27 Sep Angus Young’s Marshall Amplifier(s) & the “Back in Black Tone Project”
Update of Mon, Oct the 4th: our own headwhop26 has posted info from a reliable source stating the following:
Angus has frequently recalled the use of a 100-watt late-60s Marshall JMP100 Super Lead amp with EL34 output tubes in the early days of the band, while Malcolm often played through a slightly earlier JTM100 Super Amp with KT66 output tubes, a late-’60s Super Bass with EL34 tubes, or a 100-watt Plexi Super Lead much like his brother’s”
“Angus also often records through the 100-watters, he has been known to use any of a range of several JTM45s. a JTM50, and a later JMP50 in the studio (the former with KT66s , the latter two with EL34s)”
“Angus has also taken to replicating his recorded lead tone live with a JTM45, which is sometimes miked through an isolation cab under the stage.
Update: despite what I had stated (please see below), the “Back in Black recording session” images are NOT them: those are barely Vanilo rehearsal room, Pimlico London, auditions for new singer, March 1980, 8004004, © 1980 Robert Ellis/Repfoto, i.e., pictures shot while trying a replacement for Bon. Apologies.
Weird statement, don’t you think (I’m referring to the “Angus Young’s Marshall Amplifier”)? Most have always thought it’s always been the JTM45 and that’s it. Or some other JTM amp, such as a JTM50, which is also the Metro replica I just got.
Well, I have a surprise for you: this is just plain wrong, would you believe it? I’m researching this pretty deeply, as deep as I can, everywhere, including interviews, pictures and video footage.
I don’t know about you, but the type of Angus tone I’m after – and I’ve always been after – is the early one up to 1980-1983 at the most (so basically, 1974 to 1983), with the top – for me – being Back in Black.
So one would think that it was a JTM45, as since Ballbreaker, everyone has been talking about the JTM45.
Truth is instead, that the JTM45 was used only recently or very early and for the most part in the 1970s, it was other models most likely being, JMP models!
I am reading on the Marshall forum specifically that people with good ears and good knowledge of Marshall Amps tend to think that given the sponsorship AC/DC got in 1977 from Marshall, Angus – NOT Malcolm – has been using the latest models that Marshall was putting out in those years, namely, the JMP models that according to someone, would have been used from 1977 until 1983 continuosly.
Let me show one of the many pictures that you can find around of a late ’70s JMP Master Volume head:
There’s plenty of videos online showing AC/DC using these (this is just one among the many, please submit all the ones you can find: AC/DC Goes To College). The rather difficult thing about these would be to determine whether they were 50 or 100 watters. Because at the time, they were exactly in the same box, with only one or two knobs being different, and the same box was in fact for the 50 watter and the 100 watter. From the available videos, it’s still hard to determine.
Also keep in mind that Master Volumes were introduced around ”76/’77. Prior to that, JMPs were still available but in non Master Volume configuration.
Regarding the amps used in Back in Black, there is also a part of interview done by Guitar World magazine that reads:
GW After Highway to Hell your sound got considerably darker and heavier. Was that a result of Bon’s passing, or was the band naturally heading in that direction anyway?
ANGUS With Back in Black that’s just where it was going. Some stuff, like “Hells Bells,” was obviously written with Bon in mind, but then a lot of it was written when Bon was still around. I remember during the Highway to Hell tour Malcolm came in one day and played me a couple of ideas he had knocked down on cassette, and one of them was the main riff for “Back in Black.” And he said, “Look, it’s been bugging me, this track. What do you think?” He was going to wipe it out and reuse the tape, because cassettes were sort of a hard item for us to come by sometimes! I said, “Don’t trash it. If you don’t want it I’ll have it.”
GW Was the little single note lick his, too?
ANGUS Oh yeah. In fact, I was never able to do it exactly the way he had it on that tape. To my ears I still don’t play the thing right!
GW Probably one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the band is that there are demos of Bon singing Back in Black songs.
