The Rise of the Guitar Effects Rack

Bob Leggitt | Sunday, 19 June 2016 |

Marshall Series 9000 power amp and RE-3 Roland Space Echo from the heyday of guitar racks

Watch an old live rock performance from the 1970s, and in the backline you’ll see amps. Just amps; no effects. Right up until the end of the decade, this essentially remained the case. But as the 1980s dawned, and technology began to invade popular music as never before, forward-thinking professional guitarists with cash on the hip steadily started to adopt rack-based setups on stage. Watch a late ‘80s rock performance, and if you don’t see a fancy stack of 19 inch processors in the backline, it’s like: “OMG! Where’s the rack???!!

How Flickr Favorites Get Your Images Scraped

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 17 June 2016 |



Back in early 2013, I wrote a post about Flickr’s attitude to its own ‘licence’ categorisations. Flickr had confirmed to me that the official Flickr API, used by third party scraper sites to ‘legitimately’ scrape content from Flickr and display it on their own domains, was engineered to allow the scraping and automatic republishing of All Rights Reserved images. In other words, the licencing choices made by Flickr users had no relevance at all to Flickr, and were disrespected by the site’s own redistribution service.

The Smarties Vintage Van Set

Bob Leggitt | Sunday, 12 June 2016 |



Those cupboards you never look in… They’re full of stuff like this… Well, they are if you’re a beyond-help hoarder whose floorboards are struggling to bear the weight of endless ‘nostalgia’.

This is a 1991 Smarties gift set, based around a model vintage van in the style of a Matchbox vehicle. The van is not actually a Matchbox product, but essentially a spin-off from the Matchbox brand. It’s made by Lledo, whose boss was formerly a director at Lesney/Matchbox. The van carries a simple three-part message on its base…

“LLEDO” “PROMOTIONAL MODEL” “MADE IN ENGLAND”



The model van replicates an old Ford, and this particular design was used by Lledo for a multitude of brand name promotions. The body is diecast metal, but the chassis and roof are plastic.

The Smarties presentation box still has its price label, indicating a retail value of £3.99. The rear of the box cites a Best Before date of “1 5 92” (British format, so that’s 1st May 1992). And the reason, of course, for the Best Before date is the presence, inside the box, of four tubes of Rowntree Mackintosh Smarties. For reference, someone ate the Smarties. I assume it was me.

Each Smarties tube is marked with the slogan of the day: “Only Smarties have the answer”, and features a coloured plastic lid. The tubes in themselves provide classic nostalgia from a quarter of a century ago. And back then, of course, the Smarties ingredients list featured a choice selection of ‘E’ numbers. I think that’s what my diet has been missing for the past decade, to be honest…

UK Punk Guitar: A Style Defined

Bob Leggitt | Saturday, 11 June 2016 |



Whether or not punk rock’s guitar style had a definite beginning is open to lively debate. And for good reason. The punk genre might have had a cultural singularity of birth in the year 1976, but musically it evolved over a period of time. How long a period of time depends on whose word you choose to take.

Those Who Can’t… Confessions of a Private Music Tutor

Bob Leggitt | Tuesday, 31 May 2016 |



Before the market for music tuition was revolutionised by free options online, it was possible for many local and decidedly average musicians to make a good income from private teaching. Yes, just as before the invention of the toothbrush people would accept into their mouths a branch from a small tree or a medieval Brillo pad; before the invention of YouTube and tutorial software people would accept into their lives a tutor they’d met in the lavatory of a wine bar.

In this post I want to recall that scene. Not specifically the wine bar lavatory, obviously. I want to recall what private music tuition was like in the rock and pop genre, before the Internet devastated the realm of opportunity for the useless and incompetent.

STARTING OUT

If you wanted to actually BE a music tutor, you’d ideally first need to teach yourself to teach. Some musos skipped this stage, and in truth it didn’t seem to matter a great deal. But I didn’t realise how staggeringly incompetent tutors were allowed to be when I started out, so I thought it would make sense to observe the professionals in action. I opted to purchase a range of VHS tuition videos, made by professional musicians, and spearheaded by one Arlen Roth, who developed the highly successful Hot Licks series of instruction tapes. You can see some of my old tapes at the top of the post. These would usually cost somewhere between £20 and £40 each.

