Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Amplifiers Used On Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. There is currently a wonderful television program that goes into great detail about the production and history of each song.

Sargent Pepper recording session
While much of the music was done on keyboard and string instruments, McCartney’s bass, and some guitar is featured on the recordings.  The TV special mentioned said little about the guitars and nothing is noted about the amplifiers used on the album.


Paul McCartney with 1967 Bassman
The television program showed  only one amplifier; the Beatles’ blonde 1964 Fender Bassman. Aside from the Vox AC30, we know this Bassman amplifier was used on many of the Beatles albums.

We know that McCartney first used this amp in 1965 and continue to use it until 1967 in the recording studio.

This also may have been the first album where McCartney plugged his guitar directly into the mixing board for some of the songs.

After that Lennon and Harrison both put that Bassman to use.  Lennon continued to use it in the studio on some of his solo work. This Fender Bassman was the 1964 6C6-B circuit and featured twin Utah 12” speakers. It was a similar circuit to the one used on in the same era Bandmaster.

Beatles with Vox AC30's
The Beatles and many other British groups preferred to use Vox amplifiers since they were readily available and less expensive than imported United States brands, such as Fender. The Vox AC30 was perhaps the most used by the Beatles during their early days.

1964 Vox AC30

The Vox AC30 was a 30 watt class A amplifier, which technically speaking is very inefficient, because the power tubes are operating at full power. However class A is very pleasing to the ear and makes for a great performing amplifier.


The Vox AC30 had cathode biasing and no negative feedback loop. In my opinion the AC30 is one of the best amps ever made.

Despite the popularity of Vox amps in the U.K., the company was facing financial difficulties as early as 1964.

Jennings and Denney
Vox' manufacturer was JMI or Jenning’s Musical Instrument and run by Tom Jennings along with musician/guitarist/amplifier designer Dick Denney. In 1964 the partners had sold the company to a conglomerate called The Royston Company. Both men maintained posts in the organization through 1967 at which time they left the company. Perhaps the two men saw the writing on the wall, as the following year Royston filed for bankruptcy.

Some of the former JMI employees cut a deal with the bank that held the assets and they were able to procure the Vox name. Vox equipment was then produced under the name Vox Sound Equipment until 1969 when yet another bankruptcy ensued.

Vox Birch Stolec AC30
A company called Birch Stolec Industries purchased Vox from the holding company. One of the sales managers for this company was none other than Rick Huxley, the bass player for the Dave Clark Five. This firm built Vox amplifiers which included printed circuit boards and also produced some solid state versions of Vox amplifiers.

But let’s back up to before 1967 when Sargent Pepper was being made. Even before that date, when the Beatles and other bands were touring, as early as 1964, the folks at Vox realized the AC30 at full volume was not going to cut through the screams of the female fans. So they investigated producing a larger version.

Vox AC50 MKII


They had already come up with the AC50 MKII that McCartney can be seen using in concerts. (He still uses this amp today.)




Vox AC100


What they came up with was the Vox AC100 aka the Vox Super Deluxe. This was a a one channel amplifier that came with a large speaker unit, which contained four 12" Celestion speakers. It was Vox' answer to the Fender Dual Showman amplifier. The Beatles can be seen using this amp in concert footage.



Later in 1964 JMI reached an agreement with the Thomas Organ Company of the United State that they would be the sole US distributor for Vox. This may sound like an odd arrangement, if not for the fact the JMI was once known as the Jennings Organ Company. It may have been short-sighted of the former Jennings Organ Company to believe a US organ manufacturer would be a great vehicle to distribute Vox amplifiers. But during the guitar boon era, many companies were trying to get a piece of the pie.

US made Vox Super Beatle
Once Thomas Organ inked the deal they realized that JMI/Vox was not capable of manufacturing an adequate number of amplifiers to make the deal profitable. Thomas Organ, not at all happy about the situation and proposed a deal that they become licensed manufacturers of Vox amplifiers in the United States and Canada. Probably due to the financial situation at JMI, they agreed.

This is how the US Vox Super Beatle and other US amplifiers came to be made by the Thomas Organ Company aka Vox US.

Dick Denney traveled to the USA in 1965 to visit the Thomas Organ/VOX US manufacturing facility to see their products first hand. He was impressed with their solid state amplifiers. This lead him to come up with his own solid state/tube hybrid versions.

The guitar amps that Denney designed were called the UL7 series and the bass versions were the UL4 series.  UL was suggestive of Underwriters Laboratories, a group the put its approval on electronic merchandise.

Vox UL705




The UL705 was a 5 watt amplifier,while the UL710, and UL715 produced 15 watts. Both had solid state preamps, with tube based power amplifier sections.




Vox UL730
In 1966 a Vox UL730 was delivered to Abbey Road Recording studios for The Beatles use.

The power tube (or valve) selection of the UL730 included one ECC83 and a quartet of EL84 tubes. The ECC83 is actually a preamp tube, but was used as a phase inverter.



Vox UL730


The UL730 was a two channel amplifier with two inputs per channel, a boost switch for each channel. Channel One featured volume, treble, middle, and bass potentiometers, and controls for tremolo speed and depth.


