The Beast is caged: Bernie Marsden has decided not to sell his Gibson '59 Les Paul Burst for $1.3 million after all

The Beast
(Image credit: Neil Godwin/Future)

The Beast is not for sale; earlier this week Bernie Marsden's '59 Les Paul Standard Burst went up for sale at ATB Guitars in the UK for an eye-watering $1.3 million. But after the guitar was pulled from the ATB site showcasing a collection of his guitars for sale, the former Whitesnake man announced on Instagram on 21 June that he'd had a change of heart.

"I have been astonished by the reaction to the potential sale of The Beast!" he wrote.
"As you all know, I’ve had the guitar since 1974 and technically it’s been for sale ever since… That’s what happens when you own a vintage Les Paul!

"However, I have had some constructive conversations with my family and they feel it should stay with me for a bit longer, and so I have withdrawn it from a possible sale… I hope this improves your moods."

Bernie's decision was supported by a host of players in the comments, including Jason Isbell, Chris Buck and Damon Johnson (with at least one a fellow 'Burst owner).  

The Beast is back in its cage, but the rest of the sale is going ahead – Bernie even posted a video to remind us of the incredible vintage treasures ATB are selling on his behalf. 

The reason Bernie's initial decision to sell the guitar caused a stir goes beyond The Beast being the holy grail of vintage guitars as a '59 Les Paul Standard.  It's an especially notable one with an interesting backstory.  

The Beast got its name from iconic rock drummer Cozy Powell is an exquisite example and Bernie has owned it since 1974, acquiring it when he was playing in Wild Turkey as part-ex trade as he explains in the video below. It was his number 1 workhorse in his Whitesnake years, and he wrote the band's much-loved hit Here I Go Again on it. 

The asking price was £999,995.00. That's a lot of money even for a '59 Burst of which there were only ever around 1,500 ever made. But it's also one of the most famous examples alongside Clapton's lost Beano Burst, Pearly Gates, Jimmy Page's Number 1 and Greeny

Its pre-Marsen years saw it reportedly owned by Eric Clapton (the initials EC are scratched into the finish at the heel) who traded it with Paul Kossoff before his bandmate, Free bassist Andy Fraser sold it to 'Martin' – the man who offered it to Bernie.  


(Image credit: Future)

"This is quite the guitar," said ATB of the 4.53kg LP in the original listing before it was pulled on 21 June. "The faded top is to many the holy grail of finishes and this one has to be the dictionary definition. As a guitar produced in 1959, the dye used was quite photoreactive, a problem rectified the following year. The original colour can be seen under the pickguard. What is left behind is a wonderful hue that showcases the subtly flamed top. As you expect, the top is worn though this is not extensive and there are marks around the controls."   

"The headstock shows the odd battle scar," added ATB. "There is the sign of an old repair to the headstock as you can see in the pictures. The silk screening is there but quite faded. The guitar is currently fitted with a set of reproduction Kluson tuners and there are signs that different tuners have been fitted. There are a set of correct Kluson tuners included in the sale."

The Beast

(Image credit: Neil Godwin/Future)

"The plastics are in good shape. The jack plate has broken in the past, included with the guitar, and has been replaced with a reproduction. Elsewhere everything is as you’d expect with signs of use. The neck pickup ring was replaced some time ago due to the common cracking that often occurred."

In keeping with the Beast's reputation, ATB described the guitar's tone as "transcendental". "For anyone who’s paid even a passing interest in rock and blues music post 1965, this guitar ticks all the right boxes," the listing adds. "Flat out its raunchy and responsive with an almost infinite sustain that makes it feel like it's playing you. Dialed back,it cleans up beautifully whilst retaining a clarity that is such a hallmark of these instruments. Marry this with a neck that is joy to play and it's an unbeatable package."

You can read more about the rest of the Bernie Marsden Collection sale at ATB Guitars – it includes a 1952 Les Paul Goldtop, 1961 Tele Custom, 1963 Firebird I and 1966 Gibson EDS-175. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

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 in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.