Electro Harmonix #1 Echo Who’s the Boss!

Anyone who regulaly reads this blog will know I am a huge critic of the mighty Roland/Boss corporations pricing structure when it comes to established pedals. If a design is decades old why pay premium, especially as a basic Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal is still priced at most retailers even now for about £105.00 new. Ive always thought this to be shocking as the DD-3 is now a 28+ year old design and was only about £150 to buy new 20 years ago (Its predessor the Boss DD-2 was the first Boss compact Digital Delay pedal and had the chip out of the legendary SDE 3000 rack unit which were like nearly a grand, but back then it was really expensive cos of the chip price in 1982, so was your ZX81 for the same reason) But in 2010???? No this is taking the piss Roland corp.

EH #1 Echo

This thought came to me again recently when I decide to have a “serious” look at my guitar rig. Although essentially in mothballs for the last 2 years, recently with my intentions to relocate looking likely, my thoughts have turned to perhaps playing again and enjoying the vocation of being a musician.

Live pedalboard March 2008

My rig has been pretty simple this last decade, however the TC Electronics Novadelay was far too fiddly to use live. So was sold on. My secondary delay need was really pretty simple, just a useable simple digital delay, no bells or whistles. Something I could synch up with my primary unit (The legendary Line6 DL-4 Delay modeller) for some rythmic echoey fun.

After toying with the idea of a Boss DD-3 and deciding it was (still) overpriced, I tried out a number of EH’s new compact pedals. Id originally set my sights on a “Memory Boy” based on the EH Memoryman+ analog delay. However, it just sounded too quirky for me, for some people it would be absolutely ideal, but I guess I just wanted something simple with the minimum of fuss. More buttons doesn’t always mean more useable tones.

The #1 Echo certainly is with only 3 controls for blend (fx level) Delay time and feedback. overally its a simple unit, the controls are perhaps not as accurate to set up as a DD-3, but at nearly half the retail price I didn’t mind spending more time on setting it up.

Using the shops test guitar a Yamaha Pacifica Mike Stern signature, I was able to get some lovely rythmic delays and built some pretty impressive lines out of a few simple parts. All those Dave Gilmour/Edge/Alex Lifeson/John McGeoch type delays are here, plus its warm and musical.

After 10 minutes of me grinning like an idiot, it dawned on me that this pedal had inspired me to play new things, which is always a good thing. So out came the plastic and the #1 was mine.

Overall Im pleased, its much warmer sounding than the cold delays of the 80′s….Im old enough to remember…

Twenty years ago I used to use a Yamaha DDS20M pedal as a secondary delay (borrowed off a singer who thought he was Jim Morrison crashing a Sinclair C5 into Simon leBon) with my much missed Boss BE-5 (probably one of the earliest multi FX units from 1988 with compression/overdrive/chorus/delay and a noise gate for £199), the BE-5s own delay was ironically the same basic circuit as the Boss DD-3 and was brilliant. The Yamaha DDS20M was awful, just spikey and harsh sounding. I only used it for a couple of points in the set and when I later upgraded to a Digitech RP-1 multi FX 2 years later (the first high end programmable rackmount quality unit built into a floor FX processor, the RP-1 used to run on AC Power and get incredibly hot on the left hand side live, so mine was built into a wooden board made from a tool drawer. Its reverse LED function made it light up like an Xmas tree, so In 1992 local musicians thought I had skylab on the floor and were quite jealous I recall ha ha!) the Yamaha was returned to its owner.

But back to the #1 Echo If Im being critical, the footswitch is ok but could be a bit tougher, but its true bypass and Ive had no noise issues using it either in an FX loop or direct into an amp. It comes in a sexy orange box and has a 9 volt -DC adaptor included. It was £67.99 and if I’d looked around online some places are doing them for £64.00. It says its made in NYC, which considering the strength of the dollar makes the Boss DD-3 look even more overpriced.

