Play like THE SHADOWS Rhythm and lead

Phil Capone re­veals how The Shadows cre­ated their unique sound, fo­cus­ing on the hugely in­flu­en­tial rhythm and lead styles of Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

The Shadows’ unique sound sig­nalled a new musical era in the early 60s. Phil Capone ex­plores the highly-in­flu­en­tial rhythm and lead styles of Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin.

The Shadows started as Cliff Richards’ back­ing band in the late 50s. But with the re­lease of Apache in 1960 they un­leashed a new and ex­cit­ing sound on gloomy post-war Bri­tain. Au­di­ences loved it. Apache was a mon­ster, top­ping the UK charts for five weeks and be­gan a string of hit sin­gles that in­cluded FBI, Foot Tap­per, Man Of Mys­tery, Kon Tiki, Won­der­ful Land and many more.The band at this time fea­tured Hank Marvin (lead), Bruce Welch (rhythm), Jet Har­ris (bass) and Tony Mee­han (drums).

Bruce Welch’s rhythm work is the foun­da­tion of The Shadows’ sound. His deft strum­ming tech­nique is never sloppy; even at brisk tem­pos his play­ing re­mains tight and fo­cused. In the stu­dio Bruce pri­mar­ily played acous­tic, sim­ply be­cause that’s what com­ple­mented Hank’s elec­tric sound best. His gui­tars of choice were gen­er­ally Gib­son, in­clud­ing J-45, J-50, and J-200 mod­els. Bruce was a huge fan of Buddy Holly and you can clearly hear this in­flu­ence com­ing through on The Shads’ early record­ings.

Hank Marvin’s in­flu­ences in­cluded Scotty Moore (Elvis Pres­ley), Cliff Gallup (Gene Vin­cent) and James Bur­ton (Ricky Nel­son and later on, Elvis). Hank speaks about the im­pact of th­ese play­ers in Just Hank Marvin, an in­struc­tional video from the late 90s: “We’d never heard any­thing like it in the UK. As soon as I heard them I wanted to play like that!” Hank loved the echo sound used by Scotty Moore on early Elvis songs like Mys­tery Train. “One aim I had in the early days was to sound like that, but it was im­pos­si­ble with­out tape echo. I don’t even know if Scotty sounded like that on stage be­cause it was a stu­dio ef­fect. In 1959 I came across one of the first echo boxes, made by an Ital­ian firm called Meazzi and sold in Bri­tain as a Vox echo. It had five heads so you could have a se­ries of echoes, not just a short ‘slap’ echo. Within a week of us­ing it I was con­vinced there was no other way to go. I use that kind of thing, still, to­day”. Hank’s pi­o­neer­ing multi-tap de­lay sound was fully formed by the time Apache was re­leased. The vi­brato bar (mis­tak­enly called ‘tremolo arm’ by Fender) was also a huge part of Hank’s sound as it en­abled him to add vi­brato (dif­fi­cult to ap­ply with fin­gers on heavy strings – es­pe­cially the wound third that Strats came with in those days), dip into notes, in­cor­po­rate string bends, and ap­ply his trade­mark ‘wag­gle’, the in­cred­i­bly musical and vo­cal vi­brato that he would add to sus­tained notes for dra­matic ef­fect.

It’s hard to ap­pre­ci­ate ex­actly how new and ex­cit­ing The Shadows, and in par­tic­u­lar the gui­tar work of Hank Marvin, would have sounded back in 1960. Hank fa­mously owned the first Fender Stra­to­caster to be im­ported into the UK, so th­ese guys were right on the cut­ting edge of the elec­tric scene. To put it into per­spec­tive, this was five years be­fore Bob Dy­lan ditched acous­tic folk to go elec­tric, and six years be­fore the re­lease of The Blues Breakers’ Beano al­bum with Eric Clap­ton.

One thing is clear: The Shads are as pop­u­lar as ever, that in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able sound still prov­ing a source of in­spi­ra­tion for le­gions of gui­tarists over half a cen­tury later. And when you con­sider that the ros­ter of for­mi­da­ble play­ers that cite Hank Marvin’s beau­ti­ful melodic style as a pri­mary source of in­spi­ra­tion, in­clude Mark Knopfler, Brian May, Ge­orge Har­ri­son, David Gil­mour, Pete Town­shend and Jeff Beck as the tip of a gar­gan­tuan ice­berg, the band’s in­flu­ence ap­pears all but in­cal­cu­la­ble.


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