Per Gessle – Gessles nio i topp – Nine fuzzbox songs

Last Saturday Per Gessle and Sven Lindström discussed fuzzbox songs in Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio. First of all, the guys explain what fuzzbox is. It’s a device which distorts the sound of an electric guitar or other electric instrument. This technique popped up in the ’60s. Per says he chose this topic, because he has always been thinking about why we like certain sounds in music and why we don’t like others. Fuzzbox is an important thing in Mr. G’s life. He says the first albums he bought when he was a little boy, contained a lot of distorted guitar sounds. He finds it interesting why one likes fuzzboxes and distorted sounds. Sven adds it sometimes sounds like a killer bee, bzzzz and sometimes it’s crunchier when there is an amplifier.

Sven plays a short part of Marty Robbins’ song, Don’t Worry from 1961. There is a fuzz effect in it which Per finds fantastic. Sven mentions that in 1962 Phil Spector recorded the song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah with Bob B. Soxx and the technician pressed the wrong button, so it became a different distorted sound. Sven plays a bit of it and Per finds it wonderful. Mr. G says the fuzzy sound is only one of the many colors on the ’60s sound palette. One was looking for some unique sound to make the soundscape more interesting. Nowadays it’s much easier to distort the sound.

Per’s Top 9 fuzzbox songs

9.  David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
8. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
7. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
6. The Yardbirds – Heart Full Of Soul
5. The Beatles – Think For Yourself
4. The Animals – Don’t Bring Me Down
3. T.Rex – 20th Century Boy
2. Ola & The Janglers – Poetry In Motion
1. The Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running

No. 9 on the list is David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream from the Ziggy Stardust album (1972). Per says here it’s more about Mick Ronson than David Bowie why he picked this song. There is a fantastic distorted tone in his guitar. On all the albums they worked together one can recognize it’s Mick Ronson playing the guitar. He most often used Gibson Les Paul. Sven mentions Moonage Daydream came out already before Ziggy Stardust, Bowie recorded it with his band Arnold Corns.

Next on the list is Purple Haze from Jimi Hendrix. The guys agree that the ’60s fuzzbox sounds were more authentic than the ’80s fuzzy sounds. The intro of this song is so cool, one couldn’t hear anything like that before. It was released as a single in spring of 1967. When in December 1966 Hendrix was in the studio in London with Chas Chandler and Chas heard the riff, he said it would be the next single. Sven asks Per why he put this song so high on his list and if he was hooked on Jimi Hendrix. Per replies he can’t say so, but he liked Jimi’s hit singles, e.g. Hey Joe or The Wind Cries Mary. One can realize what a pioneer Hendrix was. When the Woodstock film came out it was magical to watch Jimi playing the guitar. Even though he was a rock star, in 1967 Hendrix was very much pop. He was trying to make black music for white audience. There was a lot of rhythm & blues and soul in his music, but also pop.

After the song Sven asks Per if he remembers when he got hold of his first fuzzbox. Mr. G says it was the same day he bought his first guitar in 1977 or 1978. It was a Maestro Fuzz and there were 2 fuzz modes on it: 1 and 2. Mode 1 was nice and mode 2 was awesome. The problem was that it occupied a huge space in the soundscape, so one couldn’t hear anything else.

It’s The Rolling Stones turn on the list. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction from 1965 is the next song and Sven says he thinks the first time he heard a fuzzbox sound was on this one. Per says it’s a fuzzbox signature song with its immortal riff. Sven says The Rolling Stones recorded ICGNS in Hollywood on May 12 and released it on 6th June in the US. It became an instant superhit. That’s why Sven can’t understand why they waited so many weeks with the UK release on 20th August. Per thinks maybe they had another single in England. Sven says they released The Last Time in the UK before that as a single, but one must add that they also released a live EP, Got Live If You Want It! in June. So because of that their biggest hit had to wait 10 weeks to be released. As Per is reading about the song, he realizes and proudly states that Keith Richards also used a Maestro fuzzbox on ICGNS. Don’t miss Per singing at the end of the song. Haha. Sven asks Mr. G if he knows which song dethroned ICGNS on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. Per doesn’t know, so Sven tells it was I’m Henry VIII, I Am from Herman’s Hermits.

The guys play a little quiz. Sven says the song titles that were in the Top10 on Swedish Radio (Tio i topp) in August 1965 when ICGNS was No. 1 and Per has to find out the bands. Help! was No. 2 from The Beatles and No. 3 was Mr. Tambourine Man from The Byrds. No. 4 We Gotta Get out of This Place from The Animals. No. 5. I Got You Babe from Sonny & Cher. No. 6. Wooly Bully from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. No. 7 I’m Henry VIII, I Am from Herman’s Hermits. No. 8 Bald Headed Woman from Hep Stars. No. 9 One More Time from Them (this is the only song Per couldn’t match a band with, but he realized it was Van Morrison’s group). No. 10 I’m Alive from The Hollies.

