Archive for April, 2011
More and more I find myself rambling.
The first was produced around the time my father took delivery of a brand new Austin Mini, looking magnificent in green with a white roof. There must have been some strange prescient time osmosis at work here as these colours were to later dominate my life in my support of Plymouth Argyle. It is in this manner that the gods have their fun. While they soldered and tested at Fender, the Beatles were setting about changing the world and unknown to a five year old riding his bike in Cornwall, he and the Tremolux were on a trajectory to cross paths in Cardiff in 2010.
I purchased it, when overcome with a desire to own something vintage, that might in some strange rock & roll voodoo imbue me with the skills of its previous owners. If it could talk, I like to think it would tell of sweaty nights in sixties’ clubs with beat music bouncing off the walls and the girls watching the boys watching the girls. Or how it was once owned by Pete Townsend, that it can be heard on any number of perfect pop moments and, of course, that its soul is woven into the fabric of that magic decade. Foolish maybe, but I’m a history boy and objects surely must carry the ghosts of their past which can be released with the right incantation.
The Fender Mustang is the lowliest of Fenders’ new range of solid state modellers, but it has earned much praise for giving so much at a small cost. It contains copies of some of Fenders’ most famous amps and some others that aren’t made by them but have featured in the rich pageant of rock and pop history. No Tremolux (only the cognoscenti know of its beauty) but the 57 Deluxe, the Bassman, the Champ, the 65 Deluxe etc and then some Marshall and Vox type sounds. The tube purists will sneer at the idea that a digital amp could in any way get near those old sounds and maybe they’re right but this has some very sweet voices in its banks.
I’ve been messing about with mic’ing amps for a couple of years now and have been pretty pleased with results but, in my small studio at home I can’t go loud, so suspect I’m not getting the full benefit. The Mustang, due to its solid state circuits, produces great tones at relatively low volumes and links to the computer with Fenders’ FUSE software. This means you can mess with the setting by manipulating the knobs as you would have on the actual amps. It is a fantastic feature and makes creating sounds and saving them a doddle. I have been pretty amazed by it though disappointed by its interface with Cuebase. It has a USB output but I couldn’t monitor so in the end I used a mic which sounded fine, so no great loss.
I had wanted to get a vintage cab to go with the Tremolux head but they are few and far between in this county so in the end I had one made and put a couple of Jensen P10Rs in it. I’ve been breaking them in over the last week or so and liking the sound more and more as each day passes. Seems like a bit of a marmite speaker as the internet searches reveal mixed feelings. I’ve found it very good with clean sounds from the start but quite harsh under distortion. But that is slowly turning into a unique sort of grittiness or bite that I rather like.
Sadly appalled by my playing, the Tremolux blew up on me and a new tube rectifier valve is on its way in the hope of solving the problem. Arcing inside a valve is a pretty sight but it sounds terrible. The Mustang too suffered damage when I broke the plastic headphone socket, so that feature is no longer available. It’s not been a good week because I messed my left hand up endlessly screwing up the recording of my latest master work. Here’s a tip, try and get a take within the first few hundred or you might not end up with what I think might be Tendonitis. The world holds its breath as to whether I will ever play again and I wonder what I will do with all those guitars and amps if I don’t.
So the version below is not without its disasters but recorded on Sunday afternoon following a ‘good lunch’. The first two verses aren’t bad, but I so rarely made it as far as the third verse it came as something of a shock to be singing it and at this point I fluffed my lines. Recorded with the Mustang pretending to be a 65 Deluxe, it’s a lost blues song put into my head by those ghosts in the Tremolux.
I wrote this nonsense to accompany it – click the link below to play.
Imagine it’s 1956 in a motel room on the outskirts of town. The afternoon sun makes patterns on the table as it comes through the blind. There’s a bottle and a half filled glass on the table while a cigarette is smoking in the ashtray. A man paces up and down looking at the phone from time to time. When it does ring it explodes the silence in the room. The conversation is brief with the recipient finishing by saying “No, I’m leaving town and going back home, I won’t be back”. He puts the phone down, finishes the glass, slips the bottle in his bag and stubs out the cigarette. He leaves the room and climbs into his car. He flicks on the radio and this song begins playing. He has one last look in the mirror as he disappears into the distance.
