Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Loud Memory of Jim Marshall

Somehow, I missed the news of Jim Marshall’s passing on Thursday, April 5 at the age of 88. My brother relayed this news to me in a phone conversation last night and I decided to make today’s post a tribute to one of the more influential individuals in modeling of the sound of rock ‘n roll with the production of his Marshall amplifiers.

Marshall based his prototype amp from a Fender Bassman; however, he utilized military surplus tubes (valves for you Brits) and separated the amp’s head from its speaker cabinet. The cabinet was equipped with four Celestion 12 inch speakers which better handled the volume of high wattage amplifier. The cabinets were completely closed so none of the sound would leak out of the back of the cabinet. He also utilized higher gain tubes in the preamp to give the amp its characteristic overdrive.

While nearly every guitarist of note in the late 60s and 70s used Marshall Amplification, it was Jimi Hendrix who popularized the Marshall Stack. Soon hard rock and heavy metal bands would have a wall of Marshall Stacks creating a wall of sound. I knew of one band in the 1980s that couldn’t afford Marshall Stacks, so they painted faux Marshalls on cardboard to give the illusion that they had the real thing. The downside to using Marshalls was the weight – they are extremely heavy – but if you want to sound heavy, the weight is worth it.

In honor of Jim Marshall’s memory, I provide a cut of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. The characteristic Henrdrix Marshall Stack is seen behind him on stage. Fire was released as a single from the Jimi Hendrix Experience LP “Are You Experienced,” but it failed to chart – so it qualifies as our Saturday bubbling under hit as well.

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