Song No. 6 on Per’s fuzz sound list is Heart Full Of Soul from The Yardbirds. Mr. G asks Sven if he likes The Yardbirds. Mr. Lindström says they are not his favourite, even if several phenomenal guitarists played in the band. Per says HFOS is the first single with Jeff Beck on guitar, but also Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page played in the band. They worked with outsider producers, e.g. Mickie Most on their singles. HFOS was produced by Giorgio Gomelsky and written by Graham Gouldman who was a teenager songwriter. He was only 18-19 years old when he wrote this song and many others for English bands. He wrote e.g. Look Through Any Window, Bus Stop, For Your Love. Mr. G thinks he is a complete mystery that at such a young age he could write such songs. Sven asks Per if he had the HFOS single. Mr. G says his brother had the Shapes of Things single, nothing else from The Yardbirds. But one could listen to it on Tio i topp and record it, before Pirate Bay existed. The guys are talking a bit about producer Giorgio Gomelsky who owned the Crawdaddy Club in London where The Rolling Stones were the house band. After The Rolling Stones became so big, he hired The Yardbirds as the house band.

The next song includes a fuzz bass, Think For Yourself from The Beatles’ 1965 album, Rubber Soul. It was written by George Harrison and it was Per’s favourite song from the album when he was a child. It’s one of Sven’s favourites too, but there are many others, e.g. Drive My Car or Girl. Per mentions In My Life too. Sven tells Paul McCartney used a Rickenbacker on TFY instead of his usual Höfner violin bass, because that sounded a bit better. Per is thinking again why one likes this fuzzed sound and he says it jumps out all the time and it works like a magnet, you want to listen to it again and again. It’s a nice song, but the distorted bass sound gives it a little aggression and makes it a little rougher. Sven tells he heard in an interview with George Harrison that the fuzzbox sound was not inspired by The Rolling Stones, but he credited Phil Spector’s production of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah by Bob B. Soxx.

Don’t Bring Me Down is next from The Animals from 1966. It was written by songwriters who worked at Brill Building in New York, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Per thinks the guitar sound in it is damn good. Sven says it was a new sound for The Animals, a little tougher. Their producer was Mickie Most at the time, but they changed him for Tom Wilson, who also produced Bob Dylan. According to Per, Goffin and King was one of the ’60s biggest songwriter teams. Sven adds it feels like The Animals were on their way out from the R&B world towards something else. Per is hooked on the fuzz sound on DBMD.

No. 3 on the list is 20th Century Boy from T. Rex from 1973. It was recorded in Tokyo while the band was on tour. Per thinks T. Rex is the world’s strangest duo with Marc Bolan who did everything except for hand clapping and playing the conga. Mickey Finn did that. Sven says conga was a popular instrument in the ’70s. Per laughs and says it was for Osibisa and Santana. 20th Century Boy had its revival in the ’90s when it was used in a commercial.

No. 2 is a song from a Swedish band, Ola & The Janglers. Poetry In Motion was released in 1966 on the album Lime Light. Claes ”Clabbe” af Geijerstam plays fuzz guitar on it. He does an awesome job, he is a fantastic guitarist. Sven says the band wrote the soundtrack to the ’60s and back then he thought Ola & The Janglers, The Mascots and Hep Stars were as good as… maybe not The Beatles, but they were very good. Mr. G thinks Ola & The Janglers made several very good albums and Ola Håkansson had a great voice, while ”Clabbe” af Geijerstam wrote great songs and drummer Leif Johansson was one of their strengths too. Sven says the keyboard guy was also good. The guys are playing the quiz again. When Poetry In Motion was No. 1 on Tio i topp in October 1966, the other songs in the Top5 were: No. 2 Just Like A Woman from Manfred Mann, No. 3. Little Man from Sonny & Cher, No. 4 The Kids Are Alright from The Who, No. 5 All Or Nothing from Small Faces.

Keep On Running is Per’s No. 1 fuzzbox song from The Spencer Davis Group. Mr. G says it’s actually a reggae song written by Jackie Edwards. When you are listening to Edwards’ version you are wondering how the arrangement became how it is on The Spencer Davis Group’s version. Per thinks the guitar sound in it is incomparable, you want to listen to it again and again. Steve Winwood on lead guitar was only 17 when they recorded Keep On Running. Per thinks the band was awesome. They had hits like I’m a Man, Somebody Help Me (also written by Jackie Edwards), Gimme Some Lovin’.