8/10

The BBC & the dangers of Cultural Hegemony

Ive been watching the TV series on BBC 2 “Im in a Rock and Roll band”.
It was entertaining fluff for a saturday night and I suppose if your
12 or an elderly person on the edge of death an insightful look at the
workings of a rock and roll band.

Auntie Knows best

However as per the usual BBC/Guardian reading leftie peace and
vegetable rights left wing bias, the Guitarist episode was the kind of
cultural reworking chairman Mao would have been proud of.

From Hendrix to Blackmore to Lynrd Skynrd, the 70’s were lumped into
one big pot, no mention of fusion or the 70’s Jazz rock boom that
predated punk. No mention of Grunge either.

The entire school of Classic rock guitar post 1978 was referred to as
“American”. Of course guitar solo’s were seen as bad and male and
homoerotic in a wrong sinister kind of way by the BBC. Something male
and primal and… wrong…. but the best selling guitars of the 1980’s
world wide were Superstrat types beloved of guitarists who played
solo’s

Then theres the music, after punk lots of 80′s hit singles had guitar
solo’s on. Punk didn’t kill that as Mark Radcliffes salty voiceover seems to imply.

Michael Jacksons biggest records “Beat It” and “Dirty Diana” had
guitar work by Steve Lukather, Edward Van Halen, Steve Stevens etc. No
mention of the guitar solo’s popularity in 80’s music, long after punk
had died. Lionel Richies two biggest 80’s hits have guitar solo’s too.

The sole champion and arbiter of taste in all this anti guitar soloing
propoganda is yet again Johnny Marr!!!! No mention of other creative
guitarists of the time such as John McGeoch or Lu Edmonds or Jamie
West-Oram (who Johnny Marr rips of big style on the Modest Mouse
album), or even Billy Duffy, who started off as a post punk hero and
then went into the rock & roll cliche and enjoyed every minute of it.
How dare he, I imagine for the controller of the BBC it would be like
watching a gay man turn straight!

Perhaps the most sinister element of this programme is that you can
vote for your favourite musician as selected by the usual suspects. So
in effect, if you think your favourite guitar player is James from the
Manics, or favourite bass player is Bernard Edwards from Chic…..errr
Im sorry your not allowed to have a voice. Your allowed to vote for
Alex James from Blur (even though he stole his bass playing style from
John Taylor of Duran Duran who stole it from Bernard Edwards) and now
makes er cheese.

The biggest problem with British music and its lack of ambition in
recent years is the London centric cultural dominance of a few
journalists and DJ’s who have tightened the reign of what is
“acceptable” to be included in British music to such an extent, they
have strangled it. Thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Thats why
we ended up with the noughties genre of “landfill indie” and thats why
aside from heavy metal, the average british indie band guitarist plays
with the skill of a parapeliegic in a coma. These “industry experts”,
know nothing of passion, nothing of joy and the sooner this country
has a cultural purge of these individuals the better. I don’t need
Stuart Maconie or Mark Radcliffe to tell me about Rock guitar, the
fact that the BBC want them to tell me speaks volumes about its
agenda to close down debate on what is good, what is bad and what is
music. That for me is deeply sinister.

Priced to Sell…Is the Party over for Vintage Guitars?

My First introduction to the world of Vintage guitars happened in the mid 1980′s. Guitarist magazine (back in the day when it wasn’t in the pockets of advertisers….actually gave some bad instrument reviews now and then and interviewed guitarists on merit rather than celebrity…..I mean come on…. fucking Lloyd Grossman!!!!!! Ahem) ran an article on Vintage and Rare in London. The article had some very sexy photos of some very desirable instruments, I could have happlily laminated my copy to put it bluntly.

Bernie Marsden.... lucky Barstard!!

The Vintage Electric guitar market as it was then concentrated on American Guitars build from 1950-68, basically before big corporations like CBS and Norlin got their teeth into Gibson and Fender. The market had originally spawned from a sizeable chunk of Rock musicians loathing 1970′s Fenders and Gibsons, and instead buying up old “secondhand” examples from the “Classic” era. Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake is one of these guys who plied his way across the 1970′s and early 80′s Wheeling and dealing, as is Steve Howe of Yes. Both men have considerable collections as does Dave Gilmour, Neal Schon, Steve Lukather, Warren De Martini….etc etc.

