More Woody Crunch: Scorps’ ‘I Can’t Explain’

October 15, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

I dig this version of The Who tune. It’s another simple Scorpions tune, somehow executed with AC/DC-like perfection. And when I heard it recently, I dug the crunchy guitar tone.

Only question is, What the heck was it? Doesn’t seem like Rudy Schenker and Matthias Jabs were interviewed much, and this tune was done for the 1989 compilation album Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads – not exactly worthy of a guitar-related interview at the time.

So, unless a diehard Scorps fan chimes in below, we’ll have to feel around a bit to arrive at an answer.


Guitar-wise, it shouldn’t be much of a secret what these guys used. Like his trouble brother, Rudy likes Flying Vs. No idea if he changed the pickups. Matthias was using either a Gibson Explorer or his ’63-’64 black Fender Strat with a Floyd Rose and Bill Lawrence L90 pickup.

No idea whether either of these guys changed the stock, but Matthias seems the one more likely to and it seems, like many players of that era, he likes high-output pickups. For example, his signature Fender MIJ Strat (first available in ’98) had a Duncan JB. (I’m starting to wonder just how many rock guys used some version of the JB in the ’80s….)


Amp-wise, here’s all I could dig up, from a somewhat recent Guitar Player interview:

Jabs: I always used a 50-watt Marshall. I had one that had been modded with an effects loop and I put an old Echoplex in the loop. I wanted the echo but it never really worked. But it had a preamp in it and for some reason when I plugged it in, the amp was a bit hotter. I bought a few others but it only worked with this one Echoplex. It added the extra little bit of distortion, which was welcome at the time.

Then, in the late ’80s, I went to Soldano amps and I still have those. [Was he using a Soldano for can’t explain? Either way, the opening riff had to have been played by Rudolph.]

But the Fender Prosonics give me the same thing as my Marshalls with just a little extra. They made a head and a combo and I use the combos, although I take them out of their cabinets and put them in my rack. But the Prosonic combos have an extra tube—half is for the spring reverb and half is for tone—and it makes all the difference in the sound.

Schenker: The Engls never break down – the construction is just unbelievable. I also used a Deizel amp in the studio and that’s the first amp I’ve ever heard where, when you turn the knobs, you can hear the tone change with every millimeter.

At the time, Rudy might have been using a Rivera S120, a late ’80s/early ’90s amp which he favored – and sounds really freakin’ good in this vid! It might be responsible for the tone we hear at the beginning of “I Can’t Explain.”

Apparently they both used Marshall cabs (no speakers mentioned) and, later, Wizard cabs. Rudolph also started using Wizard amps. This is from a forum entry:

“I’ve been backstage with the Scorpions a couple times in 1993 and 1994…. As far as I can remember, Matthias Jabs was using two SLO 100 heads with Marshall cabinets, and Rudolf Schenker was using Wizard heads with Wizard cabinets. Behind the backline still was seen a Hiwatt 50 and a Kitty Hawk preamp. He [not clear who] told me that he’s using the Hiwatt for straight rhythm play and the Kitty Hawk for clean sounds only.”

That’s all I got!


> Matthias from the same GP interview: “My sound is where his frequencies aren’t happening. I have more upper mids in my tone and Rudolf gets a bit more bottom end. When we play live it always just works out. We do pay a lot of attention to it in the studio, though. To make sure the rhythm tone and lead tone aren’t clashing we might EQ one sound all out of shape to make room. And, of course, soloing in the same register as the rhythm doesn’t make much sense.”

> The Scorps’ version of “I Can’t Explain” was released as single via Polydor Records, and reached #5 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

> Aside from uber-expensive guitars made by his own company, this seems to be Matthias’ most recent sig model, the Cort Garage 1.

Category: Engl, Explorer, Fender, Flying V, Gibson, Marshall, Rivera, Scorpions, Seymour Duncan, Soldano, Strat, Wizard amps

Comments (1)

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  1. Neal Logdahl says:

    The last tour I was on with the Vince Neil (Motley Crue singer) band as guitar tech, we shared a venue with the Scorps.

    Matthias was using Prosonic heads and Wizard cabs. One head was dedicated to his talk box, one head was his primary and one was a backup in case one dropped out or failed. What little spare time that I had, I spent with the Scorp crew (along with our drum tech). Matthias’ tech said the Prosonics were stock and changed the output tubes with matched Fender branded tubes. Nothing real special. All new output tubes saw a re-biasing of the amp to the 35ma zone. Again, these were the Prosonic heads and not combos.

    As for Rudolph, I wasn’t able to get details, but saw the Engl’s and Wizard cabs

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