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10 Stompboxes That Changed the World

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10 Stompboxes That Changed the World

A pristine specimen of a circa-’66 Sola Sound Tone Bender Mk II. Photo courtesy of Macari’s Musical Instruments

3. Jimmy Pages Sola Sound Tone Bender MK II

In the 2009 documentary It Might Get Loud, Jimmy Page remembers telling Roger Mayer that he was looking to get more sustain out of his guitar, so Mayer went off and invented the Tone Bender. The only thing is, it was actually engineer Gary Hurst who designed the little wedge-shaped box in 1965 (it was almost 50 years ago—so we can give the former Yardbird and Zep man a break!). Hurst licensed his creation to Sola Sound in London, and pretty soon blues-rock bands all over England were getting a deep, juicy sustain out of their solos. As Page told the local fanzine Hit Parader in 1968 (shortly before he founded Led Zeppelin), “I get 75 percent of my sound with [the Tone Bender]. It’s very similar to a fuzz box, but I can sustain notes for several minutes if I want to.”

Page’s guitar on the first Zep album seems to cook from the inside out with a signature Tone Bender sound (speculation says the MK II model), most notably on “Dazed and Confused” and “You Shook Me.” The unit’s appearances became less obvious on subsequent Zep recordings, but its association with Page was etched in stone. “It was this phenomenal thing,” he marvels in It Might Get Loud, “a distortion pedal that could make the guitar sound pretty rude.”

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