How Feedback Became the Coolest Sound in Rock

Kerrraaang! came the sound from behind my wall, in my older brother's bedroom. It was his first weekend home from college and he'd returned to our small Indiana town with new toys: a CD player and a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind.


The noise, which started when Kurt Cobain struck a power chord on his Fender guitar, continued to swell — even as it decayed. It seemed if the wail grew any louder, it would envelope our brittle house, just as silence had after my brother left for school.

This was feedback: Electronic music's original sin; God's (or was it Zola's?) finger-wag at the increased decibel level at which people were suddenly living in the 19th Century — the sound so unloved by the engineers who discovered it that George Beauchamp, in his original 1932 patent for the Rickenbacker, provided instructions for how to avoid its scourge.

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