By the time the 1980′s had rolled by, the “Classic” era had truly become established. Gibson and Fender were reacting to the early Tokai copies of these instruments and we had seen the First Heritage Les Pauls and Fender American reissues along with their Japanese Squier counterparts. Vintage was in.

At this point in time a 1962 Strat would have cost you around £3000 from a Vintage dealer, but on the street probably a lot less. People were not quite wise to the value of these things pre Ebay and internet. My own driving instructor in 1987 offered me his 1963 Strat for £175 because it was looking a bit “beaten up”…in this era of relics and hand rolled fingerboards its almost comical to think he thought the guitar scruffy. I almost went to the cashpoint there and then but as Im a decent man.. relented and in a fit of honesty explained it was probably worth 20 times that. it was the right thing to do, but I do kinda wake up screaming every now and then.

Perhaps that sense of comical is now coming out for one delicious bite of the ironic cherry. Vintage guitar prices have outperfomed the Stock market almost consistantly for the last 20 years. Many pieces are now no longer played and live in bank vaults and investment portfolios.

However to a hardened cynic like me, I’ve always thought that prices had become silly once we started seeing badly put together firewood from the 1970′s going in West End dealerships for 4 figures. As the classic era stock became unaffordable, retailers were trying to sell us the shit we’d previously avoided as hidden gems.

When I was a lad a Fender Antigua Strat was a badly finished American Strat, with poor quality finish and fit seeping from its every pore. They were £250 worth of guitar on a good day, not £1800 and they were not as made as well as a Chinese Squier or Catalog guitar like a Westone Thunder 1. But in the UK in the 2000′s, they’d likely be bought by some skinny jeaned performing arts student who to be frank wouldn’t know any better. The careerist minded British indie musicians last priorities are pretty much tone, playability and quality….and Tarquin Rhodes-Deprice and his buddies in their BRIT school performing bands lapped them up. Making them fashionable.

The Truth That Dare Not Speak Its Name

The other strange irony of the Vintage guitar boom is this…there are actually more 1962 Strats in the world, than there were in 1962…..thats right…fakes….re-cut a headstock, wrap a body in bubble wrap and stick it in a freezer…let it crack…dip in cold tea for 2 weeks…gig burns….make some neck stamps. I did meet a guy at a party a few years ago who assures me that he built most of a certain Northern guitar shops vintage stock in the 1980′s out of Tokai reissues…..he might be lying, but to be honest….could you or I tell? He did have the originals to work from after all, so if one of these showed up now, how would you know. Theres always been ghostbuilders like Max and his infamous Les Pauls, but to be honest they probably play better than some of the originals anyway.

So what about originallity?

The most popular 3 guitar modifications of the late 1970′s were…

Brass Nuts: The Idea was that Mass = Sustain….look at John Sykes main les Paul…Brass nut…it went out of fashion, but for a year or 2, everyone had one.

Natural Finish….thats right, many of these ” Classic” instruments were stripped down to bare wood. Im pretty sure Ive seen Lowell George of Little Feat playing a natrual finished 1960′s Strat with a humbucker in it

Hot rodded pickups, Humbuckers: I once read somewhere that the Dimarzio Super Distortion pickup was the most popular modification for Fender Strats in 1978….anyone seen Dave Murray of iron Maidens black Strat for example. Thats right, he wasnt the only guy in England with an old Strat doing that most of them were hotrodding and chopping up fitting new pickups and tremelos….which begs the question.

Given the above information there should be loads of these guitars out there right, the vintage market would be flooded with non original instruments particulaly Fenders…….oh…there isn’t??????

When I walk around Denmark Street now much of what I see is Firewood. Snake Oil and misinformation….Ive seen late 80′s squier Strats labelled as JV era (1982-83) and a host of other guitars no one in their right mind would fucking touch labelled as “Collectable” “Classic” and “Rare”.

