Rock Out at Home: Marshall Legends
Published on 29 September 2020
Think back to some of the earliest concert footage that you ever laid eyes on. For me, it was probably clips of the frenzied, hurricane of sound that was Jimi Hendrix. Watching him blaze a trail across any stage you put him on caused my young jaw to drop in amazement as I scanned every detail of the setup to see how close I could get to it in my bedroom. Unsurprisingly, the answer was "not very close at all" but the memory stayed with me as I went on to watch all the concerts, documentaries and performances I could get my hands on. It didn't take me long to notice that so many of my heroes had something in common... Something scrawled in white across the front of their huge backline. It was, of course, the Marshall logo. Has there ever been another brand so synonymous with power, creativity and pure unbridled rock? Thinking back on this, I thought it was only right to run through some of the finest to ever play through a Marshall, check out the names that made it so great below:
Since Jimi was my first introduction to the brand, he's getting pride of place at the top of the list. His sound and style has cemented him as the most influential guitarist of all time and while his technical ability was absolutely immense, that doesn't mean the gear behind him didn't play its part. For his early gigs and recordings, Hendrix rocked a Burns amp up until 1966 when he had a jam session with the band Trinity. It was then that he first plugged into a Marshall and cranked it up to 10. It only took the one session to get him hooked and he was then taken to meet Jim Marshall himself, stating he didn't want anything for free but he simply HAD to have that sound. Well, Mr Marshall certainly wasn't going to turn him down, schooling Jimi's techs on how to care for and repair the four Marshall Super 100 heads and cabinets he ended up walking out with. The rest really is history, with Jimi laying down his iconic Are You Experienced? album the same year. The sheer volume of the amps actually caused some problems during recording, although surprise surprise, Jimi was reluctant to turn them down, despite rattling noises all over the room.
After the success of the album, Hendrix went on to tour extensively using his trusty Marshall's, paving the way for every rock guitarist to follow and creating those mammoth sounds that still sound as fresh today. While he did switch over to other amps later in his career, he used Marshall as the building blocks to create some of his most iconic tracks and performances. He knew them inside out and the tones he created from those Super 100s are simply gobsmacking, helping to put Marshall on the map for all of the right reasons.
Eddie Van Halen
Next up in our list is a player who's every bit as legendary as Jimi, Mr Eddie Van Halen. Eddie may be known for his terrifyingly fast lead licks, rock-solid rhythm sections and let's face it, ridiculously catchy hooks, but as guitar geeks we know there's always some tech that deserves credit as well! The guitar enigma created his now legendary Brown Sound using a mid 60's Marshall Super Lead, cranking pretty much everything to 10 and giving those tubes hell. Although he often chatted about how heavily modded his recording amp was, Eddie later went on to say that he was just trying to drum up business for a friend of his who fixed amps and the Marshall he used was mostly stock parts.
Now, if you've ever tried cranking a Marshall so heavily, you're going to realise that the sheer volume is enough to deafen so Eddie had to get creative and reduce the voltage of the amp considerably to give him more control over the sound. He'd also run through a dummy load box, his effects and a power amp, not only allowing him to lower the volume but to also have more clarity and control over his signature effects such as flanger and delay. Other than using a variety of Marshall cabs over the years and switching up the setup every now and then, this became his go-to sound for gigging and recording and as complex as it sounds, the results tell you all you need to know. From chunky riffs to searing leads, there's no one else on the planet who sounds quite like Eddie and he has Marshall to thank for a huge part of that legacy.
