Having a clutch of nice guitars and shiny gear with enticing LEDs flashing on it is all very well an

Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member
Having a clutch of nice guitars and shiny gear with enticing LEDs flashing on it is all very well and is, frankly, a laudable aim in itself, but it's really all about getting out there and playing in front of a live crowd.  So this is my blog about being in a working band.  I thought I'd start with a few tales about how we started and we'll see how it goes.  If you like it I'll carry on, if not then I'll try to shuffle off, unobtrusively, and pretend I never wanted to blog anyway! So, here goes .... Some time at the tail end of 2008 one of the dad's at my boys' school put out a call in the school newsletter for other parents to form a band, and as I'd fairly recently moved to Andover from out of town, leaving my old band in tears behind me, I decided to apply for the gig. Some time passed and then I got an Email saying he wanted me in and we arranged to meet up in a local pub. This guy, who I'll call Vladimir (not his real name, obviously) was a guitarist (and a bloody good one, too) and we met up with the bassist, Paul (Real name: he's still with us and as cool-as-you-like). We all got on well, drank a lot of beer and seemed to have similar musical tastes. Vladimir had also been in touch with a drummer, so we arranged to meet up for a jam session/rehearsal a week or so later in a local village hall Now, all seemed to go well at that rehearsal. I turned up a bit late and nervous as I was down to be second guitarist and lead vocalist: a role I'd never even tried in my life, and I was really worried about whether my singing voice would be admired or laughed at. The drummer, Charlie, was there (real name: also still in the band, although "with us" is stretching the truth) and we all seemed to play together well. People said nice things about my voice and it was all looking good, although Vladimir didn't seem to like the idea of me taking one of the solos in a song with two lead breaks in .... Our next meeting was at my house, and we got down to the business of rehearsing pre-agreed numbers. We rattled through "Sharp Dressed Man" pretty well at low volume and tried a couple of others. There seemed to be quite a bit of Metalica in Vladimir's proposed set list which didn't seem to fit to well with our aims, though. It was like this: Vladimir had the idea to put the band together to help raise funds for the school, so it seemed to me that a set list of music you could dance to, but on the rockier side of things, would be ideal so I wasn't sure where Metalica fitted in. Nobody was going to pay to see a bunch of forty-something dads playing heavy metal, were they? So the next meeting was in the pub just near the drummer's house (yeah, typical drummer: buy a house next door to a pub!). Vladimir had an Excel spreadsheet with him (rock 'n' roll!!!!!!) of songs he thought we should do and, well, I guess me and Charlie got a bit out of hand. The evening mainly involved drinking a lot of Guiness, during which time Charlie and I crossed out a lot of his list and added a lot of our own, including a lot of suggestions from Paul. Vladimir was not very happy and didn't say much on the way home. I have to say, I wasn't too enamoured with how things were going. I didn't think I'd ever gel with Vladimir: he didn't seem to share the same ethos for the band an seemed intent on just pushing songs which he knew anyway.  Was he sjut looking for a backing band to show off his guitar skills?  To be fair, he was a very good guitarist, but I wasn't going to stay in a band with someone I didn't get on with, so I resolved to go to one last rehearsal to see how it went. For the next rehearsal I arranged for us to use a room at the school for free: since we aimed to help raise money for the school it seemed only fair. When I arrived the other guys were there all set up and Vladimir was shredding away at full volume, so conversation was difficult. I was keen to get a bit of social interraction going, but Vladimir clearly had no time for chit chat. We played through a couple of songs, but the wheels fell off when I asked Vlad what the chords were for the next song. He went a bit mental. He was ****ed off that I wasn't there knowing all the songs off by heart, as he did. To be fair, though, part of the reason he was all ready was that they were songs he already knew anyway: that's why he chose them. He started effing and blinding at me, the started on Paul, the bassist, wanting to know how many hours practice he'd put in. I explained, albeit a bit heatedly, that as far as I was concerned, us all practicing along with the records at home then coming together to play through them wasn't how I'd ever worked before. To me a band should listen to the records, get really familiar with them, then learn the chords and work out the riffs (or their version of it) then all get together an work it out so you put your own individual stamp on the cover. Added to which, if you try to practice along with the records you can end up playing in weird keys, like most of Metalica is in Eb, but only because they down-tune by a half tone. And, we were supposed to be having fun! Anyway, Vlad told us we'd never get anywhere and stormed out, which with hindsight was hilarious. You see, dear reader, you can't just storm out of a band practice: you have all the gear to pack away. So the three of us sat there in embarassed silence while Vladimir moodily packed up his gear, throwing his leads into the case, and then made a couple of trips out to the car. I took my guitar off and sat on my amp and the drummer motioned to me not to pack up, which I wasn't going to do anyway. Then he casually asked me, "So, are you going away this year?"ME: "Er, yeah,I'm driving Route 66 with some buddies in May."
CHARLIE: "Wow, cool! What about you Paul?"
PAUL: "Er, I'll probably end up going to France in the summer."
ME: "Oh yeah? Whereabouts?"
PAUL: "Probably Normandy."
ME: "Oh .... nice." So the three of us sat awkwardly discussing holidays, while Vladimir stomped in and out moodily. His parting shot as we left was to me, and he jsut said, "Thanks for organising the room." The three of us sat and stared at each other. I craned my neck round to watch after him .... "Hss he gone?" We all started talking at once, then stopped, then all started again .... "What the f@ck was that all about????!!!!!" So we talked. We all kind of agreed that none of us were into just practicing along with the records as we wanted to make them our own, and we all agreed that Metalica was right out! For us it was about doing songs which were a bit unusual, not the usual wedding and party band stuff, but stuff that people would still want to dance to. So, would we carry on? You bet yer ass we would!  If only to prove Vladimir wrong! So would we stay a 3 piece? Hmmm .... tricky. So I told the guys about my mate, Ted, who I was at college with, who is a pretty nifty keyboard player and saxophonist and lives in Romsey. He might be interested. "Have you got his number?" Charlie wants to know.
"Well, of course I have his number, he's my mate!"
"No I mean with you now. Call him now!"
So I called Ted. "Hi Ted, it's Dave ....... yeah, all good ..... listen, you know diva guitarist syndrome? Well we've just been struck by it ...... yeah, just stormed out! ...... listen, would you be intersted in joining us? Guitar & vocals, bass drums and you if you're in? ..... Tuesdays in Andover ..... You're in? cool! .... Yeah, I'll call you about next week .... cheers Ted" So, we were back to four, but now instead of a rather crap band which I didn't want to be in, I was part of an exciting musical project. I liked Charlie and Paul, and with Ted in the band it would suddenly be fun. No more Excel spreadsheets and no more home-practice Gestapo breathing down our necks. I went to bed that night with a warm glow. So, how will this fledgling band fare? Will Vladimir return? Will we ever get a gig?  Tune in to the next thrilling episode of "Screaming Dave's Working Band Wisdom"


  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Great post - more please.


    This is the sort of soap opera I like, not the bollocks my missus watches!


    Cheers, Reg.

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,730Member, Moderator
    edited August 2016
    Originally Posted by Screaming Dave:

    ... most of Metalica is in Eb ... we were supposed to be having fun!

    That made oi larf! I've been in enough bands to remember how true are so many of the things you have experienced. I hope the first (the fundraising) gig goes well and helps the band gel.

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    Great stuff Dave.  I think most of us who have been in bands have played with "Vladimir" at some time or another.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    So, Vladimir was no more, and we mourned his passing ..... NOT!


    To be fair, he wasn't a bad bloke, and he was a very talented guitarist, and it was quite sad that the band that he had formed hadn't worked out how he wanted it to. We all still saw him at school events, but he just blanked us. I tried to catch his eye on a number of occasions, just to say, "Hi," and "No hard feelings" but he always seemed to be massively interested n something off in the middle distance. Nowadays he is a bit of a figure of fun. We regularly do impressions of him and berate each other for not practicing enough.


    Actually, after the last blog I told the guys about it and we had a chat about old times. I've just bought a new acoustic guitar for live work, an Ibanez Talman, which is a small-bodied electro-acoustic. It turned out Paul had got a new acoustic bass for Xmas and never really played it yet, so he went and got that, and we rattled through our first ever set list (more about that later ...) on acoustics just for old times'sake - brilliant! We've still got it! We chatted and realised we've been on quite a journey, to use the X-Factor cliche, and met some really interesting people (and some right idiots!).


    Anyway, back to the plot .....


    So now it was me, Paul, Charlie and Ted and we set about rehearsing and looking for that elusive first gig. And the opportunity came in July 2009 when the school organised a ball to celebrate 75 years since it opened. Luckily my dear wife was on the organising committee and fought our corner, but it was controversial. Several members of the committee were dead against us playing, not wanting us to "spoil the evening". It was agreed in the end that we would play a short set in between the two sets by the band they were paying to play, but that suited us fine. There was no way we were going to get a whole evening's worth of music together by then, anyway.