Some Firewood

Vintage and Rare have a couple of 1970′s Les Paul Deluxes in at the moment….and ok…people used them. Townsend, Scott Gorham and the like, but lets be honest, why buy a multilaminate fucking sandwich layered LP body thats had a new neck fitted for £1700, when you could buy a used recent reissue for about £1200 in the classified ads. It ll likely be better made and you could take the wife/girlfriend/care giver on a citybreak and maybe throw in a nice dinner too. To put it bluntly no one at Gibson in 1974 gave a shit about build quality until much later when Joel Dantzig at Hamer and Paul Reed Smith actually challenged the big two and perhaps scared them into action as they saw their market share shrink. Townsend trashed enough along the way so clearly even he wasn’t that bothered and his main guitar is a heavily modified 1989 Clapton Strat nowadays.

So given the anathema surrounding the Vintage Guitar market. I did find it interesting when I recieved an email today from Music Ground saying they had some Vintage pieces….Priced To Sell.

The Hightlights include

Please note this is another 59 335 for illustrative purposes only

1959 Sunburst Gibson ES335 for………a nudge under £16 Grand!

The last time I saw one of these it was in Cherry and they wanted close to £40K….even though this burst isnt as desirable thats still a £23K guitar on any good day.

Then there was a 56 Strat, immaculately clean for £16 Grand….didn’t they used to be £20K plus 2 years ago?

Granted the 1964 Strat they had was about £24 grand….but I do wonder, with Simon Cowells talent shows and corporate cover versions dominating the music industry….will future generations care enough about Vintage guitars to sustain such incredible pricing in the future?

Im as guilty as the next guy….my own rather meagre collection of pretty much uncollectable instruments are doing well with one guitar inparticular doubling its money….but hey Im a player….not a guy sticking them in a vault.

Other Collectables such as Wine and Camera’s seem to be doing ok, even in this digital age an old Leica M will cost you a fair bit…..if its the right model that is!

But as a final thought if the kids playing Guitar Hero never make it from plastic box to musical instrument. Will there be an adjustment the market never recovers from, or will it be the easy to fake Metal guitars from the early 1980′s that become the stock options of tomorrow?

DIE YUPPIE SCUM!!!!

Stick to Tennis

Well

A year after the bankers collectively destroyed our pensions and forced Gordon Brown to pump about £500+ Billion into the financial system I thought we had seen the last of the City trader types and their tasteless excesses.

How wrong I was

I chanced upon Future Publishings new title about 6 months ago. Guitar Afficionado is probably the most innapropriate guitar magazine ever. As I gazed upon it in my local independant newsagents (WH Smiths seem to be steering clear of this one) I was drawn to its glossy cover.

As I tend to speed read most magazines in about 3 minutes, I almost fell over laughing, it was like a Chris Morris sketch come to life.

Guitar Afficionado is basically aimed at the well healed 45-65 year old, Ive not seen a reference to playing the guitar….just owning them, like racehorses or women I suppose. All articles are on things like Vintage wines, Fine Wristwatches, Luxury Supercars, global travel and aside from a couple of Guitar related articles, the whole magazine looks exactly like the FT’s “How to Spend it” magazine, all fine art, luxury brands and world travel. I don’t know if the suits on Dragons Den play guitar, but if they did, this would be their magazine.

Now I think their probably is an upmarket audience for a mature guitar magazine. But Germany’s guitar and Bass magazine already publish ‘Guitar Dreams’ which despite all the adverts being for expensive boutique kit is actually about music, classic artists, vintage guitars and rock n roll.

The latest issue of Guitar Afficionado includes….and I quote

Our latest issue (and hottest yet) features:

• John McEnroe’s incredibly rare Burst
• Lost Guitars of the Hard Rock
• Golfing with Alex Lifeson
• George Gruhn on the rarities no one wants
• San Francisco in a Mercedes SLS gullwing

Plus, the Fender Custom Shop La Cabronita Especial, 2010 Porsche Panamera, Mel Bay’s 1973 D’Aquisto, Andy Warhol’s favorite guitar, and more.

