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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

From the archive: ROX visits Marshall Amplifiers




 A few years back we had a guided tour around Marshall Amplification in Milton Keynes.This was before the company and premises were re- modelled to something that, well, is not what it should really be.

However, Marshall have been and continue to be an amazing, innovative and powerful wall of sound behind many top musicians around the world.



Marshall Amplifiers: A Legacy of Loudness and Innovation


 Early Days and Foundation


Marshall Amplification was founded by Jim Marshall in 1962 in Hanwell, London. Initially a drum teacher and music store owner, Marshall recognized a market gap for affordable and robust guitar amplifiers, spurred by requests from local musicians, including Pete Townshend of The Who and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple. The company quickly became synonymous with the burgeoning rock and roll scene, known for its powerful sound and distinctive aesthetics.


The Quest for Loudness: 1960s and 1970s


In the 1960s, rock music's increasing popularity demanded more powerful equipment. Early Marshall amps, like the JTM45, were inspired by the Fender Bassman but featured modifications to deliver a unique British tone. The pursuit of louder sound led to the development of the iconic "stack" configuration, comprising a head unit and two 4x12 cabinets. This setup was famously used by Jimi Hendrix and became a symbol of rock amplification.


Marshall's breakthrough in the 1960s included the Model 1959 "Super Lead," which became known as the "Plexi" due to its plexiglass front panel. Its overdriven sound, when pushed to higher volumes, became a defining feature of rock guitar tone. By the 1970s, models like the Marshall 100-watt Super Lead became the go-to equipment for many rock bands, cementing Marshall's reputation as the loudest and most powerful amplifiers in the industry.


Dominance in Rock and Metal


Marshall's amplifiers became integral to the sounds of rock and metal music, contributing to the distinctive tones of artists like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and later, Slash and Zakk Wylde. The brand's association with heavy music genres solidified its status, thanks to its ability to deliver high gain and sustain, essential for the aggressive tones of metal.




Technological Evolution


Marshall's amplifier technology evolved significantly over the decades. Key models include:


- **JTM45 (1962):** The first amplifier, known for its warm, rich tone.

- **1959 Super Lead "Plexi" (1965):** Famous for its loud, overdriven sound, essential in rock.

- **Marshall Major (1967):** A 200-watt beast, used by Ritchie Blackmore.

- **JCM800 (1981):** Known for its high gain and versatility, crucial in the evolution of metal.

- **JCM900 (1990):** Offering even higher gain and more tonal options.

- **DSL and TSL Series (late 1990s):** Dual and Triple Super Lead models, offering modern features and tones.

- **Code Series (2016):** Digital amplifiers with modeling technology for a wide range of sounds.




Outsourcing and Modern Era


In recent years, Marshall has outsourced much of its production to Asia to remain competitive. Despite this, the company maintains a strong presence in the UK, with high-end models and custom shop operations still managed locally. Marshall continues to innovate, blending classic analog sounds with modern digital technology, evident in products like the Code and Origin series.


 Top 20 Guitarists and bassists Known for Using Marshall Amplifiers


1. **Jimi Hendrix:** Revolutionized electric guitar with his Marshall stacks.

2. **Eric Clapton:** Helped popularize the Marshall sound with his Bluesbreakers album.

3. **Jimmy Page:** Used Marshalls extensively with Led Zeppelin.

4. **Angus Young:** AC/DC's hard-hitting riffs were powered by Marshall amps.

5. **Slash:** Iconic tones with Guns N’ Roses and his signature Marshall models.

6. **Zakk Wylde:** Known for his aggressive playing style with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society.

7. **Eddie Van Halen:** Innovated rock guitar tones using modified Marshalls.

8. **Kurt Cobain:** Nirvana's grunge sound was partly defined by his use of Marshall amps.

9. **Randy Rhoads:** Combined classical and metal tones through Marshalls.

10. **Joe Perry:** Aerosmith’s classic rock sound heavily relied on Marshall amplification.

11.Lemmy. His Murder One was always behind him in Motörhead 

13.Yngwie J. Malmsteen

14.Angus Young. From AC/DC


Not to mention 

  1. Steve Harris. Bassist of Iron Maiden
  2. Dave Mustaine from Megadeth 
  3. Tony Iommi. The Black Sabbath guitarist has used JTM45s & Superleads
  4. Gary Holt from Slayer
  5. Jeff Beck
  6. Gary Moore


And many others young and old!



Marshall Amplifiers has played a pivotal role in the development of modern guitar sound, particularly in rock and metal genres. From its origins under Jim Marshall to its current status as a global leader in amplification, the company's commitment to powerful sound and innovative technology continues to shape the music industry.

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