Sunday, August 3, 2008

Marshall Supa Fuzz, 1967-ish

I've mentioned this on various forums etc in the past few years, because it's the rarest pedal, I own, but here's the story again. I bought this for £6 in 1986 or so, from the short lived used musical instrument store that was part of the Music and Goods Exchange chain (originally Record and Tape Exchange, I won't go into the details of my love/hate relationship with these shops just yet, but it might come out later). It was a ramshackle shop, with a load of scruffy amps and 20 or so guitars, and a small cabinet of pickups and tuners and pedals. The Supa caught my eye, mostly because it was the cheapest thing in the place, and it looked old. I regularly grazed the Record and Tape shops, which are still mostly grouped together in Notting Hill, just to pass the time when I was unemployed and had no money, concentrating on the bargain bins and deletions department, where you could get all sorts of 60s records in Fair or even Poor condition for CHEAP (grading was very strict back then, so Fair usually meant 'Pretty Good' , and Poor 'Playable' to someone on my budget). There wasn't a lot of interest in '60s gear in the dread 80s, it was all about being Modern. Horrible bands like U2 and The Cure and The House Of Love held sway with a collection of horrible flangers and choruses and abominations like the Electric Mistress. Yuck! I mean, some of you reading this might be into that stuff, but I was not interested at all. Bands I was in at that time were mostly of the stubbornly inept post-punk vein, that barely (or never) made it to first gig level, or played every 3 months. I had a half-broken WEM Joker amp, that I traded in for a Laney Linebacker (not cool, sorry). I could have got an AC30, but they were too heavy, and too expensive (though cheap by today's standards). The Supa Fuzz was the only pedal I ever used, throughout the 80s90s.

supa fuzz side

When I got it was unpainted, rough aluminium. I painted the word FUZZ on it - seemed reasonable at the time. The glitter was was probably not such a good idea, but it's only nail polish; removable. I used to laugh at the size of the components - they seemed huge. I had no idea it was anything special for about the first 10 years I had it, other than that it sounded great. Then Rob from The King Cheetah (then based in London, now in LA) told me it looked like a Marshall Supa Fuzz. I wasn't really convinced, nor did I realise the significance of this info straight away. Eventually I put a photo of it on my first website (that I never updated), and got into contact with fuzz expert Stu Castledine. I sent him some photos of the board, and noticed something odd:

supa fuzz guts

That gold thing (an elecrolytic capacitor) at the end, was on top of a smaller one (in parallel with it, even). Both are rated at 25uF (micofarads, units of capacitance, like), so that makes 50uF altogether. I considered de-soldering it, but it looked original, and Stu said he'd seen a few different values in early Supas. But if it was added at the time, wouldn't they have use two identical caps, if they just ran out of 50uF and wanted that value? Anyway, it sounds amazing, so I think I'm leaving it. I did consider some kind of switch but I don't want to touch it really. Anyone seen this before? The transistors are Mullard OC75s. Here's a clip - neck pickup of 1960 Burns Sonic. I hear a lot of clips on the internet that are just sqiddly lead runs, I don't think these give much of an idea of the sound of any given pedal and they can be painful and embarrassing to listen to - my clips are more basic, but illustrate the fuzz sound and how I'm likely to use it. This one has a bit of Black Keys in there.

Marshall Supa Fuzz

The Supa Fuzz is a close relation to the Mk2 Tone Bender, designed by Gary Hurst. For a great history of these pedals and their variants and to see where the Supa fits in, see David Main's excellent page A Little History. Dave reckons my one is around 1967, about the time of this advert:

supa fuzz advert

[minor edits + pics restored, Dec 2011]

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