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Sorry to hear about your wife.
Thans, Kevin. Appreciate it.
Reg, yes Coda Music would have been my downfall if I hadn't moved away. At the time I was undergoing retail therapy they were moving round the corner and had a massive sale on, which was deadly. I kept turning up to band rehearsals with new guitars, which prompted the other guitarist in the band to say, "Blimey! I knew Coda were moving, but I didn't realise they were moving to your house!" In the space of a few month I bought two Gibson SGs, a Gibson Les Paul Classic, a PRS SE Soapbar, an Ibanez AS83, an Ibanez S70, a Gibson SG Junior, a Gibson J45, a Marshall DSL401, a Marshall TSL602, and a partridge in a pear tree (that was a real impulse buy. It sounded rubbish)
Oh, and I love the ol' 335S, Reg. The Firebrand series were a bit under-rated, I think. I'd love a Firebrand SG. They must be one of the first examples of Gibson applying fewer frills to make a more economic guitar.
Apart from all the Juniors and Specials in the '50s and '60s, of course, so I'm talking utter tripe!
Why are youngsters so competitive when it comes to the whole band thing? We played the Andover Rotary Club firework display on Saturday night, and there was another band playing (name withheld) who were pretty good, but acted all aloof and "We're better than you" all night. As they came off we gave them the thumbs up and told them it had been a good set, but received a couple of grunts in return. strangely I'd had quite a good conversation with the bass player about FX boards earlier, but after that they acted, frankly, like idiots: shame.
However, that notwithstanding, it was a good gig. As last year we played on the back of a truck, which means a very shallow stage. the driving rain was a problem during set-up and soundcheck, so much so that I had to move my FX board and mic to the back and skulk back there (I'm a ninja at skulking!), but then it dried up and ended up being a warm evening. The evening was compered by an old friend of ours, Louis Sellers from Anton Road Studios, and under his expert control the evening all went very smoothly. We shared our stage with the aforementioned idiots, some Zumba dancers and the Middle Wallop (Army Flying Corps base) Military Wives choir, who were excellent.
It was really nice to have the PA set up by someone else, so we just had to set up our backline and point them in the direction of the emulated output on the back of the ol' Marshall TSL602.
I also tried out my newly-acquired Alesis Guitarlink Wireless system. It worked quite well, but the jury's out. It seemed a bit quiet at first, with the output being lower than it would have been with just a guitar lead, but later it seemed to go up a whole lot and the amp seemed to be driven too hard, so I'll have to play with it a bit. It was very cheap and the build quality isn't great (really cheap nasty switches and a very stiff and plasticky attached lead. If I keep it I'll ahve to open it up and use something a bit softer and nicer. Thing was, as we weren't doing the PA, I never had to go out front and couldn't move about much with such a narrow stage, but it seemed to work OK. Has anyone else tried one of these? I can't help feeling that a digital wireless system kind of smashes my "all-analogue" pretensions straight out of the park!
Still sounds like a fun evening despite the other band and wireless inconsistencies. If you went on after the other lot, at least you had a higher billing!
You might well remember the old Luton Street Fairs that used to happen (maybe they still do?) during one of the May Bank Holidays. For several years I also did both solo and band sets on a back of a lorry outside the big entrance to the Arndale on George Street (almost opposite Chapel St).
There were several stages around the town with Rock and Caribbean offerings (probably some Jazz somewhere as well). This stage was run by Luton Folk Club who put on about four hours of entertainment during the afternoon. I recall they used to get an allowance from the council to book a main act who would do a couple of 45 minute sets, and then the rest of it was support acts including yours truly. I recall I used to get paid about £25 each year.
Thinking about it, it must have been the late May Bank Holiday as I remember my now missus coming along shortly after I met her (I met her mid May 1985). It was the first time she'd met the folk club crowd and the first time she saw me perform. I think she was more impressed by how much some of the other blokes drooled over her than my performances on stage.
I think Luton Carnival is now the biggest outside London, or certainly was for a few years. I well remember the old Arndale Centre. A a young lad I used to go shopping there on a Saturday afternoon and regularly have to evacuate Debenhams or other stores due to IRA bomb threats (or spoofs).
