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An original 1967 Arbiter Fuzz Face. Photo courtesy of Starman1984
2. Jimi Hendrix's Arbiter Fuzz Face
As Frank Zappa told readers of Life magazine’s “The New Rock” issue in June 1968, the only way aspiring guitarists could even hope to sound like Jimi Hendrix was to “buy a Fender Stratocaster, an Arbiter Fuzz Face, a Vox wah-wah pedal, and four Marshall amplifiers”—and even then, of course, nothing was guaranteed. Shaped like the round, cast-iron base of a microphone stand, the Fuzz Face was a simple and durable unit that delivered gain and distortion with a vengeance. It was produced by Arbiter Electronics in London and went to market in the fall of ’66—perfect timing for Hendrix, who had just arrived in England and was wide open to trying the latest gadgets, no matter how experimental (as Roger Mayer, inventor of the famed Octavia pedal, found out when the two met the following spring).
“Love or Confusion,” from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut Are You Experienced, is the first recorded instance of his use of the Fuzz Face, but the best example on the album is probably “I Don’t Live Today,” where the lower reaches of his tone actually start to break apart into shards of pure, controlled noise, years before anyone even thought to overdrive a guitar to such extremes.