Monday, 26 November 2007

Ten Years Gone

On Thursday afternoon I sadly bid farewell to an old friend of mine, and wished them luck on their journey to pastures new. After much prevarication, I'd finally sold my faithful little Gallien-Krueger 200MB bass combo on Ebay. Which was quite a wrench, I must say, given that it had performed admirably for me at hundreds of gigs, coped with falling pints (& punters, on a few occasions) in smoke-choked pubs, and survived the shoddy shock absorbers and shifting p.a. cabinets in the murky depths of many a hired van in the course of our decade-long relationship. All with hardly a murmur of protest, and only cosmetic scrapes and scratches to show for the indignities I put it through. Unfortunately, a condensation-related problem incurred when it was sitting in storage for a year had done for the speaker, and buying an entirely new amp with the insurance payout had proved cheaper than ordering the correct replacement from G-K, so with money relatively scarce, I could hardly justify owning two small bass combos.

Still, at least it went to a good home, with a great new owner who's going to give it a whole fresh lease of life making 6-string fretless noises through his array of home-made cabinets. (Plus he only lives 5 miles away, saving me all the hassle of packaging - what a nice man! ).

Seeing the wee beastie go did set me off on yet another nostalgia trip, though...considering all the guitars, basses, amps, and other multifarious musical gewgaws that have passed-through my hands, and wondering if there was anything I still genuinely regretted having divested myself of in my quest for personal instrumental perfection.

In the end, the list was very short. No basses - I've always been pretty good at "recycling" these. My first ever bass was a red Aria ProII SLB, bought in 1990 when I was at university, and still pretending to be a guitarist of some description. Lovely neck, perfectly sound instrument, it was eventually de-fretted when my Hohner JackV came along 3 years later - which was itself subject to a de-fret job when I bought a TobyPro 6 last year. Wonder what might just happen to that if I ever get offered a 6-string, headless version of one of these for free?? There's something I particularly like about de-fretted basses. Most likely the resultant position markers, which I find enormously helpful, being both far too lazy to bother to learn fretless properly, and extremely short of time to practice (thanks to the kids, naturally. Nothing to do with writing this nonsense. This hardly takes any time at all...errrr... ).

I was tempted to include my last guitar multi-fx unit, a Boss ME-8, whose qualities I only truly appreciated after I'd parted with it - but since it went to another excellent home, (my very good mate Martin), and I haven't played a gig on electric guitar since 1995 (or thereabouts), then I'm not going to complain about that one having got away.

In the end, the only 2 items of musical gear I wish I'd never part-exchanged, or sold in the desperate bid to finance the purchase of something more shiny, were my first decent guitar - a British-made Shergold "Custom Masquerader" , and the wonderful little Marshall "Lead 12" amp I bought with it. The Shergold was actually my 2nd electric, but the first one (a nameless East German Strat copy) was so bad, (and utterly resistant to being set-up properly - a lesson in applied Communism! ), that all I can recall of it was that it was black, in homage to Ritchie Blackmore, and that it was far more of a cheese-slicer than a guitar, to which the ends of my fingers constantly bore witness.

I spent £125 on the Shergold way back in 1986, and I loved it to bits. The neck and balance just felt "right", and with a bewildering array of switching possibilities on board, it was capable of producing at least 4 usable sounds - which is 1 more than a PRS! The pick-ups weren't what you'd call powerful, so it was never going to be first choice for your average shred-monster, but it could certainly hold its own in any heavy blues / jazz-rock / disappear-into-your-own-bellybutton-prog setting, which was perfect for me. I even, briefly, owned a matching 12-string model, but couldn't handle the tediousness involved in tuning the damned thing - remember, this was in the "olden days", the late Medieval/early Rennaissance era, when digital tuners couldn't be found easily for under £10. (I believe I also mentioned earlier my inherent laziness, too? I did? Just checking).

Relative poverty, however, meant that when I surrendered to the overwhelming seductive charms of a Patrick Eggle New York six years later, selling the Shergold was the hard, but necessary, part of the bargain. I've looked for another one in the last couple of years, but they appear to be "highly collectable" now, so I reckon I've got about as much chance of replacing my ugly-yet-beautiful "cherry" (although it always looked more "burgundy" to me) Shergold, complete with an old London bus ticket acting as a shim under the neck joint, as I have of finding a vellum manuscript of the Vinland Sagas in a local charity shop.

Marshall 12's, on the other hand, do still turn up in fair numbers, although the asking price for reasonable-condition examples has finally started to reflect their true quality. I had the basic, no-reverb version, and knew virtually nothing about amps, so when the opportunity arose to trade it in for something slightly more powerful that had a reverb unit in it, I stupidly, stupidly, STUPIDLY took it.

Seriously, a Lead 12 is one of the finest pieces of equipment Marshall ever built! Don't take my word for it -

"Lead 12: The Little Screamer
Greater distortion at low volumes was also the goal of one of the most interesting amps Marshall released in the early '80s – the model 5005 Lead 12.
A 12-watt transistor practice amp with a 10" Celestion, it retailed for under $200 and for many came surprisingly close to capturing the great, warm sound of the distorted Marshall amps of years gone by. It was a favorite of many working musicians, including luminaries like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top."

(from "Marshall Amplifiers: A History", by Edward B Discroll, Jr. - well worth a quick Google! )

It was the baby of a whole range of solid state Marshalls, which are all well worth a look if you're after that tone, just without the corresponding hernia. And again, if I could spare the money for another one, I'd snap it up in an instant. They've got everything you could want for the price - a Lead 12 sounds great, looks cool, and it's so small you might lose it down the back of the sofa. Assuming your sofa is quite big, of course. And that you're somewhat careless with your musical equipment.

Anyway, to return to the original subject, selling my Gallien-Krueger has presented a common ethical problem balancing the wants and needs of the individual with those of the family/social group. I was intending to "ring-fence" the proceeds, (which were more than I was expecting ), with a view to buying a small digital recorder, so that, in addition to my semi-literate and almost-amusing blog postings, I could infect the internet with my musical ramblings, too. There is, however, the small matter of two ever-growing mini-blokes to be clothed, fed & housed in relative non-squalor, and limited funds currently available with which to do so. As any parent reading this will know, in the real-life game of "Tolerably-Coping Families" ("Happy" is a deeply contentious concept ), "kids" are always trumps, so I'll most likely content myself with the familiar, comforting lie that goes: "Well, I'll not spend that money now, but in a few weeks/months/years/lifetimes [if you believe in all that 'reincarnation' business - what an opportunity for long-term stock investment! ], when we can properly afford it, then I'll buy that [insert personal object of desire here] I've always wanted."

Except, of course, that's never quite how it works out. When we finally arrive at the designated future purchasing point, there's always been a fresh need/domestic maintenance issue/minor crisis that has cropped-up in the meantime, ensuring that our expenditures continually rise to meet our available budgets. A while back I sold an electric mandolin, supposedly for exactly the same purpose as the Gallien, and it ended-up paying the Council Tax bill for September...

Ah, well.

Never mind.

Anyone know the going rate for a kidney, hmmm?

1 comment:

Martin Lennon said...

Three things:

1) Not only did I buy the ME8, I also bought the defretted Hohner 5, both of which are yours any time you need (Or just plain want) to borrow them

2) Most of the equipment, certainly all the stuff I now possess, was only bought well after my lovely babies grew up(relatively speaking)and flew the nest. There's a wealth of dohickeys and gubbins waiting for you in your post-nurturing future

3) I'll give you a fiver for the kidney

4) Welcome back

(DAMN! That was four things... gotta learn to count!)