You're obviously younger than me, Dave.
Before the Arndale there was the old covered market there, and several proper roads with independent shops on them. My mum moved to Luton as a young child when my Grandparents settled back there - my Grandfather was a civil engineer and the family moved around based on where his projects were. We only found out that my mother had actually been born in Streatham and was therefore a Cockney when my sister and I registered her death. We had always thought she was born in Luton.
So I visited Luton on a regular basis from a young age and can just about remember the pre-Arndale town centre. Later on, from the ages of about 8 to 17 I could be found every other Saturday afternoon on the Oak Road terrace for home games - the ground is just round from where my Grandmother lived on Ashburnham Road..
My Dad was on the production line at Bedford Trucks in Dunstable for most of his working life so I'm also familiar with the Vauxhall recreation centre on the south side of town (if that's still there - Vauxhall is a shadow of it's former self in Luton). I learnt ballroom dancing there for a number of years on a Saturday morning when I was a kid - a secret long kept from my schoolmates. When Strictly first came to our screens my missus was completely mystified how I knew so much about it and was able to pick up on the same points as the judges. I managed a couple of series before she mentioned it to one of my sisters and she let on - I'd hadn't realised that I'd never told my wife about it. I then had to dig out my medals and show her.
Not sure what that lot has got to do with the price of fish, but things just trigger memories. Useful to get them down as I might not always remember them!
All I took from that was that you have medals for ballroom dancing and you didn't post about it on the embarrassing hobbies thread...
I didn't want to bring that much attention to it. And it was over 40 years ago....
Well, I grew up in Dunstable and lived there until I was 40. So many of my school friends's dads either worked at Vauxhall in Luton or Bedford Commercial Vehicles in Dunstable, and sad to say I watched it's sad decline over many years. I was sponsored through university by Bedford and worked at the proving ground at Millbrook, near Bedford, for 17 years.
Last I saw, the Vauxhall Sports and Social Club was still there on Osborne Road, right opposite Griffin House.
It was so sad to see first Bedford Trucks in Dunstable, then AC Delco in Dunstable and then Vauxhall in Luton get closed down.
My guilty secret is amateur dramatics! I was involved in that until leaving Dunstable in 2006, but mum's the word!
There's quite a few of my golf balls in the Millbrook proving ground. Back in the day when I used to play I was a member of the club next door to the proving ground. I got sucked into golf through my wife and her family. Before she injured her knee she was a single figure handicap, her father played off 2 for decades, and one of her brothers plays off scratch and has qualified for, and played in the Open as an amateur a couple of times, and won the Asia Seniors Open a few years back.
Unfortunately all of that never rubbed off on me and I gave it up due to sheer lack of talent. Many have suggested I should take the same step with guitar.
I play guitar marginally better than I play golf. Pity there is not a handicap system for guitar playing.
We could devise one. One of of the challenges for any band is a nice clean sharp finish. So how about dividing the group into a stack rank of ability. Give the worst player a four bar head start, the next a three bar start and so on. If you get it right they should all finish on exactly the same beat. Would that work?
That sounds good. Or perhaps we could handicap the better players by detuning their instruments on a sliding scale?
Ah yes - for the good players every note has to be a bend, including chords. Good idea. I think you've cracked it. Right, just booking myself into the Royal Albert Hall alongside Clapton. You want to join?
What handicap do you play off?
Being a bit of a Ska fan I'd have to declare my handicap at 2 Tone.
My handicap is having no fingers, just 10 thumbs, it seems!
How rubbish have I been?! No posts since December last year!
I thought I should talk about that one element of any gig over which you have no control - the crowd. We've all finished a bad gig and blamed a bad crowd, but can we really blame them? I think there's a vicious circle which goes on whereby if a crowd isn't up and going for it you try too hard, or it dwells on your mind, then being distracted you make a small mistake, and that distracts you so you make more, and before long the wheels have well-and-truly fallen off.
But then there's the case where the crowd are up and dancing from the off, really keen to get up and shake their booty, and then even if you do make a mistake, you think, "Well,they don't care!" so it doesn't bother you.
