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A Change in Music, A Shift In Identity

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2008 by ivancheung


Above: American Metal band Slayer in the 80s

The 80s (what I call the modern era of Marshall) marked a few changes to Marshall’s identity.

In Rock music, the two genres that now dominated was Punk and Metal; Classic Rock or Heavy Metal in the vain of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin was not popular anymore. Marshall were not adopted by the Punk scene for various reasons (such as them being an established brand for Classic Rock), however Marshall and Metal were a match made in heaven (or hell).
Marshall had been the loudest and most powerful brand around, but that was it. This quality of power suited Metal music well, and the association between the two meant some of the qualities of Metal rubbed off on to Marshall, such as aggression. Marshall became a brand who weren’t just physically loud, but in attitude as well. The combination of Marshall and Metal would be led during the 80s by stalwarts such as Judas Priest and Motorhead; but also some newer bands who would find fame in the decade such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

Marshall’s identity expanded, but at a cost.
The bands mentioned above are British, but Metal music was influencing many across the pond in the US who would become leaders of this new wave of Metal.
American bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax became big players within Metal and they all used Marshall amplifiers in the beginning, (Slayer guitarist Kerry King is a familiar face of Marshall today), while others such as Randy Rhoads (an American guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne) made his mark as well. A musical instrument company like Marshall relies heavily on associations with famous musicians. As Metal became more American, so did the identity of this British brand.

The rest of the 80s would only reinforce the new identity as Marshall was adopted by two more significant American guitarists who have since become faces of the brand.
Zakk Wylde, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne after Randy Rhoads passed away.
Slash, guitarist for Guns n Roses, a band which were heavily influenced by British Rock, but ultimately embodied the new style of American Rock of the late 80s.

In a survey carried out during April 2008, I asked 263 non guitarists found from various places (who recognised the Marshall brand) whether they thought Marshall were British or American.
68% (179 answers) thought they were American.