I want to thank Squarespace for helping make this video possible head on over to Squarespace column slash Polyphonic to get 10% off your first purchase there are a few sounds in all of music more iconic than a distorted guitar from Chuck Berry’s opening lick on Johnny be good through Jimmy Page’s electric black dog or angus young’s thunderous back in black all the way to Jack White’s crunchy fell in love with the girl distortion is synonymous with rock and roll in fact when many people think of the electric guitar the sound that comes into their head is Distortion rather than the instrument clean it’s really not a stretch to say that distortion helped make music what it is today but what exactly is distortion and where did it come from let’s take a closer look distortion can really describe a number of different processes but all of them are achieving the same outcome manipulating an instruments waveform to change the sound any kind of amplification device has a limit to the length of sound waves that can put out when you start to push past that limit the device will compress the edges of the sound waves which messes with the sound and a lot of recording distortion is actually something to be avoided for example if I crank up my voice over like this it distorts and makes me rather unpleasant to listen to however it turns out that exact process sounds pretty cool when you do it to a guitar guitarist first started to figure this out in the 1940s back then they used vacuum tube amplifiers these vacuum tubes could only take so much electricity going through them guitarist discovered that if you cranked the volume on your amp the power flowing through it would push it into overdrive and the vacuum tubes would compress the sound wave so that they wouldn’t break the result was shifting a smooth clean guitar sound into something with more grit and growl this kind of distortion is aptly named overdrive and it quickly became the rage in the late 1940s and early 1950s we don’t really know who the first to do it is but we do know that one of the early pioneers of this distortion was named junior Bernard Bernard was the lead guitarist for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys he was an aggressive player who was trying to push a sound into something grittier and earthier to reflect the country blues he played for a perfect example of this Distortion check out Bernard blues guitarists all over heard Bernards sound and latched on experimenting with distortion on their own one of these was Gauri Carter who filled his track Rock awhile with intense funds [Music] another artist that dabbled in distortion was Howlin wolf for example just check out the fuzzy lick on 1951 s how many more years [Music] earlier in 1951 jackie brenston and his delta cats had released rocket 88 a song that some qualify as the first rock-and-roll recording that song featured willie Khazar ripping a wicked distorted guitar riff though legend has it his distortion came by accident there’s conflicting stories as to how but everyone seems to agree on the basic facts kiss arts amp got damaged while the band was on the road to try to fix it he stuffed balls of newspaper into it hoping to hold the speaker cone in and the result was unintentional Distortion but producer sam phillips loved the sound and so he leaned into it [Music] this started a trend that would continue through the 1950s guitarists sabotaging their amplifiers to create their own Distortion one of these was Link Wray who stabbed his amp speaker cone with a pencil to give it a heavy gritty sound you can hear that in a track like Rumble which was so intense for the time that it got banned from airplay because people thought it would incite gang fights [Music] [Applause] this was a bad time to be a speaker cone in 1964 Dave Davies took a razor and ambushed his cone to create the guitar sound of you really got me [Music] by this time musicians had realized what distortion was capable of and people started to look for new ways to do it without destroying their amps that’s where the fuzz box comes in in 1961 Marty Robbins bassist Grady Martin played through a mixing board with a faulty connection the result was a sludgy heavy bass solo that cut through a warm country song [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] recording engineer Glenn T snotty took this sound and reverse engineered it by figuring out where the circuit was faulty he was able to create a small box that could recreate the sound the fuzz box in addition to letting musicians play the sound without annihilating their equipment it also allowed guitarists to turn distortion on and off with the stomp of a foot in its early days fuzz box sales were lukewarm but then a guitarist by the name of Keith Richards decided to try one out and tore out one of the greatest riffs of all time satisfaction [Music] this riff single-handedly vaulted the fuzz box into common usage and soon enough imitators were coming and creating their own take on the equipment one of the first to do so was Ivar arbiter who created the arbiter fuzz-face a young man named Jimi Hendrix picked up one of these and used it on his band’s debut album when are you experienced opened with the manic psychedelic distortion of Purple Haze there was no turning back [Music] thanks to his guitar tech Roger mayor Hendrix would continue to innovate with Distortion playing around with new combinations of amps and fuzz boxes to push distortion like none before him and following Hendrix we would see countless innovators in distortion throughout the 70s and 80s it was a race to see who could push music into the grittiest loudest territory and distortion became essential to the growing genres of hard rock metal and punk today it’s not uncommon to see guitarists like John Frusciante or the edge layer all kinds of different post-processing and distortion to create that perfect sound distortion is the lifeblood of rock and roll it helped birth the genre and then it allowed it to explode in popularity and change music forever and it all happened because of a few lucky accidents this video is brought to you by Squarespace head on over to squarespace.com slash polyphonic to start your free trial and use the offer code polyphonic to get 10% off your first purchase if you want to make a website for your band blog business or really anything else in your life Squarespace is the place for you it’s an all-in-one platform where you can use designer templates to build your own website they’ve got award-winning 24/7 customer service and a really user-friendly interface I’m a big fan of Squarespace and I just used their platform to build a new website where I’ll be hosting all kinds of playlists it’s gonna be a great resource for viewers who wonder what song I played or want to get more into the topics that I touch on I don’t have a ton of background in web design and honestly it was really seamless and easy to make it slick looking web site it was all drag-and-drop and it was really intuitive to integrate the playlists right into the web site so head on over to squarespace.com slash polyphonic to start your free trial today and remember use the offer code polyphonic to show them that I sent you and you’ll get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain [Music]

