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Why'd they stay "clean" so long?
153 Posts
10 November 2012 - 5.55am

I'm not referring to drugs, but rather their guitar sound. While there's no argument that The Beatles were incredibly innovative, one place where it seems they lagged behind their rivals/contemporaries was that they really waited until Revolver to start cranking the gain.


I've also noticed that their 1965 and 1966 live sound was a lot "heavier" than their studio sound, though this might be an inadvertent result of cranking the amps in order to be heard.


I'm not complaining, "heaviness" isn't everything (Their "folk" period is actually my favorite), and I like the pre-1966 clean, "twangy"/"jangly" (or "muddy" in the case of the Ric 325) guitar sound, I'm just curious as to why they seemed to stick with it for so long.

Ben Ramon
612 Posts
10 November 2012 - 12.33pm

I've always been impressed by the band's ability in the early days to convey power, anger, urgency and, well, sheer balls-to-the-wall rock and roll without any distortion or particularly "heavy" guitars, but I see your point. I think they only really considered its potential after the famous feedback incident that led to the opening of I Feel Fine, and after that Day Tripper, Paperback Writer etc came quite naturally.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'

187 Posts
10 November 2012 - 9.45pm

Great topic

I've wondered this myself. Keith Richards has mention it too actually, saying he felt George sounded too "thin" on the Gretch in the early days (I don't think it's the guitar. I have a Gretch and love it). Personally the early stuff (pre Rubber Soul) took me a bit longer to get into because of the lack of distortion. I now see that I was, in a word, stupid. When you can crank out rock n' roll without the distortion then you are truly playing the ass off those guitars.

A square is not a square when the sides are less than four...

153 Posts
11 November 2012 - 1.30am

Upon further review, I believe that I'm Looking Through You is actually the first Beatles song with a purposely distorted guitar, followed by Day Tripper (George plays two guitars, the left-channel is distorted and the right-channel is clean. This is most evident on the U.S. stereo mix on "Yesterday... And Today!" which begins with only the distorted guitar, before being joined by the clean one).

There was accidental "fuzz" distortion on John's guitar in the song Chains two years previously (it's on-and-off throughout the song), but it was apparently the result of a bad guitar cable. George's solo on Slow Down is also right on the cusp of distorting.

Inside an Apple Orchard in a Letterbox
2815 Posts
12 November 2012 - 4.51am

Apparently John experimented with a fuzzbox in 1963, for some song during the WTB sessions, but they were getting too much feedback and distortion and ultimately abandoned it.

1963 was pretty early in the game, considering that the fuzzbox first appeared on record in 1962.

I remember George saying 'Blimey, he's always talking about “Yesterday”, you'd think he was Beethoven or somebody' - Paul McCartney

153 Posts
12 November 2012 - 8.24pm

I actually remember reading about that, now that you bring it up. I wonder if any recordings of those sessions exist.


Additionally, Girl apparently had a fuzz guitar on it at some point, but it was (thankfully) dropped in the final mix (Although I am very curious as to how it was worked in there...)


19087 Posts
13 November 2012 - 12.57am

vonbontee said
Apparently John experimented with a fuzzbox in 1963, for some song during the WTB sessions, but they were getting too much feedback and distortion and ultimately abandoned it.

1963 was pretty early in the game, considering that the fuzzbox first appeared on record in 1962.

Was it not in Beatles Gear and the song was She Loves You? Probably wrong but thats the memory i have of a discussion on this site.


Edit: It was Don't Bother Me. From the 'Looking for funny/interesting alternate takes' thread (post #3).

meanmistermustard said

The fuzz box was used on early takes of Dont Bother Me but these have never been bootleg or officially released – yet.

Chapter 6

"Early studio effects
Continuing with their relentless schedule of live gigs, television appearances and radio shows, The Beatles found time to get into Abbey Road studio 2 again to continue work for their second LP, With The Beatles. On September 11th and 12th they recorded 'All I've Got To Do', 'Not A Second Time', 'Don't Bother Me', 'Little Child' and 'I Wanna Be Your Man'. Lennon and McCartney had written the latter song just days before and given it to The Rolling Stones, who also recorded it, as the a-side of their second single. Gibson's Maestro Fuzz-Tone distortion box, first experimented with by the group on the 'She Loves You' sessions a few months earlier, was tried again, this time by Lennon on early takes of 'Don't Bother Me', but again it did not make the final issued version.
A journalist present at the session reported that the first take was not too successful. "When they had rearranged the opening bars, John produced a fuzz box … John was knocked out with the result, but George Martin wasn't too happy. 'You'll have to do something, John,' said Martin. 'It's already distorting from the amplifier. Do you think it sounds OK? Are you sure about it?'" The vote went against the fuzz box. Harrison, the report continued, asked engineer Norman Smith,"                    

                                                                 Copyright BEATLES GEAR by Andy Babiuk

(found that on the web so apologies if incorrect)

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

"Don't make your love suffer insecurities; Trade the baggage of "self" to set another one free" ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)

Von Bontee
A Hole In The Road
2829 Posts
13 November 2012 - 8.55pm

Thanks meanm - I had a vague recollection that it was in fact you who provided that information originally, but couldn't remember which thread.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!"
-- Paul McCartney

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