John Frusciante’s Marshall JCM800access_time First seen circa 1990
John used these amps extensively during the Mother’s Milk tour, usually connected to a pair of Marshall 4×10 speaker cabinets. At this point, we don’t know whether John used JCM800 model 2203 or model 2204 (the difference between the two being 100W in the former, versus 50W in the later).
What we can conclude from the photos is that John’s used a number of different JCM800s, mostly those with vertical inputs. On rare occasions (see Pinkpop festival footage) he was seen using a Marshall JCM800 with horizontal inputs. These models are regarded by most as less desirable than the earlier models with the vertical inputs – the main reason being a change to the circuit which made the amp sound more grainy.
It is also worth noting that at least in 1990, John didn’t use these amps exclusively. Although most of the band’s TV appearances seem to show a JCM800 (next to the one we showed the photo of above, also see RHCP appearance on Letterman in March 1990), John also used a Marshall JMP head – for example during the Kawasaki gig in 1990. Also, for the few gigs that band played in early 1991, John mostly used a Mesa Boogie head, but switched back to the JCM800 after the release of BSSM.
Marshall JCM800 amp on Blood Sugar Sex Magik album
Although at this time we have no precise information, based on the footage of the band’s recording process captured in the 1991 documentary ‘Funky Monks‘, John used a JCM800 on BSSM at least to some extent. He also stated on several occasions that he did indeed use Marshall amps on the record.
I played through a Marshall bass head and a Marshall guitar head – sometimes only one of them, and sometimes both of them. [Guitar World (USA), November 1991]
From another quote from John, it is clear that he was only using two amps. However, this makes one wonder what were the other amps used for, especially since one of them seems to be turned on – based on the light coming from the on/off switch. These could’ve been Fleas (unlikely, since there were more amps sitting opposite of Flea in the room), or just a few more Marshalls that John was experimenting with at the time.
For most of the basics, I used two Marshalls: a guitar head for edge and a bass head for punch and low end. I split the signal with a DOD stereo chorus pedal. For some overdubs, I used a Fender H.O.T. practice amp, but for a lot of parts, even solos, I just went straight into the board.
If we had to guess, the JCM800 was one of those John’s main two amps on the BSSM album. On the photo below, it is clear that there’s a cable going straight to it, and what’s probably even more important – during the BSSM tour in 1991, he used a pair of JCM800s extensively on stage. It seems that he probably liked the amp, and it makes sense that he would use the same model live as he used on the record.
Also – fun to note, the amp that he used during the recording sessions, the one shown on the footage, has horizontal inputs. As we stated in the second paragraph, most people consider these to be worse in comparison to the ones with vertical inputs.
Regarding the bass amp, at this point, we find it really hard to tell which of these amps is even a bass amp. If you’re curious about some theory-crafting on the subject, check out our article on John’s Marshall Bass head.