As a longtime electric guitarist, studio operator, and fan of well-done coffee table books, I must admit to having a somewhat embarrassingly sprawling collection of the latter. There’s no shortage of comprehensive, attractive books on ear-and-eye candy-like guitars, keyboards, amps, and yes, effects pedals. With the recent publication of Stompbox, subtitled “100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists,” the bar for effects pedal books has been set stratospherically high. This lavishly illustrated, 500 plus page tome is beautifully designed, appealingly hefty, and rides the line nicely between historically informational and a celebration of a particular gear fetish.
Roughly the first half of the book profiles 100 specific pedals and their owners/users. Each of these mini-chapters features cool, full-page high-contrast photos of a particular stompbox. The photos, shot by the book’s creator Eilon Paz, are quite compelling as Paz traveled to most of the pedals’ locations and conceived a clever method of photographing each one with identical, intense lighting. This visually results in a consistent, super-clear depiction of wear-and-tear, owners’ customizations and markings, etc. The reader gets a close look at a wide swath of celebrated and lesser-known pedals such as Hendrix’s original Arbiter Electronics Fuzz Face, Mick Ronson’s surprising late-career Marshall Bluesbreaker, Ed O’Brien’s trusty Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, Lita Ford’s newish MXR M234 Analog Chorus, Vernon Reid’s road-battered Pro Co RAT, among many more.
The second portion of the book is a series of thoughtfully written and illustrated features, somewhat reminiscent of Fretboard Journal’s luxurious graphic design aesthetic. Pedal makers and inventors are profiled, pedal history is unraveled, J Mascis’ [Tape Op #27] “Big Muff Museum” (which I’ve had the privilege of visiting) is given due coverage by Lee Ranaldo, and of course, the astonishingly elusive Klon Centaur is dissected and explained.
Surely the current “last word” on pedals in book form, Stompbox benefits from an all-star cast of contributors and collaborators. It bears mentioning that there is a companion book: Vintage & Rarities, which profiles 333 uber-rare guitar pedals. Both volumes are available individually, or together as a special boxed set. Much like Recording The Beatles [#56] achieved over a decade ago, Stompbox hits the nail on the head in the “books that every recording studio must have” category.