So I guess it all comes down to how you as a group react to the crowd. I try to get an idea in my head that we'll just treat it like a rehearsal if the crowd don't get up and dance. I try to relax and not let it bother me - after all, it is their choice if they don't dance.
But normally they sit and watch for a few songs, then about half-way through the first set the "early-adopters" will be up, everyone's up at the end of the first set and we carry on from there. So I have to try not to get concerned if the dance floor is empty for the first few numbers. And for pubs, this is even more so. In pubs people rarely dance before the second set.
But one element of the crowd is more difficult to manage sometimes, and that is the drunken fool. There's always one. They'll usually be male, and they invariably think they're an undiscovered Elvis. Sometimes they'll content themselves with just standing right by the stage and singing along at the top of their voice. They often keep asking us to do a particular number, but then react to the start of each song as if it's their favorite song in the world. Sometimes they'll keep asking for a particular song and can they come up and sing it? For instance, we had one at a recent gig who kept asking if he could get up and sing The Green, Green Grass of Home. He was stood by the front of the stage, and I could see him start to get agitated as each song drew to a close as this was his chance to attract my attention. Then he'd ask if he could sing it, I'd tell him we didn't do it, he'd say that was OK, he'd just get up and sing it, I'd ignore him and introduce the next song, or just start playing it, and we'd go round the cycle again. At the end of the evening we'd left the stage and he got up and took a mic and started to sing it. We turned him down and he just carried on, being ignored by everyone, happy as Larry.
Very occasionally we've let someone get up and sing. We played a charity gig recently and as T couldn't sing with us that night, we'd had to drop Love Shack from the set. We knew most people there, and one lady, who'd I'd been told was a good singer, said she'd do Love Shack with us. I should have known better. She got up and didn't really know the song at all, so it was a complete disaster. We got away with it as we were among friends, but never again.
We have had the odd person just get up with us, grab a mic and start singing along. On one notable occasion it was a guy who'd just bid £750 in a charity auction to have us do a gig for him, so we let him! He was good-natured enough - just off his face! One guy asked if he could play Ed's sax on a song (he'd looked at our set list and picked a song). Ed said yes, reluctantly, but all he did was get up and mime like he was playing it without making a sound!
Very rarely we get someone who gets a bit nasty. But invariably the rest of the crown deals with them for us. They usually discretely disappear. We don't ask where they went.
But I have to end with one drunken crown member I came across way after a gig had ended. The party ended at 1:30 AM and it was in one of my marquees, on the playing fields of a big independent school. After we'd cleared our stuff away everyone else had long gone, and I told the guys to go, as they didn't need to stand and watch me turning off all the lights and power and securing the marquee. So, I'm on my own, lacing up the final door of the marquee by the light of my phone torch, and I hear this unearthly noise, like a person in pain and about to expire. I look round and there's nothing there. I go back to the marquee lacing, and hear it again. This time I realise it must be a night time animal, but then I hear it again, and it's definitely human - ish! I look round, and there, bobbing towards me, is an unsupported patch of white. Well, you can imagine what I'm thinking, and just when I'm about to run and lock myself in the truck, I realise the patch of white is the shirt-front of a guy in a dinner suit! He's wandering towards me, groaning, and he's got that drunken "one leg doesn't work properly" thing going on. "You frightened Sh!t out of me!" I tell him. He just slurs something unintelligible. "How long have you been out here?" I ask. He just slurs. "How are you getting home?" I continue. This time he seems to recover the power of human speech. "It's OK," he slurs, "I live here!" He's one of the house masters! He's meant to be looking after the boarders! I hope it was his night off.
WANTED: FEMALE VOCALIST/MUSICIAN TO COMPLETE THE ROOKIES' LINE-UP
As anyone who has read my inane ramblings here will know, my step-daughter, Teoni, has been singing with The Rookies for the past few years. The good news is that they're about to start a family and the baby is due in the New Year. The bad news is that it means we lose a fabulous singer!