    So we went about putting together a set list, which in the end comprised:


    Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)

    Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
    Hard to Handle (The Black Crowes)
    Sex on Fire (The Kings of Leon)
    All The Small Things (Blink 182)
    Knocking on Heaven's Door (Eric Clapton/Guns 'n' Roses)
    Ever Fallen In Love (The Buzzcocks)
    Jailhouse Rock (Elvis/ZZ Top)


    We set about rehearsing and it was all going well. Ted's keyboards fattened out the sound and we were starting to sound like a half-decent band. Then Ted dropped the bombshell - he wasn't available for the first gig - Aaarrrgggghhhh! So we dropped back to a "Power Trio" for the gig and Ted stopped coming to all the rehearsals. I had to work hard to fill out the sound with One guitar, especially while singing, but it still sounded good, or at least I thought it did.


    And now all the complications that go with being in a working band kicked in. First of all we had to work with this other band, who were less than helpful, I have to say. The contact name I was given wasn't very friendly and made it very clear that they weren't happy about us playing in between their sets. I got the impression that somebody had told them we were crap (possibly one of the dissenters in the committee). They didn't want to share a stage with us (they wanted the stage to be "uncluttered and professional") and they didn't even want to share their set list so we could make sure we didn't duplicate any songs, so I sent them ours so they could at least see for themselves and flag up any conflicts. This, of course, also ruled out sharing a PA, so we now had to find one of those for the gig, and a stage (because if those unhelpful lot were going to be on a stage, you can bet yer ass we were having one!)


    Luckily the singer in my old band stepped in and volunteered to come and set us up a PA (he was doing sound for another band at the time and most of the gear belonged to him) and the school had staging we could borrow.


    I contacted the event manager at the venue, the Museum of Army Flying in Middle Wallop (I'm not making this up, honest!) and he wasn't all that helpful either, and insisted we had to have all our gear PAT tested. So we found a guy who would come and do our PAT testing for us - a brilliant bloke called Gerald Balding, who roared up on a huge motorbike. He was a real character and it turned out he'd been a circus ringmaster and the circus electrician, hence now doing PAT testing. He claimed to be the only person ever to live in New York City with an elephant (and I have no reason to doubt that claim!). He was a really interesting guy and one of those people who you feel have enriched your life just by meeting them. Unfortunately he condemned a lighting rig we'd managed to borrow/steal, but we decided to use it anyway.


    And we also didn't have a band name yet. We talked about it for hours, we argued, we shouted, screamed, kicked and gouged at each other, but still had no agreement. It's funny, we could agree on most things almost instantly, but the band name just wasn't happening. In the end I grudgingly agreed to play the gig under the embarrassingly awful name of "Dads Allowed," but on the strict understanding that we would change it after that. Bloody awful name, I know, but we were desperate and it was kind of fitting for the occasion.


    The day of the gig dawned and we spent a good part of the day setting up. We got off to a bad start with the oik who ran the events at the museum. When I arrived and said we were the band he said, "What? The proper band, or just the dads?"


    "JUST the dads??!!??" I said, fixing him with an icy stare and raising one eyebrow, a la Roger Moore (well, I like to think that's what I did. I probably just looked constipated.)


    Someone had definitely nobbled us in terms of expectations and people's opinions of us. It was hurtful, because nobody had even heard us play at that point.


    The oik continued to be condescending and demanded to see our PAT test certs, which we showed him and he grudgingly accepted. I got the impression he was looking for an excuse to not let us play. Ironically he then directed us to plug into a socket which had a sign saying something like "DANGER: do not use". I took a photo in case I needed it later.


    So we set up the stage and then got the gear in. Neil rolled up and soon "our" stage was looking about as rock 'n' roll as anything could. There was my Marshall TSL602 up on a stand, mics, Charlie's kit all shiny and mic'ed up, Paul's huge Trace Elliott brooding over things, cables everywhere .... oh, and a killer sound. It was a huge cavern of a venue, not quite a full-sized aircraft hanger, but getting on for that size which, getting technical, is almost a free field, so not much problems with feedback or even reverb. We had aricraft and helicopters hanging from the roof over us, and I can't vouch for what effect they had on the sound, but it all looked brilliant.

    The other band rolled up, and they were certainly right that their stage (which was three times the size of ours) was uncluttered. It was certainly uncontaminated by such things as a drum kit or a bass player - most of their sound came from a sequencer on the keyboards and a single guitar player. They barely spoke to us as they set their stuff up, despite our best efforts to be friendly.


    So the evening came. We were all "guests" at the ball as well as playing, so we sat there in our dinner suits, at separate tables with our respective parties, all as nervous as we could possibly be. I could barely eat, and had to stay off the wine. I couldn't drink beer as it would make me burp, and I really didn't think belching into the mic would be well received at all.

    The minutes dragged on. We endured the charity auction, and then the main band came on and played their first set, and were virtually ignored. Hardly anybody was dancing and I feared the worst - we were going to go out there and die. If these seasoned pros couldn't get everyone up, what hope did we have?


    But our time came. Just to help us the other band ended their first set with a couple of numbers which cleared the floor completely - thanks guys!


    I took of my jacket, jettisoned the bow tie, undid the waistcoat and slipped on a pair of wraparound shades. The MC gave us a rousing introduction, and by that time just about the whole crowd were standing in front of our little stage, gazing on expectantly. Expecting what? Were they there to enjoy it, or to watch us die? I had no idea as Charlie took up the beat, I dragged my pick down the strings of my trusty Gibson SG, and we launched into Sharp Dressed Man. The sound was amazing, and I could feel Paul's bass and Charlie's kick drum nudging me in the rib cage at every beat. When I raised my head to sing I nearly cried. Everyone was dancing, and when I came to the line "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man" they sang along and guys were punching the air in time to the beat.


    The rest of the set went by in a blur. In no time I was introducing our last song, which was to be Sex on Fire, I think. By then my voice was weakening and I screamed out the chorus, barely making it to the end. We hit the last chord and I called out "Thank you, and good night" into the mic and we made to leave the stage, but the crowd, thankfully, had other ideas. I say "Thankfully" because we had banked on getting an encore! I told the crowd that we did know one more song and did they want to hear it? I introduced the band, nodding at the fact we were all dads at the school by introducing them, not by name, but as "George's dad" and "Emmy, Phoebe and Fraser's dad". We slipped on gold Elvis shades and launched into an ass-kicking, barnstorming version of Jailhouse Rock, taking a quick detour through Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dog. I was on surer ground vocally on this, as it was well in my range.


    At the end of it we stepped off the stage to a heroes' welcome. The other band took to the stage immediately and everyone stayed up dancing that time. I couldn't help thinking, "WE did that. WE set the tone, and WE got everyone dancing. You guys can take it from here." I can tell you, a huge glass of Rioja never tasted so good.


    It turned out that one of the main dissenters had been the committee chairwoman, Carolyn, but to her credit she took my wife to one side and said, "You were right, I was wrong, They were brilliant!" Another was Kizzy, who had booked the other band. She spent the rest of the evening apologising for how crap the other band were and saying next time we would play all night (and you know what? She was right. We play the 80th anniversary ball this July as the main band.) To be fair, she was a bit drunk. The other band weren't crap. We just had the crowd behind us because lots of them knew us and the ones who didn't felt like each of us was one of their own. But it was nice that those who were against us playing were so willing to big us up in the end.


    But were we really brilliant? No. Definitely not. I regularly turned away from the mic to see what I was playing, whereupon my voice faded out, and back in again. We all screwed things up on occasions, and if I'm honest the sound probably wasn't all that great. But we were drunk on the elation of having got through our first gig and having people saying nice stuff about us.


    And the little oik who ran the venue? He was now my best mate: couldn't do enough for me. The other band still ignored us, all except the guitarist who sought me out and complimented us, and we ended up having a good long conversation about stomp boxes and what I had on my pedalboard - guitarists really are the nicest people.


    I went to bed that night with a warm glow, the like of which I only get following a great gig - pure bliss!


    In the next episode we play our fist paid gig and play on hallowed ground .....

    Tune in for the next installment of Dave's Working Band Wisdom

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member



    First gigs - the fear is tangible and can be cut with a knife!


    I remember my first ever public performance.  And learnt my first ever lesson about stage craft.  A humble unamplified floor spot at the local folk club.  I'd been playing guitar all of about six months I think, and it was a rousing three chord thrash at The Watersons' version of "Jolly Waggoners".


    Stage Craft Rule Number One:  Never sing with your eyes shut.  Especially if you have a tendency to shuffle around.  Halfway through my first song I start hearing the odd snigger.  And from a strange direction.  I open my eyes and find I'm almost facing the wall that I'm certain was behind me when I started!


    Looking forward to the next installment.


    Cheers, Reg.

  • The23rdmanThe23rdman Posts: 1,560Member

    This is a brilliant read! 

