By Jay Hale
The Seymour Duncan JB humbucker is beyond iconic in the rock world. Its tone is so distinctive, so inherently familiar and pleasing it’s almost what you expect to hear on a rock recording. Since its introduction in the 70s it has appeared on so many recordings you probably don’t realize it. Not for nothing is it still the most popular replacement and OEM pickup in the business – has been for years. It is, after all, the sound of rock. But have you ever wondered which of the greatest solos ever committed to tape that used a JB? Here’s my personal list. What’s yours?
“Symphony of Destruction” – Megadeth
Hard to pick one song off this release. It’s sort of a holy grail as far as orchestrated guitar productions go. Back in the day Dave Mustaine was so into JBs he insisted Marty Friedman switch his guitars over to them for the recording of this album, so that their lead tones would complement each other; the results speak for themselves. Mustaine’s shoot-from-the-hip riffery and Friedman’s displays of neo-classical genius permeated every track on this album, and became a benchmark for prog-metal guitar interplay.
“Bark at the Moon” – Jake E. Lee/Ozzy Osbourne
After Randy Rhoads death, the next permanent guitarist in Ozzy’s band had to deliver the goods (especially stepping in after the stellar performance of interim guitarist Brad Gillis, also a JB user!) and Jake didn’t disappoint. Armed with his JB-loaded Charvel-ized Fender Strat, Jake not only dazzled in the main solo, but the outro solo is an amazing, bar-setting sequence many guitarists still can’t nail to this day!
“I Remember You” – Scotti Hill/Skid Row
There was a point in the 90s where you couldn’t turn on a radio and not hear this now classic power ballad within a half an hour. It was on constant rotation. Love or hate it, you can’t deny Scotti Hill’s Sustainer-enhanced JB solo is bad ass… soaring, melodic and dripping with attitude. Admit, before you clicked “play” on the video you heard it in your head. It’s that memorable.
“Rebel Yell” – Steve Stevens/Billy Idol
It’s hard to pick just one of Steve Stevens 80s Idol-era solos as the standout, but this is another song that went on to become an endearing classic still heard in commercials and as bumper music today. Stevens’ solo is simultaneously sinewy and spacey, and the JB’s tone cuts through the mix, much as its signature personality asserts itself every time he hits a harmonic in the verses, or the siren-like wail at the end.
“Scarified” – Bruce Bouillet/Racer X
Despite the fact both guitarists in Racer X were groundbreaking in their technical brilliance, Bruce’s JB tone is what set him apart from his perhaps more well-known partner in crime Paul Gilbert. Bruce’s tone wins, and “Scarified” is a perfect example: From the minute his breathtaking hammered arpeggio lick announces another soloist has stepped in, the singing lead tone of the JB jumps out of the mix and fully distinguishes itself.
“Highwire” – Jake E Lee/Badlands
Jake’s post-Ozzy band was criminally underrated, and their first two releases were well ahead of the curve on what would become the new post Bob Rock 80-gloss “no frills” production ethos that would become the new norm. Jake’s bare-bones JB-meets-Marshall tone was brutal and sublime. “Highwire” is a tour-de-force, with its swaggering blues bends and overall ferocity. A Strat, a JB and a Marshall. It doesn’t get much more rock than that.
“Lay It Down” – Warren Demartini/Ratt
Much like Dave Mustaine, before he had his own signature Seymour Duncan pickup, Warren was all about the JB, and his early work with Ratt shows it. This is probably the most well-known example, his slinky lines weaving their way throughout the track, cutting through with that distinctive slicing JB attack. Warren had some of the coolest-looking guitars of the classic rock era, and of course they had the coolest pickup in them!
“Man in the Box” – Jerry Cantrell/Alice in Chains
One of the architects of the post-Metal guitar sound that would come to be known as “grunge” laid the foundation with the venerable JB, believe it or not. In a time when guitar solos were falling out of favor. Jerry was unapologetic, whipping out wah-wah saturated licks with his JB-loaded G&L Rampage on this track.
This is just a mere sampling of the JB tones out there, and one could point to a dozen other examples in the above mentioned artists catalogs alone – but you get the idea. If there was a guitar solo that turned your head, or that you found yourself humming later despite yourself – it was probably recorded with a guitar that was equipped with a JB. And the world is a more tuneful place because of it. What’s YOUR favorite JB track?