ANGUS He never sang. He was actually supposed to come in that same week he died. He had this pile of lyrics he’d been kicking about and he said, “Well, maybe I could come in and try out some ideas.” A week earlier, however, Bon did come down to the rehearsal room and play some drums. Malcolm and I were working on “Have a Drink on Me,” and Mal had been on the drum kit and wanted to play some guitar. So Bon walks in and Mal goes, “Just the man I wanted to see!” Since Bon had been a drummer we had him hop behind the kit and we demoed the track.
GW What gear were you using on Back in Black?
ANGUS Still 100-watt Super Leads. The old-style ones, without those preamp things. I remember at the time that was the new thing Marshall was trying to push. They were trying to get people interested in ’em, but I wasn’t really interested.
MALCOLM In addition to the Super Leads I think Angus went to a smaller 50-watt Marshall for his solos. Just for some extra warmth. I was still using my Marshall bass head, and I believe Cliff had a little SVT amp.
GW Some of the solos on that album are so memorable, particularly on “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track. Were they worked out beforehand?
ANGUS Some were totally off the top, and there were some that I took a bit longer with. With Mutt, he’d just listen and tell you when he thought something was great. Sometimes I’d be there for a whole day doing one guitar solo, and then he’d go, “Remember what you were playing at the beginning?” [laughs] And I’d have to go all the way back to the start.
So, as you can see, Angus states several times I used Super Leads (and their 50 watts counterpart, the 1987) but in NON Master Volume format.
Interesting to see it collide with some images – studio and live – but hey, if Angus says so…
And for example, live, from the Flick of The Switch Tour:
But even earlier, live, in this picture dated 1978 (PLEASE note that the amp on the bottom behind Angus is a Master Volume JMP!)
And Belfast 1979
Basically, NMVs (NON master volumes) have all the 4 input holes while MVs have only TWO holes (see the pictures of my two incoming heads).
I am assuming there are little differences in tone, I am telling you, though I might be wrong. I also remember reading that seemingly the Young brothers didn’t like MVs, though I HAVE FOUND at least one image where they are using one, as you have read for the 1978 picture above.
So much that I bought two of these yesterday: a 1977 JMP50 (watts) Mk II and a 1979 JMP100 (watts) Mk II . The first one being an MV and the second one being a 1959 Super Lead NMV a 100 watt MV (but modified with additional MV/attenuator for further ease of use and tone-enhanced).
More videos are being suggested – of the era – and we can see here brand spanking new JMPs.
From what I see, there is one MV and one NMV on each side, with the MV being the left head on each side (one for Malcolm, one for Angus).
Which would match the picture posted above of the 1978 show (one MV, one NMV): probably that was the setup for year 1978.
Here are the two JMPs I just bought (coming to me NOW), respectively (’77 JMP50 and ’79 JMP100):
I still have to study this in better detail and learn all of the differences there are among these, but my “Back in Black Tone Project” has become now dead serious: I will not accept limitations or anything else and will try to achieve it with all of my strengths.
IF I ever make it, I will describe and publish the whole process, the gear involved and possible ways to emulate it.
So this post officially launches the “Back in Black Tone Project”.
Stay tuned, I am unstoppable.
Also, Member George (SGAce) points out that:
I checked my cd’s and I found out that in the Powerage album (the remasters series), inside the booklet there are live photos where the amps are JMP MKII Master volume. Check the pages 10, 12 and the last page of the booklet..
I have to say that I am impressed with photos of the BNB recordings. There are too many things to check on these photos.
For example in the third photo from the top (where the group is together), take a look of what is behind Malcolm.
.One cab 4×12 non slanted
. One head amp JMP MKII Master Volume (Note: it’s actually a non-MV model – 4 inputs)
. And on the bottom of the amp, is a JMP MKII Master Volume COMBO (2104 model) (Note: Or it could also be a non-MV model – the 2187).
From my search I found that the 2104 model with black grillcloth started to be produced late 1979 to 1981, and they were equipped only with 2 g12-65 speaker with marshall logo.
A Follow up to this post can be found here: God’s Gift to Rock: A Late ’70s Marshall JMP 100 Watt