This morning I was taken with a sudden urge to find my Nikon F3 and hold its ‘chunkiness’ in my hand. It has a good weight and, even though it is a bit worn, its construction is such that the odds are it might well out last me. First produced in 1980 it has always seemed much older to me as its robustness strikes me as out of place in the flim flam eighties. I also dug deep in the bag and found my Nikon 28mm f2.8 AIS to partner the F3 as I felt like going wide and it really is a very good lens. I put a yellow filter on and found some Rollei Retro 400s that needed using up and I was ready to shoot.
The weather is fine as we approach Easter so it was an opportunity to drag James away from World of Warcraft, a game he purchased from the new game shop we have been lucky enough to have opened here in Penarth…..yeah just what we needed. This and the marvellous sweet shop, Umpa Lumpa, James seems intent on single handedly ensuring that they will both remain thriving businesses long into the future. One day I half expect to find James feet sticking out of the lap top as he is dragged into his second life as a mage or a healer.
We set off on our usual route to the pier where James will find ice cream and I will find photo opportunities. There was little of excitement to report except that the pier appeared to have been taken over by a party of French youngsters who provided a soundtrack of babbling French while James consumed his ice cream. I’ve always fancied Penarth as the Cannes of South Wales and I suppose this might be one way it could be achieved. We wended our way back home with James justifiably moaning at the number of times I stopped to take pictures but, really, there is no point in coming home with half a roll.
So the old year ended with the thud of Gillian falling on the stairs as she missed a step while we were moving a mattress at near midnight. The wine we had drunk early that evening, I’m sure, played no part in this incident and thankfully no blame has been attached to me as the man pulling at the other end.
Apart from the look of shock on her face, she appeared to be in no pain, so I suggested nothing could have been broken. The fact she was now unable to walk rather put the kibosh on this snap diagnosis and the horror of a late night trip to casualty seemed the only option.
We arrived at Casualty after midnight and, avoiding the closing time rush, moved through the system at what seemed a reasonable pace to find this was a very badly broken ankle inducing much shaking of heads and sucking of teeth amongst the professionals. I saw no evidence of huge emotional storms sweeping the staff or any life changing acts of redemption amongst the patients – so not like the TV series at all.
The ankle, broken in three places was too swollen to operate so we were sent home for two weeks before the surgeons could do their work. Stairs suddenly became a huge obstacle and, even after surgery, Gillian remained upstairs apart from periodic nightmare trips to the well named Trauma Clinic for the best part of two months. My sympathy for patients and their carers the world over increased immeasurably during this phase. Up and down those bloomin’ stairs I went, raising my fitness levels to heights only a 2012 aspirant could rival. The patient, a perpetual motion machine at the best of times, could only look on and admire (I think that’s the right word) as I valiantly kept the domestic ship on course through the early months of 2011. It was nothing, pretty much what I do the rest of the year and that Peace Lily dying could have happened to anyone.
Life went on in this happy fashion with the bungalows seeming ever more attractive on ‘Homes Under the Hammer‘ and Gillian agog at my skill at ironing. It was the removal of the cast to replaced by an ‘air’ boot that proved the great leap forward, well more of a hobble. For the first time in 2011, Gillian went upstairs upright and combined this with another first of the year …. a bath. Now she could move it was rather disconcerting to find her not in the same spot I had left her. James used to do the same thing to me when he discovered his mobility.
This week the boot comes off and proper physio begins to get her walking without a limp. She is of course part cyborg due to the metal in her ankle and will be alarming airport security for the rest of her life. Normality is still some way off but Gillian had her first glass of wine this year last night so things must be on the up. I’m still sent hither and thither round the house in a development I fear that will become permanent, but at least now a little time is opening up for my creative pursuits. I hear a nation breathing a sigh of relief while, oddly, I have been removed from ironing duties.
I celebrated with two sessions in the garden with my Bronica SQA and Bronica 110mm Macro f4 lens fitted with a S18 extension. This is the older and cheaper of the 110mm macros for the SQA but still takes fine images. The S18 lets me get a bit closer to the subject because for a macro lens the Bronica 110mm f4 likes to keep you at a distance. I added a stop of light for the extension and, once I’d made an intial reading, just wandered round the old garden landscape in search of vistas new. An afternoon in sunlight and a morning in shade did the trick though I had to contend with the curse of the wind for which I should invest in a windbreak. I shot 2 rolls of Ilford Delta 100, souped them in Rodinal 1-50 for 12 minutes and scanned with the Epson V700.
Here is my selection from the two rolls and I found a preset in Lightroom called Yesteryear which as I was contemplating some toning seemed appropriate.