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,207Member

    Great story Dave, and looking forward to future episodes. I can relate to the "other band" issue - working in a duo with a vocalist, I've often had the experience of turning up to do a spot, and some band has already taken over the stage with amps, pedals, cables etc., and we have to somehow clear a bit of space at the front to work in. Given that they know they are not the only act on the bill, it would be nice if they considered the other groups who are playing...

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    I went to a talent night at my grandson's school where, at 13, his fledgling band were playing their first gig.  I had never heard them. play.

    Before the show started, it was announced that a "teachers band" was going to get the ball rolling.  On came 5, forty some-things, who played a competent cover of a song I cannot remember now.  I thought it was a bad show given that the boys were to follow straight after them.  I needn't have worried.  The boys came on, got straight into "Smells Like Teen Spirit", and totally blew the teachers band away.  I like it when the underdogs win.

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Teachers vs. Kids?  Exactly who were supposed to be the underdogs?


    We always had an annual 6th Form vs. Teachers hockey match.  It was the opportunity to get your own back for the previous six years.  I don't recall the ball actually moving from the bully off position during the entire 2 x 30 minute pitched battle halves.

  • The23rdmanThe23rdman Posts: 1,560Member

    Hockey is the most brutal game imaginable. I still have the scars from 6 form matches. 

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    So, we had our first gig under our belts, and it had gone pretty well. We weren't under any illusions that we needed to be far more polished, but it had been well-received and it had strengthened our friendships. We were band-mates now, and as anyone in a band will tell you, there are no mates like band-mates. You become like brothers: the only way you can get away from each other permanently is by being quite drastic, but you do need to let off steam at each other, and rows do happen. Like when the drummer insists on trying to drum along every time you want to listen to a song at rehearsals, he needs to be asked politely not to, then told bluntly not to and finally, when all that tact fails, he needs to told to shut the f**k up or he'll lose a set of drumsticks to a place they won't easily come out of and where it will make it hard for him to walk for a while.


    The next gigs came quite quickly, and the very second gig was to be a paid gig at the wedding of one of Paul's workmates. Of course, we'd need more than seven songs, so we set about expanding the set list drastically. And then, disaster of disasters, we realised Ted couldn't do that one, either. It was his grandmother's 90th birthday, but he told us he thought
    it would be OK because she'd probably be dead by then (typical of the band's dark humour!)


    So for this gig we enlisted the help of one of Paul's friends, Sue, who he'd been in a band with before. She played guitar a bit and had a fair voice, so she was aboard for that gig at least. We rehearsed hard for the gig and by the time the day came around we had a bigger set list, but not really big enough to jusfify our fee of £200, if I'm honest.


    We now also needed our own PA and we all agreed that the procees of the next gig would go towards paying for that and that Me, Paul, Charlie and Ted would pay the rest. So we'd bought a pair of Behringer 400W active speakers and a mixer to get us going. We'd also managed to scrounge a power amp and a couple of really old HH passive speakers to use as monitors, and we'd also invested in a set of LED lights. With this little lot we were a) all set and b) empoverished!


    So now, the bit that all red-blooded guitarists will be intersted in - my gig gear!


    Guitar-wise I'm now a confirmed Gibson man. There was a time when it was Strats for me all the way, and before that I was a Tele addict (see what I did there? I'm here all week!) But, after getting my first SG I've been addicted do them ever since. I know any comments I make here are my own opinion, and whatever I say will have some people howling for my
    resignation, but to me the SG is the perfect gigging guitar. For a start it's light and comfortable to play for long periods of time. The humbuckers meen a minimum of noise, even when playing in working men's clubs illuminated entirely with flourescent tubes and low-voltage lights with transformers in, and I love the neck profile. There may have been a
    time when I found them a bit neck-heavy, I guess, but not that I really remember.


    So, I have a pair of Gibson sG Standards, both from 2004. One is in the standard Heritage Cherry and the other is in a sort of dark brown sunburst, called Naturalburst by Gibson. They're strung with 10s. They're called Cherry and Sunny, and Sunny spends most of her time in drop D tuning for when we play Start Me Up, by the Stones, but is always ready to be put back in standard tuning should Cherry let me down (which she never has and never will, but don't tell Sunny).


    (Oh, and a little tip on trying stuff out in music shops. You know how, when you try out an expensive guitar in a music shop they always hang around and try to sell it to you? Well, when I bought my first SG I went in looking for a chorus pedal. I tried out a Boss Chorus, but asked to use an SG to try it out. They left me alone, because as far as they were concerned I was just buying a pedal, so I went up to the desk and the guy said, "What did you think?" I said, "Nah, I don't like it, but I'll have the guitar." The guy laughed, "Yeah, right!" But I did, I bought the SG. So that's how to get peace and quiet to try out an expensive guitar.)


    I sometimes take my Gibson J-45 acoustic out with me, but only for big prestigious gigs when I know we'll have the stage room. The J-45 is a lovely acoustic guitar, but I feel it's a bit delicate for constant live use, so I've just bought and Ibanez Talman electro (with a magnetic pup in it) for live work. The talman has a small body, a bit more like an electric,
    so it'll be more comfortable to play, be less prone to feedback and take up less room on the stand. (And it looks really groovy.)


    For amplification I use a Marshall TSL602, 2x12 triple channel valve amp, and that provides me with all the main sounds I use. If my pedal board went down I'd still be able to play the gig just with the overdrive and distortion sounds on the amp. For the acoustic I use an AER Alpha (the cheapest in the AER range!) but most of the sound comes throught the PA.


    FX-wise I'm an analogue man. The only digital effect is my Boss DD3, but I'm pretty sure it has a true bypass on it. My pedals for the electric are all mounted on a Behringer pedalboard and comprise the following:


    Jim Dunlop Cry-Baby Wah
    MXR Dyna Comp
    MXR Phase 90
    Marshall Vibratrem
    Electroharmonix Small Clone
    Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
    Carl Martin Red Repeat (Analogue Delay)
    Proco Rat II (Distortion)
    Boss TU-3 pedal tuner


    If I'm honest, the only ones that get much use are the Small Clone chorus, the Rat II, which I use on a very light distortion setting with chorus for some of the soul songs we do, like Mustang Sally, and the Dyna Comp. I sometimes remember to use the wah in the solo for our version of Knocking on Heaven's Door, and I use the vibratrem for the opening of Another Girl, Another Planet, and sometimes on Maria (the Blondie song).


    FX for the acoustic are on a separate board and comprise:


    Behringer V-Tone Acoustic Pre-Amp
    Danelectro FAB Chorus
    Behringer TU300


    The V-Tone is the most important and really improves the tone of either a piezo or mag pup. The others are just to fill up the board!


    So, back to the plot ......


    The day of the gig came round and we set off in high spirits in a van borrowed by Paul. I remember arriving at the same time as the mobile disco guy (why are they always enormous blokes crammed into a tiny car with all their gear?). We had to wait to set up as the speeches were still going on, and then when we did get to set up we were constantly hounded by hotel staff wanting to know when we would be finished. I just kept telling them 15 minutes. Even when they came back after another half our, I said, "Fifteen minutes!" They gave up asking, ha ha! It did take a while to set-up as the gear was all new, but we did it as quick as we could. The sound check consisted of "Is there sound coming out of the speakers?"


    We then went off for a meal and we were all dead nervous, and it showed in different ways. Sue constantly went through her handbag looking for stuff (but never seemed to find it), Charlie read the paper, trying to be all cool, Paul kept telling us all we'd be alright and that they weren't expecting much, and I kept telling everyone what a gorgeous day it was, over and over again. As the time crept round, painfully slowly, we drifted off to change and then on we went ....


    I was shaking as we launched into Sharp Dressed Man, and made some embarassing mistakes, and completely screwed up the first lead bread on Hard to Handle, but we go into our stride and seemed to be going down well. Sue forgot to turn up her acoustic guitar on one song, so there she was merrily strumming away when she might as well have been in the bar, were it not for the fact that she looks far better in a little black dress than I do!


    Once again we were very well received, partly because so many of the crowd were workmates of Paul, and the set list went down well. I wasn't massively pleased with how I played or sung, if I'm honest, and I thought we were a bit lacklustre. But, the crowd seemed to like us and we'd GOT PAID!!! Aferwards, Paul's boss solemly congratulated us but told Charlie he needed to play a bt quieter, but just by 1dB (Nob!). Since that day, telling Charlie to play 1dB quieter has been a standing joke.


    We were invited to partake of the buffet, which was nice, and they finished early, so we got to pack up earlier than we thought, but we were still not home until 2 am. But I went to bed with that warm glow anyhow. We were now a proper working band!


    For the next gig we threw a Xmas party as a vehicle for us to play and to raised a bit of money for charity. We hired the village hall where we had first jammed, which felt like coming home. I always say that Thruxton is our spiritual home. We had a stage, curtains and everything, and our wives organised everything so we could concentrate on the set list and all
    the bits of silliness we indulged in.


