Dave Hunter’s latest book is entitled, The British Amp Invasion: How Marshall, Hiwatt, Vox, and More Changed the Sound of Music, and covers a span of the influence of British amplification from the late 1950s onward. As an industry, the companies behind the amplifiers are a fascinating study, not only from a design and sonic perspective, but also because of the stories themselves that surround their business success and growth (or for some, their bad deals and decline).
What sets Dave Hunter’s work apart from others on this subject is in how thoroughly he researches his subjects and source material. As the author of numerous books about musical instruments, Hunter’s voice is that of an authority. Within The British Amp Invasion, Hunter interviews and quotes from an endless array of sources including the amp designers, technicians, famous musicians and producers, as well as collectors — and not to mention the executives at the companies themselves. When you read the stories of how these amps came to be, you get a true sense of the history and the time and you are almost transported there just as if you were engaged in reading your favorite novel.
Hunter begins with some background on the amplifiers with a primer on how they work and the common components used so that readers can become familiar with the verbiage found throughout the book. Then, he unfolds his stories, not by taking the approach of a Chapter on each manufacturer, but instead through a look at the times and specific periods in music. As the music evolved, the gear did as well, and both are discussed through their respective time periods.
American amps were expensive to export and of course American rock and roll itself was also an export. But the British companies filled the gaps. Soon, the wide array of British amps grew more diverse – bigger, more powerful, and better than what the US offered.
With chapter titles including, Tube Amp Tech: How it Works, Sowing Seeds in the Jazz Age, Early American Influences, A New Beat, A Distinctly English Sound, The Birth of the Crunch, Rolling toward Rock, and Crossing Troubled Waters, the reader gets a sense of being put squarely in the driver’s seat of these fascinating times within music history and product development. The final chapter, Driving Forward, is a look at how the companies have each evolved and where Marshall and Vox stand today. It’s also a closing look at Hiwatt, while also discussing the refresh of Orange, a company whose amps have changed significantly since its inception.
Not only is Dave Hunter’s The British Amp Invasion among the top echelon of books on the subject of amplification, it just may well be the best-written and most thoroughly researched book I’ve ever read on the topic (which includes quite a collection of books published from the 1990s and onward). The British Amp Invasion, with its expanse of Hunter’s own knowledge, as well as with its numerous behind-the-scenes stories from those he interviewed, make it a true delight to read.
The British Amp Invasion is 176 pages and is available at bookstores at a retail price of $29.99 or discounted directly at the following link (with free shipping).