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. To know about the origins of the distorted guitar sound – read Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography (and yes – it's to do with Rocket 88)

  2. you forgot the bluesmen- elmore james use to crank his amps for slide-little walter among others use to overdrive their harmonicas, look to those guys 1st

  3. I used to drink in a bar in Surbiton (Black Lion) and there was a guy called Roger who occasionally came in and had a quick one. I knew he made guitar effects boxes but it was only after reading a BBC article about the history of the electric guitar that I came to find that he was quite a luminary and influential on the 60s guitar distortion sound. After watching this vid to see if he showed up at all I find in one quick easily lost sentence that HE WAS HENDRIX'S GUITAR TECH!!!!!! OMG!

  4. I love listening to this imagining I'm back then hearing distorted guitar for the first time. Its freaky.

  5. Ever since I first heard that grimy opening riff of Satisfaction by the Stones I fell in love. It was such a more primal and pure sound than any grunge or metal I've listened to
    Fantastic video man

  6. As the son of one of the head programmers of digitech, I can verify that distortion may be one of the best things to ever happen to experimental music. Excellent work on this content!

  7. I tried this with one of my old amps, and I sadly didn’t get something like that. But hey at least the amp still works 😂

  8. Rumble is a dead serious, it sounds ahead of its time, something like from the late 60's

  9. Tubes won't "break". They operate well in overdrive. That's why guitarists still love them, and their even-harmonic distortion.

  10. jack white ??? they could have named evh among others, I do not think that this is up to it, it is one more among thousands

  11. I read one band from the 60's stuck knitting needles through the speaker grill but I forgot who it was.

  12. A young man named Jimmy Hendrix picked up one of these and used it on his band's debut album. When Are You Experienced opened with the psychedelic distortion of Purple Haze.. there was no turning back…🔥🔥🔥

  13. No mention of Charlie Christian, who was almost certainly the actual originator of distorted guitar, back in the mid 1930s. He was playing the embryonic electric guitar in jazz bands, where he had to keep up volumewise with brass instruments. As the amps of the time were limited to maybe 10-15W, and he was soloing, he had to be running his amp pretty much flat out just to be heard. There are live recordings dating back to 1939 of Christian soloing, and while his tone isn't as distorted as many of those who followed, it is by no means "clean".

  14. The fuzz tone was not marketed to give you the distorted tone. It was marketed to make your guitar sound d like brass instruments. The only reason we have the satisfaction riff is because the rolling Stones couldn't find a horn player

  15. When George Harrison was making his first solo album the producer was listening to the recording when it was nice and clean and George came in and said “great now distort it”

  16. You didn't even play the original Link Wray. MARTY ROBBINS, and the God of Heavy Metal: Dick Dale; who worked with Jimi and so many others. To provide push this video into the seventies without reminding us of the early 60's and the innovative works of so many is heresy.

  17. I wasted so much time reading amp reviews before realizing that these guys never even TRIED the amps clean at all. I play mostly clean.

  18. "back then, people used tube amps"

    watch a live performance from any band now and you'll notice they're using tube amps.

  19. I just got delivered the Plasma Pedal by Gamechanger Audio. Its like a distortion pedal made by Dr Frankenstein! It has like a lightning bolt running through it that is shown in a little clear window & its gated too. Its pretty expensive but cool as fuck so I treated myself for my birthday. My friends always used to give me shit for putting distortion on everything! Lol. Gotta love the dirt!!

  20. Even in places like Abbey Road in the 50s & early 60s the studio guys used to wear white lab coats & distortion was a dirty word. Lol. Then Dave Davies stabbed his speaker cone to fuck with a pencil! I believe Link Wray used to slash his with a razorblade for stuff like Rumble? Using his blade in a more constructive fashion! Lol.

  21. Of course a song called "Rumble" that was released in the 50s would be banned for precaution of starting gang fights

  22. Coool vid as always
    Listen to the 1947 unreleased track by Johnnie Temple "Olds 98" for one of the first distorted electric guitars on record

  23. Rock Awhile recorded 1949 sure is more firstyyyy than Jackie Brenston 1951 to put out a rock´n roll song 🙂

  24. 4:34
    Can you imagine thinking that this is so agressive and intense that it could start a gang fight nowadays?

  25. Industry insider and effects pedal builder Josh Scott discusses the history of distortion here:

    I love the old '70s opamp distortion pedals. The modern ones leave me cold.

    Ike Turner's influence on the early days of production and effects is often overlooked. He may have been an asshole, but he was an intelligent, talented asshole.

  26. Wait a minute, its supposed to be Bob WILLIS and his texas playboys. that goddamn Mandela effect strikes again

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