So we're looking for a new singer. I know it's a long-shot posting on here, but we're after a female singer/musician to complete the line-up. Teh kind of songs T sang on were as follows:
You've Got The Love - Florence & The Machine
Rolling in the Deep - Adele
Kiss With A Fist - Florence & The Machine
I'm a Believer - The Monkees
The Time Warp - Rocky Horror Show
Love Shack - The B52s
Maria - Blondie
But it doesn't have to be so! We're happy to put new songs in to suit, as long as they're in keeping with the feel of the band.
We rehearse weekly (weakly?!) in Andover and play probably half a dozen gigs a year, so not to arduous.
If anyone is interested or knows anyone who might be, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So, a couple of topics I haven't really touched on coming up, and the first is band members and finding new ones. Many of you will have seen my notice in the post above about needing a new lady singer for The Rookies.
The thing is, I've never in my life gone about recruiting for a band - it's always just, sort of, happened. Either friends I already knew have joined, of a friend of someone else in the band, but how do you find someone from scratch. Well, there are adverts, of course. Some of the most notable fortunate musical comings together in history have allegedly happened via ads in the Melody Maker, but what if arses turn up! And surely you've got to give them a few rehearsals, and what if they then turn out to be an arse, and how do you tell them, and who does it fall to to do that?
And then how do you tell someone they're just not good enough? Who gets to be the Simon Cowel figure?!
I remember Paul McCartney saying in an interview how Wings was a mistake because he'd never put a band together and didn't realise how important friendships and personal relationships were.
Fortunately, in our case, Zarra came on the scene (yes, she does spell it with two "r"s). Charlie (drummer) had sold her a house and remembered talking to her about her singing "career", so he contacted her and she agreed to try out.
I can't tell you how nervous I was on the night she was coming along, so I can't imagine how she must've felt, but we eased her in gently letting her listen to us for a couple of numbers, then doing one she already knew quite well - and she was very good.
She also fitted in with the banter very easily, which is always a worry. Because the thing about band relationships is that you do become like family, so we, certainly, don't take any sh!t off each other. You have to let of steam every now and then. The guys are like my brothers, really, so brotherly arguments are gonna happen.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, Zarra played her first gig with us onSaturday night, and all in all it went very well. So, hopefully it wasn't too traumatic and she'll ride out with us again.
The next topic is routine maintenance of gear.
There is no doubt that gigging takes its toll on the ol' equiperooni! I have to say that I usually approach the task of maintaining my kit with a sinking feeling, but once I get into it I really enjoy it. I just love tinkering with guitars, I guess
The most obvious bit of routine maintenance is replacing strings. I make sure I replace strings at least 3-4 days before the gig so they have time to settle down. I don't use any fancy gold-plated, kevlar-wrapped, plutonium-dipped strings: just common or garden D'addario 10s. If I'm feeling particularly attentive to whichever guitar I'm working on I'll give the fingerboard a wipe and clean the dust off the face of the headstock under the strings, then if the fingerboard looks a bit dry I'll apply a touch of lemon oil. Then I always check the neck relief and adjust if necessary (but it very rarely is) and just make sure the string heights are still as I like them (low enough for a good action but not low enough to choke the tone out of it). Then a bit of a clean and a polish and we're all done.
I replaced the tuners on my '65 SG Junior before this last gig. The originals were just a bit "graunchy" and unstable, so I got a set of drop-in replacement Klusons, which was dead easy. In doing that I found out that there are two companies using the Kluson brand now. There is WD Music, who now have them made by Ping in China and Korea, and a German company who have them made in Japan. I've been told the German/Japanese ones are far superior, but they bloody well should be at nearly twice the price! I went for them anyway.
Then there are all the other bits of care and maintenance: mostly just sorting stuff out! I look after all the gear for the band and after a gig it winds me right off the clock that the guys seem to be unable to stick to the discipline of putting audio leads in the audio leads crate and mains leads in the mains lead crate! Is that difficult!? And coiling the cables in the direction they want to go and putting a releasable cable tie on, so it's easy next time we set up. This is in danger of turning into a grumpy old man rant, but it does annoy me when I have to sort it out the week after a gig.
