Marshall's refusal/unwillingness to reissue any of its Guv'nor, Shred Master, Drive Master and first Blues Breaker pedals has puzzled us for some time. The demand is surely there, while the originals continue to sell for inflated sums on the used market. Covid may have played a part. But what if, despite its denial last year, Marshall is about to bring the beloved Blues Breaker overdrive pedal back for real this time?
If they are it's being done in an odd way. Exhibits A and B are two Instagram posts from luca.guitars (opens in new tab) – a player, collector and builder. Luca was the source of rumours a year ago (on 17 February) when he heavily hinted Marshall were planning to reissue the Blues Breaker pedal. A listing was seen on a retailer's site but Marshall later denied the plans. A year later and here we are again…
"As I anticipated exactly one year ago, the Marshall Blues Breaker is finally back, and you’ll be able to preorder it everywhere very soon," luca.guitars wrote with an Instagram photo of Chris Buck's original Blues Breaker.
"I’ll receive one of the very first units on Monday and I’ll do an unboxing or something like that for those who are interested. Stay tuned."
Firstly, why are we hearing about this first from a player's Instagram? But true to his word, luca.guitars then posted this on Monday 13 February…
There's a box in a box; and it's for a Marshall Blues Breaker reissue. It's a strange way to announce/leak a new product, that's for sure.
So why is the Mk 1 Blues Breaker's return a big deal for pedal fans? Like a Klon, the key is it's a low gain/boost based on the Marshall Model 1962 'Bluesbreaker' amp used by Eric Clapton (they added a space for the pedal name) on the Beano album with John Mayall. And where there's blues rock fans, there's money.
But the timing of its release in the early 90s didn't quite gel with the musical tastes of the time – it wasn't immediately appreciated at launch. But over time word of its reputation spread; unlike the amp it was a subtler affair – they don't really sound alike. Later versions would up the gain side, losing some of the charm for many. Indeed the BB-2 is not really comparable.
The Blues Breaker's influence would reach other builders, including the Snouse Blackbox Overdrive 2, after demand rocketed when John Mayer revealed his admiration for the Blues Breaker.
"I've always used a Marshall Blues Breaker from the early nineties," Mayer told Guitarist magazine in 2010. "It's great… I mean for all the new, little boutiquey clean boosts [puts on pernickety voice], like a boost-drive… [laughs].
"For all that, the Blues Breaker is still pretty amazing."
The chance for more players to enjoy the nuanced edge of breakup from a reissue without spending nearly £300 on a used one is welcome.