The Top 10 Talk Box Moments in Rock
The goal of any musician is to sing through his chosen instrument.
And thankfully, advances in technology have made that possible—literally.
In the 1970s, someone had the bright idea to take an amp’s signal and run it in to the guitarist’s mouth via a plastic tube, allowing him to, in a sense, speak to the audience through single notes.
At the time, it blew the wah pedal out of the water. So what makes a great talk-box player?
10. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ on a Prayer”
Damn, man! This is the Jovi at their funkiest! A round of applause to Richie Sambora for laying down some sweet-ass talk box over that rolling bass groove. Keep that dream alive!
09. Mötley Crüe, “Kickstart My Heart”
Mick Mars is not one of metal’s more remarkable soloists. Yet he may have been the first to send a flurry of tremolo-picked notes flying out of his mouth. It’s a sound as scary as his makeup.
08. Nazareth, “Hair of the Dog”
To some Scottish accents render words unintelligible. So while Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton is probably just making electronic noises in the breakdown of this cock-rocker, there’s a chance he’s actually issuing a cry for Scottish independence.
07. Weezer, “Beverly Hills”
The talk box makes a comeback in the 21st century (we can’t keep picking stuff from 1972, folks)! Oddly, because the song hints at the excess of Seventies rock, Rivers Cuomo’s talk-box embellishments feel totally appropriate. For some reason, the Muppets come to mind when he cuts loose.
06. Steely Dan, “Haitian Divorce”
One of the most melodic talk-box solos ever recorded is also a prime example of studio trickery. Session man Dean Parks played the lead, but Walter Becker added the effect later—which required him essentially to ghost-play the exact same solo, and jack his jaw accordingly.
05. Pink Floyd, “Pigs”
David Gilmour was already one of the most articulate lead players in the prog-rock pantheon. Give him a talk box and… look out! He’s literally wailing on this track; a string bend becomes a drawing syllable that never ends.
04. Alice in Chains, “Man in the Box”
Rather than using the talk box as other guitarists had—to make an ordinary solo sound like it was recorded by space aliens—Jerry Cantrell broke new ground by using it to “sing” harmonies with Layne Staley. Grunge reinvented some rock clichés for the better.
03. Joe Walsh, “Rocky Mountain Way”
This song is a classic not just for its chunky riff but also for how Walsh takes robot scat singing to new heights. Live clips reveal that Walsh really gets into his box work; you can actually see the drool dripping from the tube.
02. Jeff Beck, “She’s a Woman”
Beck is a weird-guitar-sound pioneer, so it made perfect sense when he used the talk box to slur some syllables on this funked-up Beatles cover (Note: Although it’s attributed to Lennon/McCartney, this is a Paul McCartney number all the way). Which raises the question: Is Blow by Blow truly an instrumental album?
01. Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do”
Not only is Frampton Comes Alive! one of the biggest-selling live albums of all time, but with its biggest hit Frampton singlehandedly increased the vocabulary of the talk box, spitting out phrases previously unattempted by guitarists and easily one-upping Beck on articulation. Just listen to how the audience roars when the guitar asks the immortal question: “Do you feel like we do?” Stoned, maybe?