My Marshall TSL602 needs a bit of TLC occasionally. The grab handle on the top is rubbish and the rubber splits, exposing the steel strip inside, far too often, which then lets the steel strip dig into your hand. Not having side handles is a design flaw on this amp. The feet have been a problem too. The fist set broke up when I stupidly left it in the back of the pickup truck and it slid up and down and broke the feet. Unable to get replacements easily I put four rubber door stops on the bottom, but one of those is coming off now, so that needs seeing to. I put castors on it, but one of the sockets for those is broken, so I need to fix that, too, so I don't have to carry it everywhere!
Other jobs on the horizon are to re-wire my FX pedal board with some decent cables instead of the nasty cheap ones which are on it at the moment, find a good power supply for my acoustic FX board and re-attach the pedals, plus I have to somehow get one of our lighting bars fixed. The controller seems to be faulty, but direct replacements are unavailable. Hmm .....
One last maintenance issue which can be a headache for bands is PAT testing. For the uninitiated, PAT stands for "Portable Appliance Test" and it's a formalised regime for carrying out visual and electrical safety tests on electrical appliances, so that includes all of your mains-powered equipment, including stuff that uses a mains power adaptor (well, the adaptor, anyway). Unfortunately, a lot of cr@ppola is talked about PAT testing, and many venues will tell you that it's a legal requirement for gear to be tested annually. It's not. There are no legal requirements, but some venues will insist on it, so you have to do it if you want to play. It's just an attempt at covering there @rses if something does go wrong and a punter gets zapped. People say fatuous things like, "we can't be sued if we've got the documentation to say we've done it". The sad truth is that, yes you can! If someone gets zapped by your gear it's your fault, period. Just because you did a PAT test 6 months ago and it was OK then doesn't somehow absolve you of responsibility. So, regular visual inspections of power leads and the use of RCDs are the best protection, but PAT tests can still be necessary if the venue insists. Luckilly, I run a marquee hire company and I'm a qualified PAT tester, and it's quick and easy, but we did have it done once by an outside contractor and it cost us a fair bit. That said, PAT tests aren't a bad thing as they will identify if the device has an earthing problem, and since the most likely cause of an injury is someone touching something metal that's somehow become live ..... better get the PAT tester out!
To save our electricians time, we got a PAT testing service in, to to all the portable equipment in my last job. Cost, £0.03 per piece tested! How they made any money is beyond me.
Wow, that is cheap! Unless they also had a standing charge attached to that, or they weren't doing it properly.
The machines tested the components and printed the labels. and there were about half a million items to test. They didn't open up plug tops, as I would do when testing items. It was pass or fail and they probably got the contract for repairing the fails.
Oh Yes! NEW TOYS!
So, I came into a modest amount of money and it's time to clear the credit cards. But I just thought I'd take the chance to get a couple of bits of gear in under the radar, so to speak, and put them on the credit card before clearing it.
I considered a vocal processor, for when I'm doing backing vocals.The idea of being able to sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir single-handedly quite appeals to me, but the fact is that in the heat of battle, when I'm up to my ears in muck & bullets, I forget to use my guitar effects, so remembering to dance over and change a vocal processor is a bit unlikely!
Then there was the idea of a nice wireless unit. Maybe a Line 6? But I'm a bit of an analogue freak. Why would I want to kill off all those nice little analogues running up my guitar lead and replace them with a bunch of digitals? (that IS how it works, isn't it?) It would be useful at sound check so I can stand our front, but I can do that with a long lead ....
I've been fancying a Mooer Acoustikar acoustic simulator for those gigs when I just can't be arsed to drag along an acoustic guitar, acoustic pedalboard, acoustic amp, yadda, yadda, yadda ..... but the store I went to didn't have them.
Now, most of all, I've been hankering after a little 5W all-valve practice amp for home use, maybe rehearsals, and maybe the odd small gig (if it's very small!). The trouble is, they seem to all be a bit lacking in something unless you start looking at the big boys, and then the price ramps up. I'd been king of hankering for a Marshall DSL5C, but they're usually around £389 .... just that little bit too many pennies.
