FUZZ IS ONE WICKEDLY ABRASIVE AND DELIGHTFULLY
peculiar effect. Although it can require a touch of daring to abandon the
organic colors of overdrive and distortion and embrace buzz and spit, players
have used fuzz to power tons of unforgettable riffs. Here are some of our
favorites. Post your choices in the GP Forum (guitarplayer.com/community),
or on our Facebook page (facebook.com/guitarplayermag).
John’s viciously distorted
guitars for “Revolution”
were crafted by overdriving
the console’s mic preamps at
Abbey Road. (Producer George Martin
admitted the studio technicians were
not happy about this.) Paul, however,
plugged into one of Gary Hurst’s Tone
Benders for the fuzzy bass line to this
song. The effect is so ear-catching that
one wonders if George—the song’s
author—grumped that Paulie had once
again stolen his thunder.
Oh, it’s all jangly and
bright on the verses, but
watch out for the convulsive splatters
of noise during the chorus. The music
was inspired by the Yardbirds’ version
of “I’m a Man,” but composer/guitarist
John Byrne was gifted the song’s title
when a college classmate suggested it
during a lecture on psychosis. He fi nished
the song later that day, and quite
democratically shared writing credit
with his entire band.
It’s Jack Bruce’s riff, but
Eric Clapton’s fuzzed
guitar lines blasted the boppin’ lick
out of car radios, transistor radios, and
home stereos, and into the collective
consciousness of the children of the
Summer of Love.
The twin-guitar attack of
Sweden’s Fredrik Nordin
and Tommi Holappa uncorks a barrage
of scary, undulating fuzz textures. No
Lead guitarist Ken Williams—
who took guitar lessons from
string maker Ernie Ball—used his ’58 Les
Paul to spew psychedelic spittle, while
co-guitarists Weasel Spagnola and Jim
Lowe surrounded the noise with churning,
swirling, tremoloed, and reversedelayed
madness. What a trip!
This Detroit psychedelic
band got nowhere
near the love showered on fellow Motor
City rockers the Stooges and the MC5,
but its version of “House of the Rising
Sun” is a voodoo charm of barking fuzz
and feedback, courtesy of guitarist Gary
Greenbaum may be a
certified one-hit wonder,
but what a smash! A
Telecaster with a homemade, built-in
fuzz circuit provided the sound for a
stomping track that may have inspired
’70s glam rockers, and still blares from
numerous films, television shows, and
Hendrix changed the
game for music fans and
musicians alike, and one of the first salvos
was this psychedelic, top-40 smash. To
summon the bold yet dreamy vibe, Jimi
plugged his Strat into a Fuzz Face and
an Octavia. What a sound! What a riff!
What a genius!
Allegedly transformed from
“In the Garden of Eden” to
“In a gadda da vida” by the band’s intoxicated
vocalist, Doug Ingle, things only got
stranger when Erik Braun’s spacey guitar
riffs and meandering organ and drum solos
pushed the song length to 17 minutes. Call
it the first psychedelic epic!
Ernie Isley’s ethereal
floats, stings, and soars. The tone was
likely a Strat, a Marshall, a Big Muff,
and a Maestro phase shifter.
Guitarist Steve Turner
loves fuzz so much that
he named the album after a couple of
his fave pedals—likely a tough choice,
as Turner reportedly brought truckloads
of fuzz boxes to studio sessions in order
to craft bigger, weirder, and more dangerous
whirlwinds of noise.
This full-on fuzz fest
starts with fuzz bass, then
adds a brutally buzzed-out
guitar riff (reportedly, a ’62 Gibson SG
Les Paul through a Z.Vex Fuzz Factory),
and, finally, as if the tones weren’t evil
enough, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy’s
voice is deep-fried in distortion.
Michael Rother’s soaring
ascending line over
a hypnotic “motorik”
beat is a blitzkrieg of awe and wonder,
as are the sputtering stabs and punches
that snake in and out of this six-minute-
plus hybrid of punk and Krautrock.
A truly stunning solo
that spits and snarls all
over an angelic arrangement of syrupy
strings and Karen and Richard Carpenter’s
pristinely layered vocals. Blasphemy!
Richard directed an initially
timid Peluso to “Go! Just burn!” So the
emboldened session guitarist plugged his
Gibson ES-335 into a Big Muff—which
was routed direct to the mixing board—
and kicked off, yes, the power ballad.
Arguably the prototypical
rockin’ fuzz lick,
Keef plugged into a Maestro Fuzz-Tone
FZ-1 seeking to emulate a horn for the
song’s intro. Strangely, he pretty much
abandoned fuzz when crafting his other
classic song riffs.
Ronson’s spellbinding intro and spiraling
verse and chorus lines harnessed the power
of his Les Paul, a Marshall, a Tone Bender,
and, at times, a wah. Kurt Cobain loved
the tune so much that Nirvana covered it
on their MTV Unplugged album in 1993.
If fuzz can be sexy, Marc
Bolan’s dancing intro riff
almost defines the bizarre
schizophrenia of glam rock. It’s simultaneously
macho, flirtatious, dumb,
clever, sweaty, stylish, and smeared with
This dirty ditty ain’t no
“Walk Don’t Run.” Powered
by a custom fuzz box made by Red
Rhodes, it’s the first rock song to use a fuzz
pedal. Sadly, the Ventures’ Don Wilson and
Nokie Edwards missed copping the “first
fuzz pedal on a record” award by one year.
Believe it or not, they were beat out by
session guitarist Billy Strange, who used
the Rhodes box on Ann Margaret’s 1961
song, “I Don’t Understand.”
What a gorgeous mess!
Jack White’s blistering and
crackling riffs practically
dance on the edge of destruction. White
used a “bass fuzz”—the Z.Vex Wooly
Mammoth—to annihilate his guitar tone.
Leave it to a tireless and
crafty innovator such as Jeff Beck to meld
an eastern motif with an exotic, flute-y
fuzz. Beck used a Fender Esquire through
a Sola Sound Tone Bender MkI to conjure
this cinematic brilliance.
No fuzz pedal involved
in this tone—just Neil’s
’59 tweed Deluxe cranked up to planetkilling
volume levels—but it’s one of the
most feral and frightening fuzz sounds
ever documented. If you’re considering
producing little ones someday, wearing
a protective lead apron while listening
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