Does Angus Channel Koss?
Almost 40 years since it was released in 1970, and still one of the all-time classic tunes: Do I need to say more?
You know the riff, you know how to play it (or think you do, sorta) and you might even think you know what Paul Kossoff used gear-wise: a ’59 Les Paul into a Marshall head. But what Marshall head exactly, and did he really use a Marshall?
I wanted to know, so I went digging. Here’s what I found: Not much. Paul flamed-on fast and burned out early, and the few interviews I was able to track down weren’t very detailed gear-wise. But here’s what I did find.
First, many say that Koss preferred Marshall Super Bass heads, though he apparently also used Super Leads and Super PAs. Super Basses and Super Leads supposedly were largely the same (as was the Super PA), and at the time many Marshalls were one-offs – basically the same, but different components here and there.
The folks at the Plexi Palace forums are super-educated about Marshalls and Marshall components, and seem to be up on the finer points of Koss’s preferred Marshalls. But he may not have used a Marshall for the studio version of “All Right Now.” Here’s what one person wrote on the forum:
My memory says the man used a Selmer T&B 50 [amp] on that record. I can’t prove it because I don’t remember who told me. But I do have a Selmer T&B 50 and it sounds “right on” with an appropriate guitar. I can get that tone easily with the Selmer and a [Gibson] L5S. I still have a Les Paul Special, which comes close through a Marshall, but the Selmer is the key element. Like I said…a strange choice, but [Koss] worked in the Selmer store. If he got a good one, would he let go?
Interesting. Selmer amps apparently didn’t go very far, possibly because they were eclipsed by Vox, but there are a few kicking around and have their devotees.
> Free had Marshalls pretty much all the way, from Koss’s early ’66 JTM45 (thru a homemade 4×12 with Selmer brickwork cloth) to their multiple stacks based around Super Bass/Lead and PA heads. That’s what’s in all of the pictures and live clips.
> However, a Super PA is essentially a Super Lead and Super Bass sound-wise. I’m not sure which input he was using. I think it would be fair to say he was using the Super Bass “side” of the Super PA.
> In live shows supporting “Tons of Sobs,” Koss began using a 100-watt Marshall Super Lead head with dual 4×12 Marshall cabinets equipped with bass speakers, which he felt had a more rounded tone than the guitar speakers.
> I owned his ’69 Super Bass for a while…. It was a mid ’69 metal panel. It was an absolutely fantastic sounding amp. It had ‘his’ tone no matter where you put the controls (they really didn’t do much). It was stupid loud. The mains was one of the high-current ones. It didn’t matter what guitar you used, it sounded like the song [All Right Now].
> The biggest change [in that '69 Super Bass] was the slope resister was a 33k, and it had the additional .68uf cap in the tone stack. The other caps were right for a Super Bass (250pf/500pf):
- Standard Super Bass shared cathode
- 33k slope with 250pf treble cap
- Looks like a 100k feedback resistor
- v2 bypass cap is a .68
- .005?? [not sure] on the volume control
> Almost the perfect mix and match of Lead and Bass components – probably as thick as a milkshake with tons of undertones.
If you’re not technical enough to understand that, like me, here’s what I get out of that:
Koss didn’t use a “standard” Super Bass or Super Lead, if there was such a thing as “standard.”
All old Marshalls sound different, so if you buy one without hearing it first (eBay) it’s a crapshoot all the way.
His Les Pauls
He owned several ’50s and ’60s Les Pauls, notably a ’59 burst stripped to a natural finish (in the video linked to below), and a ’58 he got in a trade with Eric Clapton: Koss traded a 1957 black Les Paul Custom for it.
All apparently had high action and heavy strings (11s and/or 12s), and he is rumored to have used heavy picks.
Here’s his full list of guitars, compiled by user Kossoff_Fan at lespaulforum.com:
1) Yamaha FG 150E acoustic.
2) Guild acoustic, now owned by Paul’s daughter.
3) Gibson Hummingbird acoustic.
4) 1957 Gibson Les Paul TV/TV Jr. – TV Yellow, one pickup, first electric guitar.
5) 1954 Les Paul Custom, black, two P90s.
6) 1957 Les Paul Custom, black; 3-pickup, traded to Clapton.
7) 1958 or ’59 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst, tigerstripe finish used w/ Black Cat Bones [Koss's pre-Free band].
8) 1958 darkburst Les Paul Sunburst – Traded from Clapton, later owned by Terry Newman and Paul Rodgers, auctioned off for charity in September 2000.
9) 1960 Les Paul Sunburst – Exchanged with Kenny King, first Les Paul, later owned by Gary Winterflood. This guitar is featured in “Burst, The 1958-60 Les Paul Standard” by Vic DaPra & Jay Scott. This is the one with the label w/ Koss’s name and address on the inside back plate.
10) 1960 Les Paul Sunburst, bright red – In the Stealer video, now owned by Arthur Ramm. This guitar is featured in “The Gibson Les Paul” book by Tony Bacon & Paul Day.
11) 1959 Les Paul Sunburst, stripped to a natural finish. This guitar is featured in Guitarist magazine, March 1994.
12) Fender Stratocaster – White, 1957 neck, 1960 body, 1964 pick-ups, mint-green pickguard. [Possibly the one owned by Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, or maybe it was the other one Koss owned.]
13) Fender Stratocaster.
14) Gibson Melody Maker, sunburst.
15) Gibson Les Paul Recording.
16) Gibson L5S.
17) Gibson ES-335, block-neck.
Vibrato Technique and Other Stuff
From a 2008 interview on Gibson.com, talking about a 1976 interview of Koss in which he was obviously drug-addled:
I think my sound, especially my vibrato, has taken a long time to sound mature, and it’s taken a long time to reach the speed of vibrato that I now have. I trill with my first, middle and ring fingers, and bend chiefly with my small finger. I’ll use my index finger when I’m using vibrato.
I like to move people. I don’t like to show off. I like to make sounds as I remember sounds that move me. My style is very primitive, but at the same time it has developed in its own sense. I do my best to express myself and move people at the same time.
I think there’s still more room to develop in the way I’m playing. My vibrato is finally starting to grow up.’
He also said Rogers was his “biggest teacher” and was the best singer he knew. “My style and his grew up together, I believe.”
He added: “I hate to play solos…. I prefer to hear [Rodgers'] voice, back it around, push it.”
Unfortunately, Koss’s drug-abuse problems – apparently worsened by Koss’s depression over Jimi Hendrix’s death – were a big factor that led to the breakup of the band.
Still, he left us some great music and, though it might sound corny, he’s “all right now.”
> Check out this vid of All Right Now (can’t be embedded). If you don’t see Angus Young’s faces and vibrato in Kossoff, then you’ve never seen Angus Young.