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Peter Green's tone without the six-figure price tag? Monty's Guitars releases Bethnal Green humbuckers

Matt Gleeson and his small and skilled team at Monty's Guitars in Cheltenham, England produce one of the best reproduction PAFs in the world, so the news he's turned his attention to a Peter Green set is a big deal. A faithful recreation of the crucial component in Peter Green's fabled Les Paul 'Greeny' tone? This might be the most affordable way to get closer than every before for anyone who isn't Kirk Hammett

Matt recently appeared on Anderton's YouTube channel to show and tell all. "He had the famous Greeny 'Burst and the neck pickup was busted and he had to get in rewound,"  explains Matt regarding how the late Fleetwood Mac and Bluesbreakers legend's tone. "At the time he could only get a different type of wire, which is heavy formvar, which is typically what you find is Strat pickups. So the neck pickup was rewound with that."

This heavy formvar is thinner than the plain enamel used on most original PAFs use don '59 Les Pauls, but Matt suggests it actually makes for a fatter coil sound, with more of the coil further away from the magnetic field, "which changes the tone dramatically."

Greeny features an out-of-phase neck pickup, and the idea that the wire plays a significant part in the equation means there's more going on. But it's still up for debate how and when the pickup was fitted this way before rewiring changed the tone further.

 "Now there's an argument whether the magnet in the pickup got flipped then or whether it happened in the factory," Matt continues, "because there are stories of 'Bursts coming out with our of phase sounds straight from stock. So that side, I'm not too sure, but what that out-of-phase thing does [with Greeny] is it gives you this really nice kind of flutey sound.

Though this out-of-phase setup often leads to an undesirable 'thin' sound, Greeny was different, and made for some magical middle position action. "The magic with the Greeny guitar is it still had body," says Matt. "And I think the reason that is is because it was rewound. Because the pickups are so different, the signal they're putting out isn't the same. So you get this air of out-of-phaseness but that's about it."

Classic interview

Matt goes deeper with Lee into the nature of out-of-phase signals on guitars in the video but on the subject of Greeny's particular details, he reveals he had access to the original '59 Les Paul that was owned by Green and then Gary Moore. He got to study it when it was it London with a vintage dealer, and before it would go on to its new owner Kirk Hammett in the US. Matt explains he was allowed firsthand experience playing the guitar and had access to some parts of the guitar to get readings but was not permitted to take the pickups apart. 

"They're very different to the stock PAFS we make," explains Matt of the comparisons he was able to make. The bridge pickup is a lot more powerful, so a lot more mids in there. And the neck pickup obviously has all the weird stuff that went on with it and is a completely different beast."

Monty's handmade Bethnal Green set has been years of tinkering in the making from Matt, and are part of a new tribute range that will be made in limited runs. They use period correct parts – 'they are as accurate as humanly possible right down to the way the decals are cut', says the UK company 

The humbuckers feature Alnico II magnets, unpotted coils and while the bridge coil wire uses the 42 gauge plain enamel, the neck coil is wired with 42 gauge heavy formvar.

Each features vintage PAF accurate pure nickel silver, aged covers with nickel silver baseplates and correct tooling marks, plus brass baseplate screws.

At £449, this set presents Monty's highest priced pickups to date, and the limited run is clearly aimed at those who want the specific Greeny sound. And there's a fair few of those people around who have already sold out the first run. When the next batch will follow is yet to be confirmed. 

For the rest of us, Monty's more affordable standard PAF and Full Monty humbuckers still represent incredibly dynamic pickups that can offer a major upgrade to your guitar. Check out the full range at Monty's Guitars

Rob Laing
Rob Laing

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. I've currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with my own songs and I am enjoying playing covers in function bands.