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The wine was flowing at the birthday party, and our covers band was taking a break between sets. We were chatting to a fifty-something guest who’d renewed an old love affair with guitars and was embracing the sound technology that hadn’t been there the first time round. He waxed lyrical about a Line 6 gizmo, which could be preset to recreate all the classic amps. I found myself agreeing that it must be wonderful to just press a key and sound like a Marshall stack. Probably minus some tedious pre-digital restraints of price, size, and temperamental valves. But something was bugging me. I felt strangely disloyal for smiling and nodding – as if I should be defending some ancient rock code of conduct.
Would Hendrix have used a Line 6? Or is he turning in his grave?
Later on the way back to Berlin, with our (non-Marshall stack) equipment packed behind my seat I thought it over. If the Line 6 really DID sound identical to a Marshall, who was I to say “It’s not the same….” or “Back in the day…” or any other neo-Luddite remark…..? This is as near as I got to an answer…
Take gold. People steal, they fight, or they give all they possess to acquire it. Rightly or wrongly it’s special. Now, if some 14th century alchemist had figured out how to create gold from horse manure, then it’d still be 100% gold. But no longer special. So it is with my perception of Marshalls. If a bunch of geeks put it to the test and had me listening to a Marshall and a Line 6, maybe I’d be unable to tell the difference. BUT none of these hypothetical geeks would have directly experienced the sheer physical presence and power of Jim Marshall’s sound engineering masterpiece. None of them would have realised that it was truly in another league at that time. None of them would have put their hard-earned savings across the counter to buy the damn thing. The value of it is no longer in the sound but somewhere in my psyche. I’m SO glad I lived with the magnificent Marshall beast before it got reduced to a disposable software option. Even if I did have to lug it up the stairs at 4 a.m.
More to come on Marshalls later this summer – watch this space……….