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Play It Loud: The Story of the Marshall Amp

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Turn your TV up (or down) to 11 for this edifying history of a British design classic.

In footage old and new, craggy rock veterans reveal how amp pioneer Jim Marshall overcame a sickly childhood to make his fortune by giving early-60s guitarists what they'd been craving: chaos and noise. "We didn't want hi-fi, we wanted distortion," says Marshall's contemporary Charlie Watkins; "We [guitarists] wanted to be as loud as the drums," enthuses Pete Townshend.

So, using a Fender Bassman as a template, Marshall and partner Ken Bran created the loudest amp in the world. According to Pete Townshend, Marshall initially warned him "They're not meant to be stacked". That must have been like a red rag to a bull for the Who, and stacked they were: by increasingly hairy bands in increasingly ludicrous quantities.


In the early 1960s drum shop owner Jim Marshall launched the loudest amplifier in the world at a point in time widely perceived to be the birth of rock. Young musicians like Clapton and Hendrix rushed to adopt the revolutionary `Marshall sound', and the electric guitar spoke for a new generation, while stacks and walls became an essential backdrop at concerts. The company was rescued from financial meltdown by comic exposure in the 1984 movie This is Spinal Tap, and the electronic boxes were propelled to iconic status. This documentary charts the amp's history, with contributions from rock musicians Pete Townshend, Lemmy and Slash, plus an interview with the founder himself.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Jim Marshall
Contributor Lemmy
Contributor Slash
Contributor Pete Townshend
Director Brian Marshall
Director David Rust
Producer Brian Marshall
Producer David Rust
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