What’s That Sound? How Pixies created a monstrous crash on ‘Cecilia Ann’
The Pixies third album Bossanova is known for its rapturous pace and heavy guitars, it’s sound was inspired by singer Frank Black’s interest in surf rock and space rock and it is the former of these which likely encouraged the band to open the album with ‘Cecilia Ann’, a cover of a surf rock song by the (appropriately titled) band The Surftones. The track starts with a speaker rattling crash which sounds as though it could have been a recording of thunder, a falling tree or the start of the apocalypse.
The monstrous sound heard on the opening of ‘Cecilia Ann’ is actually guitarist Joey Santiago being rather heavy-handed with his (luckily fairly cheap) Peavey Bandit guitar amp, a trick which he occasionally likes to recreate live—much, I’m sure, to the delight of many sound engineers.
Many guitarists like to use reverb to give a perception of space to their sound and many analogue guitar amps incorporate a reverb ‘tank’ into their design. These tanks contain a spring which is fed the vibrations made by the low level output signal of an electric guitar, the prolonged signal which comes out of the other end of the spring is then amplified to create a sound known as…. spring reverb. Many guitarists and recording engineers may be familiar with the often expensive side effects of dropping one of these tanks which result in the spring vibrating much more than when being fed by a low electronic signal. When these vibrations reach the amplified end of the spring… well, just listen to the track below.
The crashing sound created by this technique has since become confined by the guitar and electronics manufacturer Danelectro into a specially designed effects pedal. That pedal has since been named the Spring King which can be stamped on to replicate the noise without the need for a soldering iron and replacement speaker.