amp tone

Blue Öyster Cult’s 1972 debut album—home of the original version of “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll.”

What does a banana with a humbucker wedged into it really prove about guitar sound?

I recently asked Alexa, the device I pay to spy on me in my home, to play “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” by Blue Öyster Cult. I hadn’t heard the song in ages, but the opening riff sounded so damned rock that my immediate reaction was “That’s exactly how a Marshall should sound!” Then, the algorithm kicked out “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” by Guns N’ Roses, followed by AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”—both also exactly how a Marshall should sound. Later that day, I pulled out the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album, and, indeed, E.C.’s combo sounds exactly how a Marshall should sound. So does Anthony Pirog’s amp on The Messthetics and Five Times Surprise. And since the latter is a Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute, I dropped the needle on Mahavishnu’s live Between Nothingness & Eternity and, well, you know, John McLaughlin’s amp sounds exactly like a Marshall should sound.

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