Unfortunately, not all artists shared Roth’s aptitude for tuition. Many of the videos (and I’m not just talking about Hot Licks here) combined the tutorial and training skills of David Brent, with the production standards of an Alan Partridge travel tavern talk show. So useless were some of the artists as teachers, that special ‘interviewers’ were hauled in to interject at regular intervals, basically translating, or prompting the musician to properly explain the gibberish he’d just mumbled into the belly of his instrument.

But I found all of this encouraging. All I had to do was adopt the style of a tutor whose video didn’t make me want to throw the television out of the window, and I was, surely, ahead. I mean, how hard could it be?…

THE SCENE

As a private music tutor in the mid ‘90s, finding customers was easy. I put one ad in a local newspaper, got a very good response, and just kept repeating the ad until people began to approach me by recommendation. And the stream of recommendations would not take long to start. Part of the reason these recommendations were so quick to flow in was that the standard of service across the scene was roughly in keeping with that of an empty water dispenser. It was all people could do to find a tutor who’d remembered to get out of bed, let alone one who'd developed the ability to relate complex information.

There just weren’t any realistic alternatives. The Internet couldn’t stream video, and most people didn’t have connections anyway in ’95 or before. The really good teachers were always booked up solid and very expensive. The rest of the market was seized by characters people had met in pubs – or had found lying on the pavement outside pubs.

It was desperate. A saxophone player could literally fall off a stage in a drunken stupor, but the guy could play, and no one could find a sax teacher. So if he managed to drag a business card out of his pocket at the right moment – even if he was flat on his back being fanned back to full consciousness with wet jumpers at the time – he could secure himself a new pupil.

PREVIOUS TUTORS

One of the joys of teaching was hearing how atrocious people’s previous tutors had been. By all accounts, some tutors would spend entire ‘lessons’ trying to sell items of gear to their pupils. Some taught in their pyjamas, some couldn’t play, one sometimes had to teach in a shed because his wife was ready to punch him... One invariably parked his Range Rover precisely in the middle of the road, causing all lessons to conclude early, to an irate chorus of car horns. Allegedly, of course. I wasn’t there. This was all gossip – but judging by the way people would source their tutors, it was easy to accept this stuff as true.

UNDERPANTS

When you’re working for yourself (and particularly if you’re trying to hold down a ‘day job’ with an employer at the same time), you tend to cut important corners. Neglecting to log the more obvious bits of your timetable, for example. You don’t think it’s possible to forget that someone is scheduled to turn up at your house – especially when it’s a youngish and rather nice-sounding lady…

I’d scheduled an initial meeting with the woman in question, but I HAD forgotten – completely. Assuming I had a free evening, I’d begun cooking a truly eye-watering curry, the smell of which was probably evident from at least the end of the street… Then I’d decided to sort out all my underpants by laying them down across the floor in the lounge. Then, simultaneously with all of the above, I’d chosen to play an audio tape, featuring me, attempting comedy. This entailed a series of demented-sounding groaning noises. Highly amusing to me. Probably more in 'disturbing' territory for the uninitiated.

The doorbell rang, but not even that jogged my memory. I assumed it was a sales call and I opened the door ready to shoo away the perpetrator. The fumes from the curry appeared to impact quite heavily on my guest. I should have been saying: “Please go away”, but on reflex, the words: “Hi, come in!” had already blabbed themselves out.

So there I was showing a young woman I didn’t know (a woman who was, it should be said, now showing clear signs of curry-fume disorientation), into my lounge. A lounge in which numerous pairs of my underpants were liberally spread and carefully arranged across the floor. A lounge in which the stereo was playing an audio tape of me making loud groaning sounds.

The woman turned to me and asked: “Did you forget?”… The correct answer was of course: “YES!!! I’M SO SORRY!”, but I thought that might sound a trifle unprofessional. Yes, I know that presenting your entire collection of underpants to a female stranger is more than a trifle unprofessional, but I’m very quickly gathering them up the underwear and hiding it all. I’ve wrenched the stereo’s plug out of the wall, and I think I can limit the damage. I’ve gone with the very incorrect answer: “Umm, no…”.

Whether it was the deep, mind-altering power of the curry fumes I don’t know, but believe it or not I did get away with it. I ultimately claimed that I hadn’t forgotten, but had made a big mistake when noting down the time of the meeting, and that, apparently, was an acceptable excuse. The lady did look more than a little relieved the following week, not to be greeted with fumes, groaning and a layout of literally ALL my underpants.

Never underestimate the ways in which YouTube has saved the world.