Fuzz is like an evil, caterwauling banshee when compared to its more organic and relatively well-mannered siblings, Overdrive and Distortion. But fuzz is often the very effect you need when you desire some surprising, striking, or, well, insane textures for a track.
Obviously, the fuzz catalog is filled with a lot of Hendrix, Clapton, and Jeff Beck, but a few years back, we asked the Guitar Player Facebook community to choose some of their favorite fuzz solos that weren't performed by those legends.
The results below are the Top Five of the community's selections, and the collection shows just how varied, vibey, and gorgeously feral the glories of fuzz can be in the hands of different players. So check out the sounds and songs, grab yourself a bitchin' fuzz pedal, and write your own buzzy epic.
Pink Floyd fans often call this one of the greatest solos of all time, but even if you're not exactly an obsessed Floyd disciple, David Gilmour's beautifully edgy and soaring leads on "Comfortably Numb" are pretty stunning. He didn't go for psychedelic weirdness, but the aggro grit and gristle really blasts Gilmour's guitar lines out of the mix and into your head. This track was done with his black Fender Stratocaster, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, a Hiwatt DR103 head into a WEM speaker cabinet, and a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker.
"Goodbye to Love"
I'm glad that GP's Facebook friends picked this solo, because if fuzz stands for anything, it's to shout down the bland loveliness of soft rock with a howling snarl. Tony Peluso was the lead guitarist for the Carpenters, and while his fingers did the shrieking on this Richard and Karen Carpenter smash hit, it was actually the so-not-cool Richard who kicked up the noise, shouting at an initially timid Peluso to "GO! Just BURN!" The contrast between Peluso's angry roar — which starts at 1:22 in the song — and the syrupy strings and layered vocals is pure genius. Peluso plugged his Gibson ES-335 into an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, and then right into the mixing console (no amp) to arguably help birth the dreaded power ballad.
The smartly innovative White Stripes were a real breath of fresh air back in the mid 2000s, and Jack White's filthy, eccentric, and bizarre guitar tones brought our beloved 6-string back into the pop-culture spotlight for a brief spell. Gotta love the man for that, at least. On this track, his blistering and crackling riffs dance right on the edge of complete destruction. Apparently, White used his just-acquired 1957 Gretsch White Penguin, a Silvertone amp, and a “bass fuzz”— the Z.Vex Wooly Mammoth — to annihilate his guitar tone.
Just 17 years old — and allegedly only playing guitar for but a few months— Erik Brann was thrust into the mania that was Iron Butterfly to cut this legendary psychedelic epic. The story is that the band cut the track thinking the engineer was simply getting recording levels. Oops. That's the record, boys! They never liked the original take. Although I couldn't find a definitive signal path that Brann used in the studio, he is pictured at the time with a Mosrite guitar and Vox Super Beatle amps, and many believe that outrageous fuzz tone is from a Mosrite Fuzzrite.
"That Lady (Part 1 and 2)"
Well, you could say that Ernie Isley had a Hendrix obsession back in the '70s. He dressed the part, wearing bell bottoms, scarves, and a head band, and his tone certainly had echoes of the Hendrix mystique. (It should be noted here, that Hendrix played with the Isleys and lived in their home between 1963-1965.) For this Isley Brothers hit, Ernie's ethereal guitar is like dancing mercury, slinking throughout the track in its silky-buzzy-sustaining majesty. The tools were likely a Fender Strat (what else?), a Marshall amp, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff fuzz, and a Maestro phase shifter.