Randy's pedalboard has always been some sort of a mystery. It had been – in all probability – built by Pete “Pedalboard” Holmes, who got a “thank you” on the cover of Ozzy's first album. Another source – Joel McIver's book about Randy – cites Pete Cornish as the maker of Rhoads' board, even though Cornish has since denied having had anything to do with it. Still, the 'board has been designed in a similar fashion to Cornish's creations.
All pedals had been disembowelled, with the innards then having been installed into one large enclosure. This large board had a dedicated effects loop for the delay/reverb-unit, along with footswitches for all of the effects. The reasons for constructing a pedalboard this way had to do with the lack of status-LEDs, true bypass switching and DC-inputs in effect pedals from the Seventies. Everything had to be customized or custom made to serve the practical requirements of a touring guitarist. The illustration below has been taken from Wolf Marshall's Randy Rhoads guitar techniques book (Copyright: Hal Leonard).
Sadly, Randy's pedalboard was infamous for its unreliability. Because of its continuous stream of buzzing Ozzy named it the frying pan. The MXR Distortion+ can be quite noisy, and Randy's board didn't include a noise gate/noise suppressor. But what was worse were the board's regularly occurring electronic gremlins. Right before a gig in LA, which naturally was very important to LA-native Randy, the pedalboard started giving him problems again.
Inside the board you could find many different relays and switches, which controlled the effects and the signal flow (similar to many of Pete Cornish's boards). Its complicated structure made repairs rather difficult and time-consuming. Randy had to play the whole LA gig without any effects, leaving him bitterly disappointed. He needed the effects for his signature sound.
On the effect front Randy was using MXR-pedals, which were the crème of the crop at that time. At the beginning of the Eighties there weren't very many dedicated effects makers around. Electro-Harmonix was the largest company, then. Boss of Japan would grow to be a huge player a few years down the road, but was virtually unknown then.
MXR had been making pedals since the early Seventies at their headquarters in Rochester (NY). Their high-quality effects were pricey, making them the choice of pros, like Randy Rhoads.
Randy Rhoads' effect set-up was quite straightforward: Following a volume pedal and a Wah-Wah, he used a short chain of effects, chosen to do specific jobs:
- MXR Distortion + is a mild overdrive pedal, despite its name that Randy kept on virtually all the time. Together with his Marshall Plexi it constituted the core of his signature tone.
- MXR 10 Band EQ pedal is used to boost his midrange.
- MXR Flanger added life to his on-stage sound, in the same way as a doubling delay would in the studio. Sometimes he also used the flanger purely as an effect sound (like in “Flying High Again”).
- MXR Stereo Chorus added richness to clean parts (listen to “I Don't Know”).
The signal from his pedalboard was then sent in stereo to an outboard delay. During his short career Randy tried out a number of delays, like:
- Roland Tape Echo
- Korg Stage Echo
- Maestro Echoplex
- Yamaha Analog Delay
In conjunction with a pair of customized Marshall stacks, the delay worked to create a stereo signal in a live setting, mimicking the sound of two guitars playing simultaneously. Over time the doubling, tripling and quadrupling of guitar tracks in the studio would become one of Randy's signature ingredients. His stage set-up was used to create a similar sound in a live setting.
17.9.2014 Kimmo Aroluoma (Translated by Martin Berka)
The author is one of Custom Sounds’ owners, and an incorrigible guitar and gear enthusiast.
Randy Rhoads – the brightest star of them all (17.9.2014)