Something special this way passed. Google last week – June 9, 2011 – treated the world to a quiet surprise, with no fan fair or public release the ‘Les Paul’ Google Doodle was released as a tribute to what would have been Les Paul’s 96th birthday – he sadly left us 2 years ago in 2009 – . Replacing Google’s normally colourful logo on its ubiquitous search page with an interactive guitar synth created a huge buzz, word of the tribute spread quickly through offices and living rooms around the world. It turned out to be so popular that the Doodle was left up for a second day and is now available in Google’s archives. This Doodle was different mind you, part musical instrument and part recording studio, like everything Les Paul it inspired the musician in all of us to play.
The simplicity of this graphic grabbed our attention, imagine our joy as we moved the mouse over the graphic, it sings like the synthesized guitar of a Les Paul. This clever little app-guitar could also be triggered using the keyboard with multiple octaves mapped to the alpha-numeric keys – A-Z and 1-0 -. Also embedded in the logo is a record button and playback selector allowing anyone to record their own Google Doodle song. The record button has even been designed in Les Paul style, you are able to lay a track down, record it, then play it back and record over the top of that, allowing layering and multiple tracks to be recorded. By far the most advanced use of the record function so far was the rendition of Michael Jackson Billie Jean using three copies of Google’s Les Paul to multi-track.
Les Paul was not only an incredible musician and show-man but he was also an inventor who changed much of the technology used behind the scenes in music production. Performing semi-professionally from the age of 13 and professionally well into his 80’s. He used a number of alter ego’s through-out his career, each created with a specific genre and crowd in mind. “Rhubarb Red” was Paul’s hillbilly alter ego and was the name he performed under for his first album in 1936. He would become known for his contributions to Jazz, Rock’nRoll and all genre’s that used electric guitar. Red Hot Red and Les Paul were other stage names early on, Les Paul stuck.
All through-out his musical career Les Paul invented, usually out of necessity and sometimes out of frustration. Starting when he was a teenager he invented the neck-worn harmonica holder that allowed him to play harmonica hands free, it’s still made to this day. His better known inventions include the legendary Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, solid body guitars, necessity also led to multi-track recording and effects. When Paul first started recording acetate disks were in use not tape. His signature sound and the process for multitrack recording was developed on those disks. Layers of sound were created by recording a single instruments track on a disk, then playing that original disk and another instrument over the top onto a new disk. Some of his later recordings required over 500 disks to produce the final product. Once tape became available he worked with Ross Snyder to design the first eight-track recording deck for Ampex, applying everything he learned doing multi-track recording by hand to the new technology.
Google’s Les Paul tribute isn’t the first Google Doodle to create a buzz. The 30th Anniversary Pacman Doodle made the media, lawyers got involved over Pacmans copyright, it even spawned its own page so people could continue playing. The logo is now in Google’s archives for our enjoyment anytime. Google has a rich Doodle history stretching back to 1998 when the first Doodle to celebrate the head Googlers Larry and Sergey’s attendance of Burning Man. So like the tie over the door-knob in college dorm rooms around the world the Doodle communication was born.
Google’s Les Paul Doodle was without doubt a little ray of sunshine, a pleasant surprise. The greatest danger though is the ring tone, people performing their favourite 80’s song using the Google Guitar and recording it for their phones, it may not end well. It has already inspired the ‘Google Doodle Song’ on YouTube and is spreading into pop-culture as we speak. Snoop-Dog can’t be far away from releasing a Google Doodle song of his own.
Buddha’s Brother out…