Earlier this year, Fender reconnected with its roots by announcing the American Vintage II range – a follow-up to its American Vintage collection of electric guitars that offers a handful of true-to-original, faithfully spec’d Stratocaster, Telecasters, Jazzmasters and bass guitars.
In a bid to demonstrate the tonal capacity of the collection’s 1957 Stratocaster, the Big F has partnered with Jeff Beck for its latest episode of Fender Presents, which sees Beck tackle Link Wray’s 1958 track, Rumble.
Notably the only instrumental guitar song ever to be banned from the radio, Rumble remains a key player in Beck’s live setlist, and in recent times has played host to the burgeoning dual guitar partnership Beck has fostered with Johnny Depp.
Released in 1958, the song was supposedly largely improvised by Wray while he was playing on stage, with the track comprising only three chords – E, A and D. According to the Library of Congress (opens in new tab), Wray wrote Rumble on the spot live when his boss DJ Milt Green asked the band to play something the crowd could dance “The Stroll” to.
Not knowing the popular rock ‘n’ roll track by the Diamonds of the same name, Wray started to cycle through the three chords. When someone stuck a microphone in front of his amp, the track’s signature distortion sound was born – a tone that was largely unexplored at the time.
However, owing to its “incendiary title” – which was changed from Oddball to Rumble – the track was banned from the radio over fears its name, a slang word for gang fight, would incite violence during a time of intense fears over increased juvenile delinquency.
Despite this, Rumble proved to be one of the most influential rock 'n' roll tracks of its time, receiving praise from the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix and many others. In fact, Pete Townshend once said it was he reason he first picked up a guitar.
“I remember Rumble, and my sister also introduced me to Jimmy Page who, one of the first things he played me was that, because it was so simple to play,” Beck said of his own fondness for the track. “And ironically, we’re still playing it. Same three chords.”
Beck’s rendition of Rumble is a masterclass in keeping just three chords interesting for two minutes straight, with the guitar legend applying various amounts of strumming pressure on the strings with his right-hand thumb to keep things fresh throughout.
With a litter of improvised licks spread across the runtime – their picking executed by Beck’s thumb and fingers – the Rumble cover gallops along with a worthy distorted tone, which Beck later pairs with raucous slides, chime-y upper fret flurries and a signal-splitting sound that adds some additional tonal nuance.
The Seafoam Green Fender American Vintage II ‘57 Strat proves to be a worthy companion for the cover, too, with its era-accurate Pure Vintage ‘57 single-coils helping Beck find the distorted sweet spot in his sonic setup.
Other specs on the guitar include a V-shaped neck profile, an alder or ash body and a 7.25” fingerboard radius, as well as vintage-style hardware.
To browse the whole American Vintage II range, head over to Fender (opens in new tab).