    It all started witht the drummer suggesting we dressed up for the first set. In a rare flash of insight I knew exactly what he was thinking. "You're thinking "The Village People", aren't you!" I said, and he admitted he was. "OK," I said, "as long as we open with a rocked-up version of YMCA." We all agreed and so it was that for that gig, in front of all our friends and families, we went on dressed as a leather biker, a cowboy, a red Indian and a biker cop. Needless to say it went down a storm.


    After the first set I realised that after knowing Ted for well over 25 years, and after rehearsing and collaborating on a few recordings in the past, we had finally played a gig together!


    The next gig was altogether more strange. A friend of ours' dad is a criminal defence lawyer (i.e. rich) and had a beautiful house in one of the out-lying villages (which we briefly considered buying about a year later, until we saw the price!). He had a little tradition of always throwing a party before Xmas, and he asked us to play. We turned up on the afternoon and set up, and he invited us all to be guests for dinner that evening before playing. In the huge room we'd set up in they layed out long tables and around 40 of us sat down to dinner, and we played two sets after that. It was very hard keeping the volume at a comfortable level and Charlie was required a to play a little more than one dB quieter that night.


    After we'd played, Marcus was chatting to us, and told us that the house had been used as a recording studio in the past. Below the room we were in there was a completely separate annex, which could only be accessed from outside, and which he used as guest rooms, but apparently there used to be a spiral staircase going from that room into the annex, and it was those two rooms which had been the studio. And I realised we were on holy ground when he told us the Faces, with Rod Steward and Ronnie Wood, had recorded there, among others. Ronnie Wood! Only one of my favourite guitarists! I'd played well that night. Had the spirit of Ronnie Wood infused me?




  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Love it!

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    I thought I'd talk about some of the pitfalls of band leadership today ....


    So, we'd gone down well at a few gigs, but I still felt there was something missing.  There were lots of songs we thought we'd like to do, but they all needed one thing - a good female vocalist (and I mean a REALLY good female vocalist).  Sue, who played that first paid gig with us, was quite a good singer, but not really what we needed.  (She now sings with a local band called The Covergirlz, and they play more gigs than we do, so she's doing OK.)  


    So we had that difficult situation of having to tell someone that you don't want them in the band.  I'm naturally out-going and a bit of an organiser, so the guys had started to defer to me as band leader, and they looked to me to sort out that particular situation.  So I girded my loins and faced up to it like any great leader......


    ......and let Paul tell her!


    Well, they were friends (I say WERE friends, ha ha!) so it would sound better coming from him, and he could paint me as the bad guy ....


    ... alright, alright!  I copped out, OK?


    So, where to go from here?  Enter my step-daughter, Teoni.  She has a stunning voice, and I mean STUNNING!  She studied performing arts at University, but that elusive West End career ... well ... it eluded her, I guess!  She came down to have a sing with us, and stayed.  She completes the line-up perfectly, although I don't think she'll stay with us much longer.  She gets married in August, and then will come a family and she won't have time to hang about with us old gits.


    And T joining raises another issue which all bands have to face up to, which is how a new member changes the dynamic.  T came in, about 25 years younger than any of the rest of us, and of course it changed things.  As most bands of brothers we squabble and the language gets a bit ripe, and it must have taken about two weeks before we got back to effing, blinding and f@rting in rehearsals.But now T's one of the gang and no-one feels self-conscious at all.


    Negotiating fees for playing is another hard thing to do.  Most of the gigs tend to be organised by either Charlie, me or Paul.  Paul and I always negotiate a good fee, but Charlie is cr@p at it.  He loves playing so much he'd go to Aberdeen for free if it meant he could bash the tubs for an evening, so we have to keep him in check a bit.


    A case in point was a gig we did miles away in Chichester for his mate's dad's birthday party.  We kept asking Charlie how much we were getting, and I'm pretty sure he initially intended we should play for free.  When I first asked how much, he tried to tell us that ... well ... his mate had done all the lights in his Estate Agents office for free, so .....


    I nearly hit the roof!  So he expected us to all haul @ss over to Chichester for free so he could get his lights done for nowt!  Not bloody likely!


    It was during our break between the sets that he finally announced we'd get £200 between us all.  Not great, but something, at least.  I really think he'd only just negotiated it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a complete bread-head, but I do think people should be willing to pay for what they are getting. Basically, you'd expect to pay a grand for a good party band, and not wanting to blow my own trumpet, we are a good band.  Generally we play for about £300 though, so we're good value for money.  I'm fine doing charity gigs for free, but I don't want people taking the p!ss.  Plus, I think we all deserve to know what we're getting before we agree the dates.  Charlie is quite prepared to get us all to agree we're free and then tell us we're only getting 20 quid each.  Unfortunately for him, I'm quite prepared to agree that I'm free and then refuse to play for peanuts!


    Another thing I find myself dealing with is venue staff.  They have a totally different agenda from us, and seem to treat bands as some form of inferior beings.  My line is not to go at them head-on, but rather try to be friendly and helpful, but stick to my guns over what really matters.  It's not about me winning, it's about the people we're paying for get the best show we can give them.  So expect me to be amenable and good-natured, just don't try to tell me we have to play in an area 6 feet by 10 feet and set up in 15 minutes when fat-disco-man-in-his-Peugeot-206 has a space 10 feet by 20 feet and got in last week to set up in advance!


    Next time I'll tell you all about the best and the worst gigs we've ever played.




    Screaming Dave

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    OK, as promised, best and worst gigs .....


    Worst is easy, best is more difficult, so I'll start with worst and then end on a hight.


    The worst gig we ever played was a charity gig in aid of the town mayor's charity.  It was a Halloween fancy dress ball, and we were to be the band for dancing, no disco, just us and a troupe of dancers needing to use our PA for their music - no worries.


    So, we all sorted out Halloween costumes (we had previously dressed as the Adams Family for one of our Xmas party gigs, but this time T dressed as a horror-film-ish Red Riding Hood, Paul was Count Dracula, Ted was Frankenstein's monster, Charlie was the wolfman, and I was .... er ..... I can't actually remember!  I think I may have just been a vampire, or maybe Gomez Adams again .... you see this one was so bad my mind has erased all memory of it!


    We even rehearsed up a rocking version of Monster Mash for the occasion.  So why was it so bad?  Well, no pun intended for a Halloween gig, we simply went out and died.  We started off by having a very fragmented set-up and sound check.  Charlie had done the recce, but he was very late getting there, so we had to move all our kit, then Paul had to go off early.  We were restricted as to where we could set up (what sort of hotel has the kitchen opening out onto the dancefloor?) It was a very long room, but we couldn't set up facing up the room as we'd have blocked the kitchen entrance, so we had to set up facing across  the dance floor, which meant the sound was crap in the rest of the room.  The sound was great for those who were dancing, but there weren't all that many of them.


    I'd like to think they were more of a listening crowd, but I think they were more of a living-dead sort of crowd.  As the slow but terrible realisation came upon us that no-one was going to dance, and those who weren't dancing were getting a terrible sound, we went to pieces.  We all started making mistakes and the more we screwed up the more self-conscious we became and the worse it got. Those who were dancing loved us, or so they said, but we sucked and we knew it.  What we should have done was said, OK, no-ones going to dance, let's just take this chance to have a bit of a rehearsal and have a blast, but we want our audience to have fun and if they don't we feel we've failed.  All I can say is, thank the Lord they weren't paying us or they'd have wanted their money back.


    The best gig was the second gig we played at the George Inn in Thruxton.  This was the pub we'd adjourned to on that fateful night when Charlie and I had torn Vladimir's set list apart.  This was our triumphant return and it should have been a disaster.  We were set up in a cramped corner, facing a wall at the end of an L-shaped bar.  There was little or no room for dancing in front of us, and we had to try to keep the sound down (1dB quieter, please, Charlie!) because the sound bounced back at as and caused horrendous feedback.


    On the plus side the pub was heaving, both with locals who'd seen us last time, and our faithful rent-a-crowd of friends and family who were there to support us.  Now, whether Dunkirk spirit took over and we were all determined to overcome the bad conditions, or it wasn't as bad as we thought, but we rocked that night.  The small area in front of us was HEAVING with dancers and the place was really jumping.  By the end of the fist set there was barely a soul not moving, and the landlady told us that most of the locals are usually back home by 8pm but they'd all stayed on.  


    The second set got off to a flying start and we never came down.  The little area in front of us was dangerously crowded by the end, and Charlie's sister-in-law was so drank she fell onto us, knocking over my mic stand and causing me to stop playing and singing to catch her and propel her back onto the dance floor.  "It's OK, I'm alright!" she said.  I hadn't asked!  I was more bothered about our kit, to be frank, ha ha!


    But it went on and we weren't allowed to go until we'd played every song we knew, plus some we didn't and a few repeats.  T sing's Love Shack superbly, and the moment of utter silence and anticipation that ensued in between "Tiiiiiiiin ROOF!" and "RUSTED!" is a moment I'll never forget.  Funny that the most memorable part of a gig should be a moment's silence!


