Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

The Mighty Wah


“Vox’s fabulous new wah-wah pedal opens the door to a variety of great new sounds!”

So says this epoch-defining trade ad from 1967. “Make your guitar grrrrowl! Make it sound like a see-tar! Listen to the funky bass guitar sounds you get!”

wah wah vox 2

Vox Wah-Wah Ad (5 minutes long and worth listening to every minute):

The wah-wah was created by happy accident, when Vox engineers got the circuitry mixed up in a new range of Beatles-inspired amps they were producing. Realising they’d just created an electronic version of the effect jazz trumpeters had pioneered in the 20s by muting their horn with a hat, they seized on the potential and began producing wah-wah pedals.

hendrix wah

Almost immediately, guitar players saw their appeal. Jimi Hendrix was an early adopter of the effect – Up From the Skies on Axis: Bold As Love was one of the first tracks recorded with a wah-wah, and from then on in, it featured heavily in Jimi’s incendiary output. The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, All Along The Watchtower, Voodoo Chile (of course) – all featured the screamin’ sound of the wah. There he is above, quite literally rockin’ the wah.

Before long, no self-respecting psychedelic act was without a wah-wah, and the the pedal became an integral part of the sound of the era. As a general rule of thumb, the wider the flares, the wilder the wah. The Electric Prunes even went as far as endorsing the effect.

Electric Prunes Vox Wah Wah Ad

george harrison 1970

George Harrison, newly freed from the shackles of The Beatles and with a sackful of songs he was eager to release under his own name employed Vox’s pedal on the self-explanatory Wah-Wah from 1970’s All Things Must Pass.

George HarrisonWah-Wah

It’s a cracking track, almost throwaway pop, although it maybe buckles a wee bit under the pressure of Phil Spector’s over the top production. Sleigh bells? Aye! 35 backing singers? Of course! More brass than a colliery band? Well, it is being produced by Spector. A multitude of guitar tracks?  Well, it is being played by George Harrison. The main riff is suitably Eastern-influenced, a call and response one chord groove that swaggers like Muhammad Ali in the 15th round. It soars with each key change, guitars free-forming over the top while the original riff underpins the whole thing. George even has the cheek to steal the chorus from that Vox ad at the top there. Listen again to the last 30 seconds. Who noticed?!? Kula Shaker certainly did – George’s track practically gives birth to the daft four-piece, but don’t hold that against him.  Om shanti shanti shanti.

wah wah vox

By the 70s, the wah-wah was being employed to great effect by the soul community. Curtis Mayfield….Sly Stone….The Temptations….they all had wah-heavy records out. Rather than solo, (that would be far too ‘rock’), the players created the distinctive wacka-wacka sound that’s now become the ubiquitous sound of the wah-wah. Y’know, Theme From ‘Shaft’ ‘n all that.

Temptation Dennis Edwards, far left, and cast members party at the Gordy Mansion, April 13, 1970. (Motown Record Corp.)
Temptation Dennis Edwards, far left, and cast members party at the Gordy Mansion, April 13, 1970. (Motown Record Corp.)

Here‘s the lesser-known (by Shaft standards at any rate) Psychedelic Shack from The Temptations:

Since then, the wah-wah pedal has featured on all sorts of tracks by all sorts of musicians, from Joni Mitchell and John Martyn to Metallica and The Melvins. It’s reassuring to know that in any given record collection, you’re never more than 30cm from a track featuring a wah-wah.

john squire

Here’s Fools Gold, of course….the full-length version, of course…

Stone RosesFools Gold

fools gold tab


Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Sampled, studio outtakes

Ingredients in a recipe for soul

Who says we don’t do requests? Regular reader Big Stuff emailed to ask for some Bobby Womack and such stuff in a soulful vain. So for him and every other soul brother or sister out there, read on.

Firstly, not Bobby Womack, but The Temptations. ‘Ball Of Confusion’ is a stone cold funk/soul classic, in any of it’s various forms. Five-part harmonies backed by the Funk Brothers is always going to be a winning combination in anyone’s book. Released on the ‘Psychedelic Shack’ album in1970 it took the sound of The Temptations onto a whole other level. Here‘s an unreleased alternative mix of the version you know and love.


If that version is on a whole other level then this version takes the original 4 and a half minutes of funk and propels it into the stratosphere. At 10 minutes + (!), the 1971 Undisputed Truth version is the one that does it for me every time. Every time. The Undisputed Truth was essentially a nom de plume for in-house Motown producer Norman Whitfield. He was getting tired of the Motown sound he had helped make so ubiquitous, and with a love for Sly Stone, Parliament, Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic and so on, decided he was going to create a similar sound for himself. He took The Temptations basic backing tracks, got in a couple of singers and got to work.


His take on ‘Ball Of Confusion’ features phased, fried and wah-wah-ed guitars, “Right on…take me higher” vocals, the greatest 3 note bassline ever and quite possibly the goddam kitchen sink. Basically, Whitfield took The Temptations out of Detroit and put them on a Greyhound bus with a one-way ticket to flare city. Listen to it with loud with the lights out and prepare to fry yer mind.


The Undisputed Truth

You might be surprised to learn this, but Bobby Womack was the writer of the Rolling Stones 1964 hit ‘It’s All Over Now’. Or maybe you knew that already. You probably do know that his track ‘Across 110th Street’ was used in Tarantino’s blaxploitation homage ‘Jackie Brown’. And you’re probably also aware that it was also used in the 1972 film of the same name. (110th Street, not Jackie Brown)The soundtrack for the film features 3 versions of the same track. The first one is the one you know and love. The other 2 are more interesting. Firstly, there’s an instrumental version that sounds like the incidental music in a long-forgotten episode of Starsky & Hutch. It also sounds like the funkiest elevator muzak you could ever wish for. It’d sound great on Celebrity Come Dancing. Honestly.


There’s also Across 110th Street (Part II). Featuring minimum vocals and maximum brass stabs and wah-wah, it should get those ants in yer pants a-dancin’. Get on the good foot!


D’you want to hear my Louis Walsh impression? Read this with an Irish accent….

“Y’know what? You’ve got a lotta soul in your voice, a lot of soul.” Sheeesh. The word ‘soul‘ is bandied about these days in front of anyone who can hold a note for 2 seconds. Louis Walsh wouldnae know soul even if a huge afro continually kicked his arse shouting “I feel good!” at the same time. Those X-Faxtor contestants are really quite sadly deluded and buffoons like wee Walshy don’t help matters.


Real soul, real soul is all about feeling. And no-one felt it better than Aretha. With 2 kids to her name by the time she was 16, she’s lived it more than most of us will ever know. Her 1967 version of ‘Chain of Fools’ is a belter. Even better is the rare version featuring Joe South’s extended tremolo’d twanging guitar. Man, you should hear it! Here it is. Dig it brothers and sisters!