Gibbons, Eliminator/Afterburner: The Rockman

September 28, 2010 | By | Reply More


(Part 1 of 3 on the ’80s BFG)

There’s a “rumor” that goes around sometimes that Billy Gibbons used a Scholz Rockman on the Eliminator album. It sure sounds like it, and some swear he said it (see below!). On the other hand, Eliminator engineer Terry Manning says in an oft-quoted forum post that:

THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO ROCKMAN USED ON THIS RECORDING! [His caps.] Not a little bit, not a tiny bit, NOT ANY. I don’t know how these stories get started. Billy may indeed have used Rockman at a later date, after I left the situation, but I did not allow it when I was working with him. He did bring one in to try, but I was not satisfied with the sound, compared to an amplifier.

FYI, Terry is no slouch, having engineered Tres Hombres, Fandango, Tejas and Deguello, as well as Eliminator, Recycler, ZZ’s Best Of album and many others, including…Led Zeppelin III.

So there’s his side of the story. How did the “rumor” get started, read on, hombres. What Terry and Billy say was used for Eliminator and Afterburner tone will be covered in parts 2 and 3.

Scholz_Rockman> First a note: The Rockman, if you don’t remember it, was I believe the first portable “amp” that you could play with earphones, no speaker – named after the first portable music player, the Sony Walkman, whose lunch has since been eaten by Apple. Naturally, because the Rockman was developed by Tom Scholz, it sounded just like Boston. It has a distinctive sound – you can also hear it on Def Leppard’s Hysteria album.

From the March 1986 Guitar Player magazine with BFG on the cover:

Q: On Afterburner, there seems to be less experimenting with guitar tones. Have you found “the” tone?

Well, I’ll tell you, Tom Scholz has found a tone! We got in the studio and tried a number of things. One of the greatest breakthroughs for us was Tom’s Rockman, which I used. It had been modified to eliminate the echo and chorus functions, to play just straight distortion. When we combined that direct signal with a number of other traditional setups – amplifiers in the studio – we got a sound I was really pleased with. It worked for us on Eliminator, and I’m hoping that it’s going to continue to work for us through Afterburner. [Meaning he did the same thing on Afterburner.]

[Re: the real amps used on Afterburner:] We built this thing that was nicknamed the Amp Cabin. This was a pile of Fenders and Marshalls that were stacked up on top of each other and then supported to provide a roof and four walls, and we just stuck a big microphone in the middle of it and turned them all up as loud as we could get them. That’s true. It was a true test of microphone technology – it was being bombarded from all sides. But it got that grinding tone, and that’s what we were after.

Billy also said:

Q: Many players claim that recording at subtler volumes produces the “biggest” parts.

It hasn’t been our route. Different recording techniques produce different results. Ours is to go for the guts.

Have a Listen

And there you have it, for part 1. You be the judge: Do you hear a Rockman and/or lots of volume in these clips? My 2c in part 2.

Eliminator Tunes

Afterburner Tunes

I can’t understand the symbolism of this song title….

Category: Billy Gibbons, Fender, Marshall, Tom Scholz/Boston

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