    The funny thing is that the gig we thought would be brilliant was dire, and the one we expected to be dire was a triumph we'll not forget in a hurry.  And maybe that's the key.  At the Halloween gig we were complacent, cocky, even.  At the George we were tense, wary of the possible pit-falls (or even the ****ible pot-falls!) and that gave us the edge.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    That all-elusive repeat booking!  The Shangri-la of being in a band: the people who loved you so much they want you back.  We've been fortunate in having a few of them, and it always makes for a warm glow.


    We played a repeat gig at The George in Thruxton, and it was one our best gigs ever.


    Recently we played another school fundraising ball, almost exactly 5 years after our first gig, in front of a very similar crowd.  If you remember last time we were in the happy position of being shoe-horned in between the main band's two sets: seven songs and no great expectations, and we wiped the floor with them!  But how would we fare as the main act, eh?  Now the pressure was on!  There were many people there who'd only ever seen us at that first gig, and they were expecting a repeat performance only longer.  We agonised over whether we could really deliver, and whether we should harp-on about the first gig.  We loved that gig, and are eternally grateful to the organisers for giving us that first chance, but we didn't want to get all schmaltzy on them.


    We set up early in the day and brought all the PA gear.  This time it was in a marquee and the nice thing about playing in marquees is that there is very little in the way of reverb and a lot less feedback (not good news if you're Neil Young, but good for the rest of us).  So we lugged in our 800W sub-woofer for the occasion and drove it hard, using an aux out from the mixer with everything with even a modicum of bass squirted into that mix.  Hell, we even miked up the bass and snare drums!


    So, a bit about my live kit:


    As this was a special gig I employed the full arsenal.  Cherry and Sunny (my two SG Standards) were to be the main workhorses, then we'd do a spell where I would employ the Ibanez Talman Acoustic, and then Talloulah, the Minarik Inferno, would come out for the last few numbers/encoures.


    Electrics go through my pedalboard (MXR Dyna-Comp, Jim Dunlop Cry-Baby, Electroharmonix Small Clone chorus, MXR Phase 90, Marshall Vibratrem, Boss DD3 Digital Delay, Carl Marin Red Repeat analogue delay, Proc Rat II distortion and Boss TU-2 tuner pedal) and then into the Marshall TSL602.  Most of the sounds come from the Marshall, with the Rat only being employed for a couple of songs and the rest of the pedals being used sparingly for a bit of colour.


    The acoustic goes through a separate little pedalboard with just a Behringer V-Tone Acoustic pre-amp, a Danelectro chorus pedal and a Behringer tuner pedal.  If I'm honest the tuner pedal is rubbish.  It takes forever to identify the low notes, and I really only use it as a mute pedal!  The chorus is a bit poor as well, but the V-Tone Acoustic is brilliant and is absolutely essential.  This then goes into an AER Alpha acoustic amp.


    Both amps go into the mixer via emulated outputs on the amps so a bit of them can go into the FOH mix and, more importantly, into the monitor speakers.


    For live sound nuts, I use a Shure SM58 vocal mic.


    The ball had a 1930s feel, because it was the school's 75th anniversary, so we got togged up in 30s-ish gear and took to the stage - and I FORGOT HOW TO PLAY THE OPENING NUMBER!!!!!!!  Can you believe it??!!??  It was Dakota, but the Stereophonics, and I've played that number live loads of times, but my mind blanked, and the more I tried to think, the blanker it went.  Bear in mind I'm also singing at this point!  Anyway, I just didn't play guitar in the bits I couldn't remember!  I was MORTIFIED!!! But, we cracked on with the rest of the set without incident and seemed to go down well.


    Incidentally, as is common with fundraisers, there was a charity auction, and one of the lots was us!  We pledged a free gig, and offered to learn the winning bidder's favorite song which we would personally murder for them in cold blood, and probably bury ti forever in their estimation!  The outcome was that some people bid £750 for us!  And they hadn't heard us yet!


    We came on for the second set to rapturous applause from a now well-oiled crowd, eager to get up and dance.  The biggest issue in the second set was that when I picked up the Talman to use it, no sound came out of either the PA, foldbacks or the Alpha.  I had no time to mess about so I just grabbed Cherry and carried on with her on a clean setting and on the rhythm pickup, tone backed off a bit.  What the Hell had gone wrong?!  Was the battery in the guitar flat?  Was the volume down?  No.  Earlier they'd wanted to put an iPad through the PA for background music, but it needed charging, so what did I do?  I unplugged the Alpha, vowing that I would go and re-plug it in later - but I forgot!  Bums, boobs and willies!!!  (Let's see if those naughty words get through moderation, ha ha!)


    By the end of the set the dance floor was full to bursting, drunken people were trying to get up and sing with us, including Teoni's old singing teacher - we let her up!  Oh, and the guy who'd bit £750 for us - we let him up, too!


    Talloulah got her outing for our trademark barnstorming rendition of Jailhouse Rock/Blue Suede Shoes/Hound-dog, and a couple of encores, and we left the stage feeling we'd done ourselves justice - phew!


    And then we had to pack up in a marquee heavy with condensation to the point where it was almost raining on there.  We'd had the heaviest rain of the summer and the run-off from the marquee had flowed back through across the playground it was on and soaked the carpets!  Once again I crawl into bed at 2am, this time slightly damp!



  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Great stuff again!

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member

    I thought it might be a bit of fun to chart my journey through guitar ownership and how I came to favor my current main squeezes, a pair of Gibson SG Standards, both from 2004.  The last time I counted I'd owned around 50 guitars, so I probably won't list them all, just the main turning points in my directionless meander through the wonderful world of guitars.


    I started this as a single post, but realised it would be gargantuan, so this will be the first in a bit of a series. How exciting!


    THE EARLY YEARS 1975-1985


    My first guitar I ever owned was an Eko Texan nylon-strung acoustic guitar.  I picked it up when it was donated to my cub scout group's jumble sale for the princely sum of 75p.  I guess any prices I mention have to be seen against the backdrop of it being a long, long time ago (and possibly even in a galaxy far, far away), but also at a time when guitars was generally much more expensive in real terms.


    I wanted a guitar because I liked music but loads of people at school played recorder or orchestral instruments, but I wanted to be different. No way, violin!


    I did a few guitar lessons in school, which at least taught me to tune it and a few chords, but I am mainly self-taught (which is why I'm so cr@p; I had a bad teacher.  A bit akin to the old adage that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client).  I picked the Texan up in around 1975, and it stayed with me until around 1996.  It had been left in the garden shed as an abortive project (I was going to re-finish it) and the finish crazed so I binned it when I moved house, which is one of the many regrets I have regarding letting guitars go.


    One of the teachers at my school ran a guitar group and I liked that, but it was marred by her wanting everyone to play each John Denver song she taught us solo, and sing along as well. I was just mortally embarrassed by this, so I stopped going which is ironic , seeing as how I now sing in my band and have to be physically dragged from the stage on karaoke nights.


    After that I had a couple more acoustics, including a Triumph arch-top given to me by one of my mum's friends, but I had no idea about getting the intonation correct on a floating bridge.  I later picked up a Melody 12-string with a pickup in (but I had no amp!) for the princely sum of £35.


    But all this time I was desperately hankering for an electric guitar.  Again, this needs to be viewed against the background that people just didn't have electric guitars so much in those days.  Nowadays it seems like most kids have an electric guitar at some point, but I remember talking about it at school and being ridiculed for wanting one.  I used to drool over the electric guitars in my mum's catalogue book, but they were out of reach. They were mostly Kay Les Paul copies it seems to me. Some with built in effects! Now I figure they were probably truly awful, but back then I may have actually killed for one.


    I was getting into music and I idolised Jimmy Page, and of course he was noted for playing a Les Paul. Every poster of him had him toting a sunburst Les Paul or that iconic ESD1275 double neck. I wasn't about to get a double neck, but a Les Paul copy was within reach.


    So my first electric was a really tasty Les Paul Custom copy in tobacco sunburst with gold hardware.  It belonged to a schoolmate, Carl Dawson, and he used to let me play it when I went round.  He was a very good guitar player for our ages and the day came when he upgraded to one of the original Ibanez Roadstar (Strat copy) guitars (metallic blue with a maple neck and a black scratch plate).  He offered me the Les Paul copy for £80, but I really couldn't afford anything like that.  He kept taunting me by dropping the price, knowing I couldn't afford it, but then one night after he'd told me I could have it for £55 I got home to find out I'd got a Saturday job at a shoe shop, so I called him straight away and said, "£55, yes please!"  his dad was livid because Carl selling the guitar was part of the deal for him to get the Ibanez, but he was meant to sell it for a lot more than £55.  This was Xmas 1981.