So I resolved to go into my local musical superstore and just pick up a few nick-nacks: a couple of really good leads, capo, maybe an FX pedal or two, when what was the first thing I espied?! Only a Marshall DSL5C for £265! Wow! So I demand that the flunkey wires it up for me to try out with all haste! I mention that it's pretty cheap and he tells me it's pre-owned, but it's in absolute mint condition! Apparently a guy bought it, used it a few times in his home studio, decided it wasn't loud enough and took it back, but he was just outside his 30-day money-back-guarantee period, so these guys do him a favor, buy it back as a used one and sell it off cheap .... TO ME! So I get a mint condition amp, with the box, footswitch, mains lead, manual and all, with a warranty, for a lot fewer spondooliks! The amps has two foot-switchable channels, clean gain control, crunch master and gain controls, 3 band EQ, Tone Shift switch, Deep switch, and it has an emulated line out. Oh, and a power switch to drop from 5W to 0.5W. Wow, I'm a happy man!
Now the slight rub ... no reverb. But, galloping over the hill to the rescue comes the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini. One of those new-fangled and very fashionable mini pedals. I compare it with a Mooer equivalent and there is no contest. The Mooer has too many knobs and I struggle to get a good sound our of it. The HOF has one knob, so it works just like if it was a built in reverb, and sounds amazing. OK, it's digital, but it has an all analogue clean signal path, and I can always put it in the FX loop (oh, yes, the DSL5C has one of those, too!)
Now, typical me, I buy it without really paying attention (now, pay attention, 007!). It needs an external power supply, but that's no real problem. But also, it comes with HOURS of extra play features built in! It has a USB socket and you can download other FX sounds to load onto it. Different types of reverb, custom EQ settings, Custom programs by celebrity chefs (sorry, guitarists!) ... the list goes on! Now, will I ever use it? No! Am I overjoyed like a kid at Christmas that it has the facility to do this? You betcha!
Ah, the joys of new-gear Nirvana!
Sounds like a great days shopping. That Marshall amp has a nice spec.
You'll wear out a couple of sets of strings long before the enthusiasm wears out if my past experience is anything to go by.
I'm a bit jealous.
Well, actually, I'm insanely jealous.
In my day there were no electric guitar lessons at school, no grades in rock guitar to be taken .... if you wanted grades in guitar then you jolly well made like Segovia, bought a nylon strung guitar and played classical guitar. And you kept the electric guitar well hidden and pretended not to have any interest in it.
Scroll on 35 years. My oldest boy, Ali, had electric guitar lessons at school, he has grade 8 rock guitar (with distinction) and, more to the point, can play things that I could barely dream of. His band play a genre called metalcore (I think), which isn't my kind of music, but I can appreciate his guitar work. My only complaint is that he plays some really intricate lead lines, which are buried in the mix under the lead singer screaming. They've got a page on Bandcamp http://twfofficial.bandcamp.com/ He's now applying to the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and the London Centre for Contemporary Music. Why didn't they have that in my day? Why did I hae to study engineering? Studying acoustics was the closest I got.
Ah well, more power to him. I'm just jealous that's all and wanted to share it.
Good luck to him..
My problem is I would have missed it all anyway, not starting to play guitar until my early 20s. I had a massive gap between giving up violin when I went to secondary school (hastily given up as kids seen carrying violins had the crap kicked out of them by the older lads who tended to leave school at 15 - pity they never handed out certificates for smoking in the bike sheds, so they left empty handed), and I never picked up another instrument until after I left school.
Funny how things turn out though. The school I attended as a Secondary Modern, became a Comprehensive and then built a really good reputation as a great school for music, all after I left of course, and even now has enough music students to run a Big Band a la Jools. In fact the music teacher who turned it all round ended up leaving and getting a job with the beeb as head of school music programming. My youngest sister, who's several years younger than me even appeared on an album produced by the school, albeit a private pressing. More than I've ever managed!
The other funny thing is that one of those elder lads who did the kicking has since played guitar at least 20 years in a band with my best mate's younger brother. He seems quite normal and not at all psychotic these days!
I hope your lad makes the most of his opportunity.