Three Eddie Van Halen electric guitars weren’t the only big sellers at Julien’s Icons & Idols Trilogy: Rock ‘n’ Roll auction on December 1 and 2: the Octavia effect pedal Jimi Hendrix used on the iconic Band of Gypsys album was auctioned for $70,400.
The gray painted wedge-shaped metal box made by electronics engineer Roger Mayer boasts two inputs labeled with a handwritten sticker on the base reading IN/ VOLUME/ ON/OFF and OUT/OCTAVE.
The Octavia is, as Mayer says in the accompanying interview video, “an electrical engineer imaging device” that produces infinite repeating natural tones.
The pedal was accompanied by: a letter from Roger Mayer dated 2000 confirming that he built it in 1968 and that it was used by Jimi Hendrix; a video of an interview with Mayer in 2020 showing him holding the pedal and confirming that this particular pedal was used by Hendrix on the 1970 live album Band of Gypsys; a copy of the Band of Gypsys album showing Hendrix performing on the cover with the pedal on the stage in the foreground; and a video copy of Band of Gypsys showing the same image, signed by the photographer, Joe Sia.
As recounted in the video, Mayer met Hendrix after seeing him perform at the Bag O’ Nails in London in 1967. “To say that everyone was overwhelmed would be an understatement,” Mayer says. “The first time I saw Jimi I said, ‘Yeah, this is the real deal.’ ”
The pair immediately hit it off, having a mutual interest in creating exciting new sounds and tones from a guitar.
Shortly after, Hendrix debuted a prototype of the Octavia in a dressing room with a small amplifier. He told Mayer, “Oh, I’ve got an idea for that,” Mayer recalls.
He was sufficiently impressed to invite Mayer to Olympic Studios, resulting in the recording of the single Purple Haze, featuring the Octavia for the first time.
Hendrix went on to use the Octavia on numerous studio and live recordings, including the song Fire, the Axis: Bold as Love album and, subsequently, Band of Gypsys.
As for what, exactly, the Octavia does? “A brief explanation of the Octavia would be that is a mirror imaging device,” Mayer explains. “Which would be like holding a candle up in between two mirrors and you get an infinite succession of images. This box does that electronically.”