    Interestingly, that Les Paul copy had a sound and feel more like an SG.  The maple cap was more of a veneer and the body was a bit thinner than the real thing.  The frets were narrow, more like a Fender, but I loved that guitar.  I carried out a lot of my early forays into guitar set-ups and electronics on that guitar, and made a few balls-ups, but it survived quite well.  Some of my notable cock-ups were a) deciding that the bridge saddles looked all wonky and needed putting in a nice straight line (what numpty had done that to it, eh?) and b) changing pickups and ending up with great globs of solder all over it.


    I still didn't have an amp, but the Saturday job enabled me to save for one, and to buy a second guitar: a Hondo II "New Wave" guitar. It was a slab-bodied, un-bound Les Paul copy in bright yellow with black open-coil humbuckers. I paid a whole £46 for it and it showed. It wasn't great.


    I stayed Les Paul-y for a while and in early 1983 a lot of overtime at the shoe shop got me a second-hand (1980) Les Paul Deluxe, the model with the narrow pickups designed to fit in the routings for a P90.  It was in wine-red, and if I'm honest I never really got on with it. I loved the kudos that having the "real deal" earned me, but I was never in love with guitar. It didn't help that I insisted on using .008 gauge stings on it: what can I say, I was 17 and stupid.


    So by the time I went off to University I already had a pro-standard guitar, so you would have thought I was set for the rest of my life …. Hmmmm. We shall see!


  • SmartySmarty Posts: 403Member
    I've only just got around to reading this - hilarious about Vlad!!

    It reminded me of a band I was in many years ago in Cardiff. We were playing our own material which was sort of heavy indie against my better judgement (think Foo Fighters). The lead singer and rhthym guitarist had ideas of grandeur though.

    We were playing one gig and we were going down well. However, inbetween songs the singer asked the audience what they thought.....to which there was pretty much silence (obviously).....he then came out with a line that could have been written for Spinal Tap "well......I think we ROCK".

    At that point....I wanted to die.

    It got slightly worse though. Toward the end of our set (having " lost" the audience at this point), the singer's drunk mate stumbles to the edge of the stage to chat with the singer. Now - rather than ignore it or very nicely telling him to b@gger off......he starts having a conversation about going out that weekend....over the mic/PA.!! 

    I glanced at the drummer.....the drummer glanced at the bass player.....then we all collectively stared at the floor.....hoping it would open up and swallow us whole. 

    I'm still scarred....
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,232Member

    Vlad the Imp-wailer !


    My worst gig was my first. Cliff (our drummer - he of the double bass set) could barely contain his excitement and told us we'd got a Christmas cancellation gig...  at Tranquility House Nursing Home where his mother worked. 




    The audience were ushered in and sat politely in rows. I thought it best to start our set with the gentlest number we had, which I sang with my acoustic. Any Second Now by Depeche Mode. 


    When I finished there was nothing but a painful silence until one old boy at the front chirped up and said "Wot wus all that abaat den ?"


    Cliff said under his breath "Right, F**** 'em" and  we launched into this




    We used it as a practice session. To be fair they all stayed until the end and none of them grumbled. 

  • SmartySmarty Posts: 403Member
    Kev, I hope you take this in the spirit it's intended but there's something incredibly tragic yet at the same time incredibly cool about playing a gig at a retirement home!!
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,232Member

    No... no, Smarty. There isn't anything cool about playing a retirement home - except for the cold reception and the odd stiff in the corner perhaps. 

  • SmartySmarty Posts: 403Member
    Sorry Kev....gonna have to disagree with you on this one.....I think it's incredibly cool to have that on a gigging "resume"! Mind you - this is coming from someone who really enjoyed Gervais' " Derek".
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member
    Hmmm .... Gotta say there's not a lot of cool in a retirement home 

    Unless ....

    ... it was a retirement home for ageing rockstars, like Chuck Berry and Status Quo. Now that'd be uber-cool! B-)
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,232Member

    Pubs are full of ageing rock fans nowadays, so it's only a matter of time. 


    My sort of care home ?


    Me shuffling around dazed and confused in crusty pants tended to by a buxom young blonde and some old duffer in the corner banging out Human League hits on a knackered old piano. 

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    One of the worst gigs I ever played was for some Women's Guild thing.  We had just started out and were taking what bookings we could get.  First off, the stage.  It was a box, set into the long side of the hall, about 4 feet off the ground.  It was about 8 x 8 x 8 and there was no back stage and no steps up to it.  Fun getting a Carlsbro 4 x 12 up there.  Half way through the first number someone from the "committee" came up and asked us to turn it down a bit.  By the time we were halfway through our first set they had asked us to turn it down so often the drummer was using brushes and my bass was about the only guitar still amplified.  Still got paid though and it was an experience!

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member



    So, there I was at University toting a guitar most of my peers would kill for. It had been damaged in about '85 and I'd had it refinished in translucent dark green: a finish popular on Yamaha SG2000s at the time. The trouble was it was a bit like a trophy wife. I loved it for how other peopled desired it, not because I loved it myself. In fact I didn't really like it. I kept it until Easter 1988 when I stupidly traded it for a Clarissa round-back electro acoustic, which wasn't even active.   I just did a straight swap.  I'd paid £300 for it in 1983 and I got £300 for it in 1988.  I thought I'd lucked in.  What can I say, I was 22 and stupid.  I think not getting on with this particular electric guitar made me think I just didn't like electric guitars generally, so I decided to become a strolling acoustic troubadour. There was only one flaw in the plan, Baldric. It was b0ll0cks!


    So this is why I've labelled these the rollercoaster years, because my fortunes in terms of the guitars I had went up and down wildly. Heavily influenced by the image and vibe that went with a guitar, not necessarily by how much I liked it.   And I don't mean the value, just how good the guitars were.  I was still young and he There is an immutable law, carved in stone as deeply as Newton's laws or the laws of thermodynamics, in fact it's a bit like the law of entropy, ironically. It states that every time you trade a guitar you will lose money. I hate to think how much I've spent on guitars over the years, but all I do know is that if I had all the money I've spent on guitars …..


    ….. I'd spend it on guitars!


    I stayed acoustic for a while, but I'd never really achieved escape velocity and the intense gravitational pull of the electric guitar slowly began to bring me crashing back down.  I was like one of those North Korean missile tests that goes horribly wrong and the missile lifts off, to gradually come back down and crash in flames, ha ha!


    I wanted to keep the acoustic because I was too stubborn to admit to myself that I'd made a horrible mistake, and I think I knew that the value of the Clarissa would have fallen sharply, whereas that of the Les Paul would be in orbit by now. This meant I had to start my long climb back into the light of having a really good electric guitar from scratch. Zero. Zilch. Bugg3r all.


    For my next electric I did a left turn at the traffic lights and got a Strat copy. It was called a Marlin Slammer, and it was a very basic red Strat copy, white scratchplate and a maple neck.  It cost me £79 in Macarri's on Charing Cross Road, and it was quite a nice guitar.  It brought it home to me that by then the price of guitars had come crashing down in real terms.  When you consider that the Les Paul copy would have been £80 used (and that was a fair price) but around ten years later, in 1990, a brand-new electric could be had for £79. CNC machining has a lot to answer for, but we have a lot to be grateful to it for as well.  But at the end of the day it was a £79 guitar and I wanted something better.


    The opportunity came in early '91 when I had a bit of a windfall and went to Coda Music in Luton to trade in the Marlin and get my first proper electric for a few years.  It came down to a choice between a Japanese Fender '52 reissue Telecaster or a Washburn KC-40V superstrat.  Very different guitars but I was torn.  In the end I plumped for the KC-40V (second big mistake in my guitar owning history after trading in the Les Paul Deluxe: don't worry if you missed it, there are plenty more to come!).


    I liked the KC40V, although I couldn't get used to the double-locking trem, where all the strings slackened when I bent one of them up.  Too weird!  Also, I did keep hankering after the one that got away: the candy apple red '52 Telecaster.  Fortune was smiling on me in a way though, because the finish started flaking off the KC40V so I took it back, and they still had the Tele, so I had that instead.


    I loved that Tele.  Although it was nominally a '52 reissue, the spec for them was a V profiled neck, but this one had a C profile neck, which I loved, and it was without doubt the best guitar I'd ever owned, so naturally I ploughed straight on into the third stupid guitar trade of this sorry tale!  At that time Ibanez brought out a range of more traditional Strat-inspired guitars under the Starfield brand and they got rave reviews in all the press.  Machinehead Music in Hitchin had a good deal on them, and I decided I had to have one, so I only went and did a straight trade with the Tele for it!  IDIOT!  Of all the stupid things to do!  I think I knew I'd made a mistake as I walked up the road away from the shop.  The one from there was a Starfield Altair SJ Classic II in red, with a rosewood fingerboard and white scrtachplate, for what it's worth.  It had a fulcrum trem, though, as they were now becoming very popular, which was good.  This would have been Easter 1992.


    From then I traded very rapidly, getting a Starfield Altair SJ Custom, in October '92 and then going back to a Tele, but this time it was a Squier Silver series in 3 tone sunburst with a maple neck.