There aren't many guitarists as talented, charismatic and downright mad as Yngwie Malmsteen! In a league of his own in terms of sound and style, Malmsteen has been loyal to Marshall since the very start of his career. After Hendrix initially inspired him to start playing as a child, it was an easy choice to follow in the footsteps of his idol and harness that powerful sound for himself. Malmsteen's neoclassical playing is pretty one of a kind and he certainly helped to pioneer a style that's been often imitated but never replicated. Now a quick scan of the gear he's used over the years will quickly show you that there isn't a Marshall on the planet this man won't plug into and turn up loud but he now has his own signature YJM heads and cabs that have made up his sound in more recent years. Not just one or two though... Yngwie is known for having a backline that'd blow the door off a bank vault, using no less than 36 heads and 22 cabs during his live shows. He even once claimed that only the Great Wall of China and his amps could be seen from outer space... We can't exactly prove that but we're not gonna disagree either!
Aside from the lads in Spinal Tap, no guitarist is so over the top about their tone and we absolutely love him for it. Back in the day, the legendary Marshall JMP 50 MK II was a favourite but we can confirm his signature heads sound fantastic. We've never lined up 36 of them but with the noise that one can make, I'm not sure we'd ever want to! Interestingly, Malmsteen never seems to use the effects on his amps, using his army of Marshalls for their raw tone and volume alone. Whatever he's doing it sounds fantastic and must be keeping plenty of roadies in paycheques so long may it continue!
Moving on to our next rock god... Seriously, this list is turning into the highest circle of guitar royalty... There are three things you can guarantee you're gonna see at a Slash concert; a Top Hat, Sunglasses and a Marshall. Since Guns 'N' Roses seminal debut album Appetite for Destruction, Slash's tone has been the stuff of legend but believe it or not, he actually rented most of his amps for the recording sessions which became such a significant part of his iconic tone! As far as we can tell, he primarily used a modded Marshall 100 watts 1959T Super Lead for laying down his sections on the album before picking up his own Marshall JCM 800 2203 to take on the road for the tour. Slash's playing, although pretty solid technically, has always been a little chaotic with a tone that just accents it in the best way possible. Gritty without being too high gain, his sound is proof that nothing rocks harder than a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall. NOTHING!
Now since the glorious eighties, believe it or not, Slash has blown up an amp or two and Marshall have been good enough to build him several signatures of his own that he records with and takes on the road. However, he's never strayed from Marshall Heads and cabs which make up such a massive part of his tone. Once you find that holy grail sound you don't stray from it guys, Slash is all the proof you need!
Where better to end this list than with the baddest bass player to ever live? Lemmy may have been known for his big chunky Rickenbacker tone but make no mistake, Marshall was there since the very beginning. Would you expect anything less? Lemmy's go to Marshall head was a 1976 Marshall Super Bass known affectionately as Murder One. As if that wasn't enough, he opted for as many cabinets as he could physically fit on a stage, taking his band's reputation for high volume gigs seriously! Apparently, he set his amp up in a pretty one of a kind way, pulling his bass and treble way down and cranking the mids as high as they'd go before using the controls on his trusty Ricky to fine-tune his tone.
Murder One sounded as deadly as the name suggests but that didn't stop Marshall from building on it, creating a signature head for Lemmy that had a greater frequency range. Add in that distinctive playing style and crank them as loud as they'll go for a ton of distortion and you're ready to Raise Hell! Lemmy actually started his journey as a guitarist and approached bass the same way, laying down chords on the four strings to give the band a thick, distinctive sound that would annihilate anything in their path. There will never be another quite as heavy and Marshall were in the mix from the word go.
The crazy thing is, as much as this reads like a who's who of rock royalty, the list could go on and on. As a brand, Marshall has played such a huge part in shaping what we think of as the classic rock sound that so much of the modern music we love has been built from. With that in mind, it's no secret how they've always maintained such an incredible reputation. In the same way that I couldn't believe the sound Hendrix could make on stage, other would-be rockers will be analysing the rigs of Simon Neil, Gary Holt or John 5 to try and emulate their tones at home. We love heritage brands who have weathered every storm and are still rocking today and Marshall are up there with the best of them. We hope you've enjoyed this brief look at their impact - don't forget to let us know who your favourite to ever rock a Marshall is in the comments!