Vox UL730 front panel
A distortion control was included in this channel. Channel Two included the volume, treble, middle, and bass controls, and added a reverb control.

The separate speaker cabinet was loaded with twin 12” Celestion speakers. Of course the amplifier featured the trolley.

The Beatles session
with the UL730


Vox manufactured only 100 units. This was not a popular amplifier since out of the 100 units sold, 76 units were returned. Some may have been defective, while others were exchanged for another amp of the era. The 76 units that were returned were said to have been destroyed.




Harrison's UL730

The amplifier that was delivered to the Beatles included a promotional sticker inside of it that stated it was “Promotional Stock - Model No. 760 Amp A/C Current - Serial # 3020 - Artist The Beatles”.


It is said to have been in George Harrison's procession and was to be auctioned on 12/15/2011, but the seller withdrew the offer prior to the sale date.

Vox single spring reverb
This was likely the amplifier that the Beatles used on the Sargent Pepper recordings. The UL730, and most Vox amplifiers included the Vox single spring reverb since Tom Jennings did not want to pay Hammond the $1 per unit royalty for use of their 3 spring version.


To avoid this fee he and Denney came up with their own reverb design.

McCartney using UL730

During the albums creation, McCartney played his Rickenbacker 4001S bass through it on most of the songs. Although it is said that he employed the UL430 bass amp on Lucy In The Sky.



Vox UL430
The UL430 was essentially the UL730 with no effects except for the boost switch. Other than that the tube compliment, speakers, and electronic design were similar. These amps look different from the VOX AC design. The UL amps, except for the UL705 feature controls in the front of the amplifier unit. They all still had the signature Vox grill cloth fabric. The UL730 and its companions are a part of our unique guitar history.

In addition to the Bassman and the Vox UL730, The Beatles utilized a 1967 Fender Showman amplifier that was in the studio.

1967 Fender Showman
The 1967 Fender Showman was a black faced and from the final year Fender made black face amplifiers. The amp had an 85 watt  head. The cabinet was loaded with a single 12” JBL speaker. The preamp section was made up of two 7025’s and the power tubes included a quartet of 6L6’s.

It is also written that Paul McCartney used a Selmer Thunderbird Twin 50 MkII on Good Morning, Good Morning, which he may have used early in The Beatles career.

Selmer Thunderbird Twin 50 MKII
The Selmer Thunderbird was finished in what is called “croc-skin”. The preamp and power amp were housed in the cabinet. The amplifier had two inputs, a“Selectortone” push button tone control feature, along with tremolo and reverb contols. This amp came with a stand to raise it off the floor.

1967 Vox Conqueror/Defiant
 Several other sources say that the Beatles used a Vox Conqueror on Sargent Pepper. The Conqueror was the completely solid state amp that replaced the UL730. This 30 watt two channel amp featured germanium transistors. The channel controls were mounted on top of the head and featured a normal and a brilliant channel, while the effects controls were mounted on the amplifiers front panel.

Both channels featured volume, treble, and bass potentiomers and a boost switch. And both had two inputs.

1967 Vox Conqueror
top and front pane
l
The front panel for the effects  had controls for tremolo speed and depth, as well as a reverb section that allowed reverb on channel one, off, or channel two. It also included a MRB switch that selected tone boost frequencies.


The Vox Conqueror came with a modified trolley that contained the speaker unit only. The head stood on top of the speakers.

Vox Defiant
Vox also made a similar amplifier called The Vox Defiant. The Defiants head was slightly larger than the Conqueror. In fact at first look it resembled the Conqueror. However the Defiant pushed 50 watts instead of 30 watts.  The Defiant amp was featured in the background of a promotional photo for Sargent Pepper. But for the promo video I do not know if this amp was used on the record,

The Beatles also used two other Vox amplifiers; the 7120 and the 4120 bass amp, which they had used on the Revolver LP.

Vox 7120

The 7120 was the most powerful amplifier that Vox had produced. This was another hybrid amp, with a solid state preamp section and a tube power amp section, which consisted of four KT88 power tubes and an EL84 and an ECL86 which acted as phase inverters. It was rated at 120 watts. It utilized one ECL86, one EL84, and a quartet of KT88’s. The amplifier had two channels.



Vox 7120
Channel One was the vibrato channel and had two inputs, a boost switch, a volume, treble, middle, and bass control, along with a tremolo section with speed and depth, and a reverb section, and a distortion control.

Channel two featured two inputs, a boost switch, volume, treble, middle, and bass controls, and a reverb control.

Vox 7120

The 7120 speaker cabinet had two 12” Celestion T 1225 speakers and two Goodman midax horns. The controls on the amplifier section were on the bottom of the amplifier head.



Vox 4120
The Vox 4120 bass amplifier was very similar in the amplifier section. However it lacked the effects associated with the 7120. Everything else was the same. The speaker compliment was quite different. The amp had four 12” Alnico Celestion speakers and two Goodman Midax high frequency 17 watt horns. The 4120 also had an output of 120 watts, It was made for only one year; 1966.

McCartney with a Vox UL730, Harrison and Lennon with Vox Defiant amps


This photo is from the Beatles promotional video for Hello, Goodbye.

Click on the links under the photos for their links, click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)





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