    The trouble is, as I've said, each time you trade you lose money, so after a dumb trade it takes time to claw your way back up.  The Silver Series Tele was nice, but it didn't have that one word it needed on the headstock - "Fender".  Also it didn't have great pickups and it was from a time when a popular cost-cutting measure on Teles was not to string them through the body.


    The next trade was smart.  I got a Japanese Fender '62 reissue Stratocaster in 3-tone sunburst with the aged plastic parts: mint green scratchplate and yellowed  knobs and pickup covers.  That was a gorgeous guitar! Even people who were well into their guitars could be fooled and used to say, "That's a lovely old strat!".


    It's worth noting that all this time I was buying and selling some weird stuff and I usually had some sort of second or backup guitar.  I finally traded the Clarissa roundback acoustic for a bright blue Squier Tele, and then quickly sold that on.  I bought a Washburn "Billy T" BT2 at a music show in Birmingham, and it turned out to be truly dreadful.  After attempting to improve things by spraying the body cavities with conductive pain I threw in the towel and traded it for a Zoom rack fx unit for more than I paid for it! (Clever trick, I deliberately went to a shop I knew wasn't a Washburn dealer, and this is the only time I have ever bought a guitar brand new and traded it in for more than I paid for it)


    I had to work in India for a few months and bought a couple of guitars our there.  Popular brands out there are Givson and Felder, I kid you not!  The first one I bought was a Givson flat top acoustic.  I had intended to buy a little f-hole arch-top model, but when I went in the shop and said I wanted to buy a guitar the guy in the shop handed me this slightly odd-shaped flat-top, labelled "Givson Super-Jumboo" (sic).  It was as rough as a badger's @rse, as a sailor colleague of mine used to say, with the thinnest finish you can imagine and open tuners, with buttons made from aluminium discs hammered onto the spindles.  The scratchplate was just a piece of black sticky-backed-plastic (Blue Peter fans eat yer heart out!) cut to shape.  But the sound! Oh my GOD, the SOUND!!!!  It sounded so sweet and a quick examination revealed the thinnest solid top ever, and it just sounded beautiful.  The vocalist from my old band, Clever Jake, still has it, I believe.  I sold it to him to help fund a Tanglewood round-back electro-acoustic.


    The second guitar from India was less impressive.  The finish was still as rough as the proverbial badger's nether regions, but everything else was just cr@p.  It was called a "Givson Super Deluxe" and the nearest equivalent I can think of was one of the old Woolworths Top Twenty guitars. It had a trem made of pressed steel that just bent if you tried to do anything daft like, say, use it!  It was kind of Candy Apple Red, with all sorts of paint runs in the finish, and the sound when it was plugged in was thin and weedy.  It actually sounded better when it wasn't plugged in.  I just sold that on to one of my work mates' lads for more-or-less what I paid for it.


    About this time (it was '95) I bought a Gordon-Smith GSII, which was really, really nice, but a wee bit quirky, to say the least.  It had quite a thin mahogany body, a nice slender mahogany neck, wide frets and twin cutaways.  In fact, I think this was probably the guitar that started me towards my current love of SGs.  So why did I get rid of this one?  Well, the fret-ends were sharp and when I got the dealer to re-dress them  he made a bit of a pig's ear of it, plus it seemed to have a twisted neck when I sighted down the fingerboard.  The dealer insisted it was just Gordon Smith's "funny ways" but I never really felt the same about it after that.  It played well, but I kind of thought there were maybe troubles coming in the future with it.  But, even buying that guitar marked a shift in my thinking. Ever since not getting on with the Les Paul Deluxe I'd had a stupid mental block about guitars with anything approaching a Gibson-style twin humbucker, tune-o-magic bridge, six-a-side headstock layout, but the GSII saw that off.


    So, I traded both the GSII and the '62 reissue Strat for a red US Standard Strat but had aged plastic parts put on it.  I was, frankly, stunned at how different a guitar it was from the  Jap '62 reissue Strat. It represented a quantum leap in general quality of finish, feel, sound and playability and I quickly moved on to what they called a Lonestar Strat (which had Texas Special single coils and a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucker in the bridge position) in Candy Apple Red with a maple fingerboard.  I would have preferred a rosewood board, but it was on offer as the 2000 model year had just come out, so I had to take what they had.  Unfortunately when I got it home I found one of the pickups had just stopped working, so I took it back and they got Fender to exchange it for a 2000 model year Fat Strat Texas Special - and guess what? I got to specify a rosewood board.  Someone up there loves me.


    In parallel to this I also had, at various times, a Fender California series Fat Tele and a Danelectro Convertible.  The California series Fender instruments were mainly made in Mexico, but they shipped them North of the border into California to assemble them, meaning they could call them "made in USA".  I first got a white one, but decided I didn't like it and changed it for a black one.  The Dano was an interesting little guitar.  It was typical Daneclectro construction with a double cutaway wooden frame faced front and back with Masonite (hardboard to us Brits), but they'd cut a hole in the front so it was like a little thin bodied acoustic and the single lipstick pickup was mounted across the hole.  Apparently the original 60s Convertible could be bought as an acoustic and the pickup could be added later - for those kids whose parents just couldn't bear to go the whole hog and buy them an electric guitar straight off!  All I can say is it would have made a God-awful acoustic guitar, but it was a nice quirky electric.


    And now we come to an auspicious moment, when I got my first proper Gibson SG.  I sold the California series Tele to a work colleague and bought a black Gibson SG-X .  This was a full Gibson SG, but with an unbound fingerboard and a single exposed coil humbucker in the bridge position.  I seem to remember it having just a single volume control, a mini toggle switch for coil phase and black hardware.  I really liked it as a guitar, but was disappointed that the finish got marked on the back really easily.  I figured Gibson had used a cheaper finish to bring the cost down and, stupidly, despite liking the guitar took a dislike to it because of that.   I should have known that the nitro-cellulose finish was superior, but would mark more easily, but I ended up trading it, along with the Dano and my Peavey Classic 30 amp for a Line 6 Flextone II XL amp.  Yes, we were all going modelling amp mad back then (but more of that when I write about my amp odyssey!)


    In parallel to this I always had an acoustic guitar of some sort, usually an electro-acoustic.  Just on the off chance that my band, Clever Jake, might actually play a gig!  I had the Tanglewood acoustic I mentioned further back, which was a roundback electro (a la Ovation)but I swapped that with the bass player in the band, Fuzzy.  He had an Applause shallow-bowl roundback with a cutaway: he preferred mind and I preferred his so we swapped them.  At some point I bought a Washburn D10S acoustic, which was a really nice guitar with a solid top, and I also had a Yamaha APX5 as well.  At some point in around 2003 I bought a Fender Telecoustic, which was an electro acoustic but shaped like a Telecaster.  I  loved that, and it would have been great if we'd ever played live, but having said that the amplified sound wasn't very good.


    I had the US Fat Strat Texas special for a long time, and considered myself to be a staunch Fender man, but I had relaxed my dislike of all things Gibson to the stage where I bought an Epiphone Les Paul Classic Plus (with a quilted maple top, exposed coil pickups and black hardware) and after a day or two exchanged it for a cherry sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Custom Plus, with gold hardware and a lightly flamed maple top.  The trouble was, I took it to one rehearsal, played one song and decided I didn't like it, so it went back in the case and was mentally marked "for Sale".


    At some point around this time I also bought a Washburn WG superstrat style guitar with a Floyd Rose trem.  I started off with a white HSS model but exchanged it a couple of days later for a metallic purple HSH layout example.  It didn't last long before it went via a private sale.


    To console myself I bought a Yamaha Pacifica 112 in candy apple red with a rosewood board as a back up for my Strat.  That was of amazingly high quality for the price.  I ordered it online from Germany, and when it arrived the trem was set really high, so there was more than a cm under the bridge plate.  But, once I'd tuned it, it all settled down to a perfect vintage trem set-up, with about 1.5-2.0 mm under the bridge.  I thought that was amazing straight from the box and it reinforced what I'd always thought: Yamaha don't make cr@p.  I'd thoroughly recommend a Pacifica 112 to anyone looking for a first guitar.


    So, here I was with my Fender US Fat Strat Texas Special, the Pacifica 112 as a back-up, my Yamaha APX5 and the Fender Telecoustic, and I was pretty well set for guitars, eh?


    Well, disaster was to strike big-time ……

  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,232Member

    I didn't get a really nice guitar until my early to mid 40s. 


    Now I have a 16-year-old Martin 00016 special and an Amalio Burguet M3. I don't think I'll ever sell the Martin and I'd hang out for a good price with the M3. But that's the wisdom that comes with age. 


    In fact the M3 has too much sentimental value and memories attached to it. Plus it's had some seriously good players play it and some iconic music done on it too. I've heard it perform stonking versions of Requerdos (Tarrega) and Drifting (Andy McKee.) 


    I toyed with the idea of swapping the Martin for a solid rosewood/cedar/ebony handmade jumbo (unnamed - similar to a Lowden) but thought better of it when I did a side-by-side comparison. 

