I’m not terribly familiar with the subject.
Charles J. Moss

Well, I might start off putting it in a strange context: Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock worked together in the 1960’s, Herbie played for Miles’s quartet. They’re both great, I mean fantastic musicians, and worked quite well together, but approached it from very different viewpoints. Miles was all about live performance, loved boxing. Herbie believes he could create, synthesize any sound Miles could play, so he’s not just about the session and jam but the recording, producing, processing. The tension between them and their competition leads to Acid Jazz, a major influence on hip-hop. But the point in this context is, Miles believed he could play anything, in a quartet or trio, which Herbie could with his synth and vice versa.

So, harmonic resonance (which in physics refers to the frequency at which any object oscillates) is usually referred to specifically with rock music as reverberation, or reverb for short (but which can also involve feedback, which some musicians such as Kurt Cobain and Neil Young turned into an art form in its own right), is a mathematical formula whereby two notes played simultaneously an octave apart will overlap such that their frequency coincides leading to a doubling of their amplitude (height of wave form, associated with, think amp, loudness). It’s been a while since I studied either tablas or ragas or played a sitar and even longer since I studied sound engineering (I worked at Maxwell’s for a while why I was DJing late night at WCPR, uncredited soundboard and production on a Black Francis show with Joey Santiago). So, I probably, you know, carried the two or messed up the subtraction, but the physics of sound behind the reverb effect, harmonic resonance of the drone of the sitar (the back strings behind the ones which are played, which vibrate in harmony and sort of sound like a buzz) is well documented.

I’m fascinated by Les Paul (see: Les Paul & Mary Ford; YouTube) by Dick Dale, by Little Richard and by his influence on Jimi Hendrix (another great story) and the aforementioned dynamic between Herbie and Miles. It goes without saying between Ravi & George.

I’m also fascinated by the mod rocker battle portrayed in Quadrophonia, how quad sound in the 70’s as produced by Alan Parsons influences progrock and leads to Dolby and surround sound. Quad featured discrete channels, and in addition to Parsons the Grateful Dead and their guitar tech roadie LSD supplier Bear was working on something called the Wall of Sound, an 11 channel system (generally add one to the number of speakers, so Dolby 5.1 was made for three speakers and a subwoofer) with four channels alone for Bobby’s base.

The point was that some musicians were interested in producing a live-show, think Boston, which was the replica of the album. Others were interested in recreating the studio or live experience in the home, Parsons.

Apple records famously was suing Jobs for years and keeping their catalog off iTunes, everyone knows about that. But Apple had a little known side project for the Beatles called Zapple records. They made a Zappa movie, 200 Motels, but also produced George’s first solo release (I think, not fact checked) 1969 maybe; actually I’m not sure the year either. But I read recently something amusing which I’m not sure is true, that apparently he just went into a store to test it out, the guy who was selling it was furious- probably retelling this part incorrectly but something to the effect of, well anyone could do that. I mean, sure, but not everyone is George Harrison, right?

But in terms of rock going electric from the 50’s to 60’s, I think that Between the Buttons by the Stones is important, too, in the transition from Motown pop 45 AM mono to concept album LP 78 stereo FM (and then onto quad and prog and Dolby and surround and hip hop) but I agree that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is something more: revolutionary, outside music, art, cultural turning point.

I could go on about TM and tabla time signatures but I’ve probably gone off topic and lost the thread. As far as I know Vox is considered a great brand, think Gibson guitar, and the Vox amp is sometimes known amongst musicians as a Beatle or super Beatle. The Vox V847 is the classic wah wah, also Vox: did the Beatles have a contract or just favor the brand?

You might want to refer to the fantastic rock doc It Might Get Loud (2008) featuring Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page explaining their takes on the history of the guitar and how they produce their music. Jack White builds an electric guitar: great, great stuff. But there is no real reason why the wah wah became so popular, except then there’s Herbie trying to produce sounds you can’t produce traditionally, Les Paul producing new ways to record and produce music, a change to a fuller richer sound from AM mono to the Dead’s Bear’s Cow Palace Wall of Sound, and then of course the Fab Four tuning in, turning on and dropping out with acid, and George’s spiritual search, through music, for a higher plane. In the Hindi tradition, the Om is the breath of god.

As one makes the meditative sound Om, it requires you use all of the muscles from the diaphragm to the lips, the perfect sound, and it supposedly opens each of your chakras. The last part of Om is supposed to be produced outside your lips, and reverberate in front of you, and opens the crown chakra. A whole room can vibrate.

Did George get turned on to TM and LSD first, or exposed to reverberation through the wah wah first, they were using Vox since at least 1964, but I’m not sure when they started using reverb. Certainly they use reverb on Norwegian Wood (1965) and the sitar. But does the 70’s popularity of the wah wah owe a debt to George, Vox and something that happened during this period? Is it all just coincidence, I don’t know. I’ve just always assumed it wasn’t but don’t have any facts to support that assertion. More just a feeling.

Also, I’d often heard rumors about Hendrix and Little Richard, which I took with a grain of salt, neither here nor there with regards to this issue, but just to fact check myself I just noticed that is in contention? Not sure.

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