid smoking and just let your guitar age naturally though.

Gibson Les Paul Custom AW

Gibson Les Paul Custom AW

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Guitar Style

Steve Jones’ rhythm playing is super tight and he wears his guitar influences on his sleeve: a mixture of Johnny Thunders and Chuck Berry riffs for his lead playing. If you want to cop that Stev Jones feel, then never overplay and keep your riffs and leads concise.

Practice your down picking and be confident with your barre chords on the lower three strings. Jones tends to break his chords down to simple two and three-note power chords. He often slides into chords, and you will also see him drop the root note of a power chord down a semi-tone from time to time.

Use the bridge pickup, and turn the guitar’s controls full up! Additionally use 10-.046 strings and tune to stand tuning.

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Get that Sex Pistols tone with a Gibson Les Paul Custom

1972 Fender Twin Reverb

So you’ve got yourself a white Les Paul Custom and you’ve got the hang of Jones’ playing style. Just as important to that Never Mind The Bollocks tone, though, is the 1972 Fender Twin Reverb you’ll hear all over that album. If you believe the legend, the amp was stolen from the back of a truck in 1976 by Jones at either a David Bowie, Paul McCartney or a Bob Marley show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

Loaded with two Fender P.S. 12 rebranded Gauss 2841 12″ speakers, the signature overdrive tone is created by pushing the amp with the powerful humbucking pickups in the Les Paul Custom. This is no mean feat, as these amps love to stay clean, so be prepared for some volume!

If you want to recreate the amp settings, then try the following: Vibrato channel, Input 1, Bright: On, Volume: 10, Treble: 9, Middle: 10, Bass: 8, Reverb: 0, Speed: 0, Intensity: 0, Master Volume: 10

Fender doesn’t have a Twin Reverb to the 1972 specs in their current lineup, but you could get in the ballpark with the ‘68 Silverface reissue.

MXR 1974 Vintage Phase 90

MXR 1974 Vintage Phase 90

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Fender 68 Custom Twin Reverb

Fender 68 Custom Twin Reverb

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MXR Phase

Finally, you will need an old Script Logo MXR Phase 90 with the Speed set to 3 o’clock. It is the only effect you hear Jones using, but it adds some subtle movement to his memorable guitar parts. The effect is always out of sync with the tempo of the tracks, and Jones used multiple overdubs in the studio to get his massive guitar tone on the Never Mind the Bollocks recordings.

MXR 1974 Vintage Phase 90

MXR 1974 Vintage Phase 90

Ideally, you probably want to aim for the current MXR Script Logo 1974 * reissue of the effect to get as close to Jones’s pedal. Though MXR makes a few variations of the pedal, I’m sure you can get close with most of them.

I have heard Jones state in one interview that he thought he used an MXR Phase 45, so you could also try the new MXR M290 Phase 95 * as it has a setting for that 2-stage phase tone as well. Ideally, you are aiming for a slow phase speed and it is just there to add some movement during songs.

MXR Phase 90

MXR Phase 90

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Budget Tones

On a budget, you can get away with using an Epiphone Les Paul Custom * in white or if your budget is more strict, try the Harley Benton SC-500*.

Interestingly, you’ll spot Steve Jones using a Japanese Burny Les Paul Custom in the videos below.

Epiphone Les Paul Custom Alpine White

Epiphone Les Paul Custom Alpine White

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Harley Benton SC-500 WH Vintage Series

Videos

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Image Sources:
  • Gibson Steve Jones reissue: Gibson
  • Gibson Les Paul Custom: Thomann
  • MXR 1974 Vintage Phase 90: Thomann
Sex Pistols Guitar Tone

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