I love Alex Lifeson and John McEnroe for different reasons, I love the fact that both men have made successes of their lives…and more importanty they’ve made their own money…..honestly. Alex has had quite a career with Rush and John with his Tennis and now Television and the last time I looked Gordon Brown hadn’t subsidised either of them. Alex lifeson is supposedly quite a golfer although I hope he’s not been learning bad habits from Tiger Woods.

BUT!!!!!

I sort of think the target audience of this magazine are precisely the sort of people whove gotten rich of our collective misery, as our pensions erode and our terms and conditions of employment decrease in the favour of the government and big business I guess it’ll be ok as long as Miles and Charlie can do a line of coke and afford the PRS they’ve never learnt to play, but y’know £5 grand, its just a drop in the ocean….sniff.

But please don’t get me wrong.

I dont think theirs anything wrong with aspiration, theres nothing more I like to see than a self made person who’s a success story. But in the UK according to official figures actual social mobility has been at zero for the last decade. If your born poor you stay poor if your middles class, your job may become increasingly casuallised and you might not live in a house the size of the one you grew up in. These are the new realities of living in Britain now. The fact that the state had to rescue the entire financial services industry a little over a year ago leaves a rotten taste in my mouth and its not a 1945 Chateau Batailley Pauillac Grand Cru Classe either.

But theres something unreal about this magazine. The fact that WH Smiths are not stocking it, speaks volumes to me. Its almost taboo like pornography. Theres just something immoral about it. Future haven’t advertised it on any of their websites. Ive never seen this mentioned on music radar….its like a little exclusive club of (scuse my language) cuntdom.

Perhaps the real question Future should be asking of themselves is, where is the target market, does it exist outside of Surrey? I often go to London and browse Denmark St and I remember the besuited yuppies in Soho Soundhouse trying out the latest Mesa Boogie or PRS and y’know what……it didn’t stop that shop from going under. I don’t see stuff flying out of Vintage and Rare, they’ve had some of that stock for 2 years, that Tangarine American Strat Deluxe is in a different shop every time I go there, but i know the serial number and I know its the same guitar, its been passed from shop to shop like a Thai hooker when the ships come in. So the good times are not returning.

So who is buying “Guitar Afficionado” and more importantly where did they ultimately get the money from……????

At last an alternative to Ebay

I don’t know about you, but Im thoroughly sick of Ebay.

What was once a prime example of people power on the internet is now just a greedy corporation. In order to sell your musical (or non musical) kit, your subject to using Paypal, having those commision charges, as well as sales commision knocked off, then the priviledge of Paypal holding onto your remaining cash for 21 days as it accrues interest in their business account. Add to that the threat that if the buyer complains, Ebay award in their favour, so your out of pocket with a potentially soiled item to resell…. and its all a bit shite.

This has become reflected in the sites users nonsensical pricing of items in recent months, as sellers try to claw back some profit, often a used item on Ebay will be more than the equivalent used or sometimes new item in a dealership. A ridiculous situation all round.

In the UK there is thankfully now an alternative

I chanced upon a site called Guitarmart before and although the idea seemed promising, the site was badly laid out and confusing.

Now Guitarmart have recently relaunched the site, its free for private advertisers and is essentially funded by the bigger retailers such as Chandlers selling stock on there. Although its early days yet, the range of kit on the site looks promising, as do some of the prices if you look hard enough, and although the usual buyer beware rules apply (always deal in cash, face to face transactions, nothing by post and do your research before buying), anything that removes the stranglehold on used musical kit Ebay currently have has got to be a good thing.

In recent times Ive been using London Gumtree and have been managing to find choice bargains on there, but for selling, they want your postcode with the advert and if you give a non London postcode it won’t accept your advert. Gumtree is owned by Ebay and it appears that they have cottoned on to those of us in the provinces wishing to tap into a wider audience.

With VAT in the UK about to go up to 17.5% again and the threat of more job losses in the New Year, I suspect Guitarmart and sadly Ebay will do very well in the months ahead.