The Beatles: I Feel Fine – The very first use of feedback on a rock record.

ON THIS DATE (47 YEARS AGO)
October 18, 1964…The Beatles recorded “I Feel Fine” which includes the earliest example of the use of feedback as a recording effect.


At the time of the song’s recording, the Beatles, having mastered the studio basics, had begun to explore new sources of inspiration in noises previously eliminated as mistakes (such as electronic goofs, twisted tapes, and talkback). “I Feel Fine” marks the earliest example of the use of feedback as a recording effect. Artists such as The Kinks and The Who had already used feedback live, but Lennon remained proud of the fact that the Beatles were the first group to actually put it on vinyl.
The intro to “I Feel Fine” starts with a single, percussive (yet pure-sounding) feedback note produced by plucking the A string on Lennon’s guitar. This was the very first use of feedback on a rock record. According to McCartney, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified… We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it… it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.”

While sounding very much like an electric guitar, Lennon played it on an acoustic-electric guitar (a Gibson model J-160E), employing the guitar’s onboard pickup and 1960s sound effect devices to make the acoustic guitar sound more electronic. The intro riff around a D major chord progresses to a C, then a G, where the G major vocals begin. Just before the coda, Lennon’s intro riff (or ostinato), is repeated with a bright sound by George Harrison on electric guitar (a Gretsch Tennessean), followed by the more “electric” sound of John’s amped acoustic.

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