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Thanks Dave - enjoyable journey.  Mine is completely boring by comparison.  Only ever sold two guitars, a Yam acoustic that was my first guitar and a mid eighties US Strat that I never really got on with.  All the other guitars (only five) I've kept, although three are recent acquisitions in the last year (one being a home build).


    Cheers, Reg.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 799Member



    I'll get this bit over with quickly. In Oct 2003 my wife, Lorna, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She wasn't a smoker and in all probability it was caused by exposure to chromic acid in her work as a research chemist. She died on Oct 8th 2004, God bless her, 10 years ago today.


    So I was left with me, two small boys to bring up and a lot of insurance money and no mortgage. So I did what any self-respecting widower would do and went straight off the rails.  Not long before she died I said to Lorna, "What will I do without you? I'll live in a filthy house with loads if guitars". Well, I was half right. I certainly had loads of guitars, and the heartening thing is that my love of guitars and music is what kept me sane (ish).


    A couple of days before Lorna died I bought myself a 39th birthday present - a Fender Lite Ash Tele,  These were made in Korea with a natural finish over an ash body, maple neck and a black scratchplate, and looked dead "Bruce Springsteen".  It was a very rock 'n' roll guitar.  You've probably noticed my long running love-affair with the Fender Telecaster, and there are a couple more on the way.


    One thing I haven't really mentioned is that most of my guitars have had names, most of them women's names, probably inspired by BB King's "Lucille".


    I was playing the Tele at a band rehearsal when I got a call from the hospice saying I should come over as Lorna wouldn't make it through the night.  Needless to say I went straight over.  I named that guitar "Ronnie": a nickname for Lorna after a friend of ours' little boy couldn't say Lorna properly.  He used to call her Ron-ron.


    I decided to buy myself a really good amp, but it all got out of hand somehow.  I was going to buy a Mesa Boogie Lonestar, but I couldn't really justify the £1,800 price tag at the time, which is ironic because I sent on to spend a Hell of a lot more than that.  Instead I bought a Marshall DSL50 head and a 4x12 cab (you could track the house prices in my road falling the day I brought it home) and, strangely, a Line 6 Variax Acoustic (not to play through the Marshall, though).  I also later got a Line 6 Variax.  The Variax was great for recording because it was virtually silent - no background noise at all.


    I really couldn't tell you what order I bought my guitars in, or sometimes the thought processes that went with the purchase.  I acted on whims and ended up with around 20 guitars at one point.


    I was using a Line 6 Flextone II XL amp at the time, which was considered to be the state-of-the-art modelling amp, and all of my amp sounds and effects came from that, so when I got the DSL50 I went from being Digital Dick to Analogue Bob and started putting together a pedalboard.  I happened to be in Luton one day and dropped in to Coda Music to check out chorus pedals, I wanted an EHX Small Clone, but they'd stopped stocking EHX and only had a Boss Chorus Ensemble.  I decided to try it out and on a whim asked to try it with a Heritage Cherry Gibson SG Standard.  I didn't much care for the pedal, but I LOVED the SG.  The great thing was, as far as the shop assistant was concerned I was just trying out a pedal so he left me alone.  Usually if you're trying out an expensive guitar they hover, trying to "sell" it to you, but I got to try the guitar out for a good while with no interruptions.  Actually, I think I decided to buy it within about 17 seconds, which ironically is apparently the time it takes you to make up your mind if you're interviewing candidates for a job.


    So, I went up to the counter holding the guitar and the pedal.  "What do you think?" he asked.  "Nah!" I said, "But I'll have the SG!"

    "Yeah!" he laughed.

    "No, seriously," I countered, "I'll take the guitar"


    So that was it, my first proper SG, decision taken to buy it in 17 seconds flat. But you know what, I got on so well with that guitar.  At that time I used to take two or three guitars to band rehearsals, but I soon realised if I wanted to play any of the others I'd better  do it first, because once I strapped on the SG I wouldn't want to put it down.  It just felt so right.  It was light, comfortable and just sounded like everything I wanted it to.  So I did the only sensible thing I could think of.  I always had a "man needs a second guitar" attitude, so I went and bought a second one, this one in Naturalburst.  After that I just went a bit mad and bought guitars as and when I fancied.  Sometimes it was because I was having a bad day, sometimes it was to celebrate having a good day.  I bought a Gibson Les Paul Classic just because I'd had a good day.  On the other hand I bought a Gibson SG Junior because I'd had a bad day, and promptly forgot I'd bought it!  I found it in its case under the bed a few months later and was delighted, ha ha!


    I'll list all the guitars I had below, but the notable ones are, I guess, the ones I still have.


    Not long before Xmas 2004 I had a meeting to go to in  Warwick, and just before I left I saw an ad for the Minarik Inferno in Guitarist.  The shop had an Oxford store, which I could easily pass on the way home, so I called.  They didn't have one in stock (boo!) but could get one down from their Birmingham store, so what time would I be there?  Brum?  No problem, I'll be close to there!  So I dropped in to PMT late that afternoon, on a dark, rainly, windy day.  The guitar was every bit as stunning as I thought it would be, but it had a few faint scratches on the back, but that ended up adding to the guitar's "provenance" if you like.  Apparently Dave Hill from Slade had tried it out, and the shop assistant reckoned he'd been wearing  a big belt buckle. So they gave me £60 worth of extras by way of a discount - woo hoo!  Part of what I got for my £60 was a hanger so she could go straight on the wall.  She still hangs on the wall at home, my art guitar.  Everyone should have one.


    Then on October 14th 2005 I bought myself a 40th birthday present - a Gibson J45 Acoustic.  I was blown away by how sensitive it was to picking styles and how hard it was played.  I just love it and it changed my mind about whether it was important, if you had to choose, to have a great acoustic or a great electric.  Tick me off in the great acoustic camp.  The only other retail therapy guitar I have is a Johnson Travel guitar.  I bought it to go on holiday to Spain in 2006, mainly because I was going for 3 weeks and wanted a guitar, and also because, at a pinch, it could be used as a paddle if we bought a dinghy and as a bat if we bought a foam ball.


    So then, as life got better, I began to sell of the guitars.  One thing it had enabled me to do was have loads of guitars to see what I really liked.  I may never have bought an SG if I hadn't been able to buy it on a whim.  It also cured me of GAS, the same way as eating  too many sweets all at once will put you off whatever sweets they are.  Imagine being forced to eat 50 bags of jelly babies.  Would you ever want to look at another bag of jelly babies again for the rest of your life?!


    The line up of guitars I eventually ended up with was as follows, and the ones with the star next to them are the ones I kept.  Some were hard to get rid of and took some real soul-searching.   I agonised over the US Ash Tele and lsot sleep over whether to stick with SGs or get another Fat Strat and go back to them.  But some I sold on a whim just as I'd bought them, like the Ibanez S70 and AS83.


    So at least I'm cured of GAS.


    Mind you, those Gibson 339s ………...


    Fender Fat Strat Texas Special [Candy]

    Yamaha Pacifica 112

    Fender Telecoustic

    Yamaha APX5

    Gibson SG Standard , Heritage Cherry [Cherry]*

    Gibson SG Standard, Naturalburst [Sunny]*

    Gibson J45 [Brulee] *

    Gibson Les Paul Classic, Lightburst [Saffy]

    Ibanez AS83

    Ibanez S70, metallic orange [Outspan]

    PRS SE Soapbar (single cutaway)

    Line 6 Variax Acoustic

    Line 6 Variax

    Fender Lite Ash Tele

    Fender US Ash Tele

    Fender TC90

    Gibson SG Junior

    Fender Standard Strat (Roland Guitar Synth Pickup fitted)

    Minarik Inferno*

    Johnson Travel Guitar*

    Yamaha RBX Bass

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Dave, real sorry about your wife, even if it was some time ago it must still cut you up, especially on anniversaries like today.


    I just twigged with your reference again to Coda music. In my blog (scroll down a bit on the first page if you are interested)  I wrote about my Gibson Firebrand 335-S:



    That was an impulse buy as well.  Here's what I wrote:


    "This was a complete impulse buy in I think around 1984 at which time it would have been about four years old.  When I say impulse I mean of brain power available 0% logic was engaged versus 100% emotion.  Didn't need a new guitar, wasn't looking for a new guitar, couldn't afford a new guitar.


    I passed a guitar shop, wasn't even thinking about going in as I was on my way to meet a mate in a pub.  I just happened to glance in the window and, kerpow, ten minutes later I owned this (oh, the dangerous power of a credit card)!  I also owned an American Strat at the time that I don't think I ever played again, which got sold when we moved overseas a few years later.


    I've just realised the culprit was Coda Music in Luton - I lived in Houghton Regis at the time.  Must be something about that place that invokes impulse buying.  I just googled it - Coda is still there and the pic shows the shop front looking pretty much the same!


    Great post Dave, keep them coming.


    Cheers, Reg.

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