Check out this brief history of guitar distortion by David Gill at RIFF Magazine.
Distortion is an electronic effect produced by overloading an audio circuit. This simple excess of electrons is responsible for everything from Chuck Berry’s overdriven twang to Jimi Hendrix’s chewy fuzz, Black Sabbath’s bone-shaking crunch and Nirvana’s defiant grunge.
It’s the crucial ingredient in the thundering guitar tone at the beginning of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” Put simply, distortion is almost as central to rock and roll as the sex and the drugs.
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