Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Recent Reading

Bernard Cornwell - The Pagan Lord

I've just finished Bernard Cornwell's "The Pagan Lord" - I bought this for my Kindle with a birthday Amazon voucher my sister kindly gave me.  I like Cornwell's stuff and have read most of his books except any of the Sharpe series for some reason.  This latest one was the continuation of his Warlord series with Lord Uhtred the pagan lord of the title.  Uhtred has had an interesting life - a fictional character set against the reign of King Alfred and then afterwards.  This is afterwards with Edward on the throne of Wessex but a move by the Danes in the north of Britain to push south and take the dream of a united England away again.

Uhtred has been banished after a disagreement with the Christian church has led to him kill an Abbot.  But with a small band he disrupted the Danish plans and becomes again the hero of the Saxons.  Great read with much terrific research by Cornwell in to a time when little is truly known of what went on in our country.  At the end you think that Uhtred is dead but Cornwell does leave a teaser about a follow up novel in his final notes.

Ben Elton - Two Brothers.

I'm still reading this but I think it is going to be one of my reads of the year.  Set against the backdrop of post WW1 Berlin two brothers are born to a Jewish mother.  You then fast forward to 1956 to meet one of the brothers no living in London and there is a dark past waiting to come out.  I like Ben Elton's writing, many of his novels have had a degree of lightheartness about them but some are brilliant works, I think this will be in the latter category.  I thought his book "The First Casualty" a really really brilliant read.

Ken Follett - Triple

Another great Ken Follett thriller - I really love his thrillers and have been working through the back catalogue when I see them cheap in the Kindle store.   This is a great one, based on a small report from the Daily Telegraph that pointed to the suspicion that Israel agents probably hijacked a cargo of Uranium in the late 1960s this fictional account intertwines a group of old friends from Oxford University into a web of espionage and  intrigue.  First class stuff with high degree of believability in it throughout.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

RIP - Gypie Mayo

I've put this up as tribute to Gypie Mayo who was long term guitarist with Dr Feelgood replacing original 6 string slinger Wilko Johnson in 1977.  This is the Feelgoods most successful single ever - the only one that made the top 10.  Whilst many of us feel that the Wilko period was the golden one for the band with the first few albums up to the incredible live Stupidity it was with Gypie in the band that they were their most commercially successful.  In later years he stepped into the legendary shoes of Clapton, Beck and Page when he was guitarist in the reformed Yardbirds in the 1990s and 2000s.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The best motorcycle racing nation in the world.

Anyone watch Pointless on BBC?  Whoever thought that up was a genius.  Quick side bar for those that have no idea what I'm on about, those that do, skip to next paragraph.  A teatime quiz show where you have to get the answer to a question the least number did in a survey of a hundred people before the show.  The ultimate aim to get to the last round and get a Pointless answer - i.e. a correct answer but one that none of the 100 people surveyed did.  Brilliant.  Recently I'd have won the jackpot with my ability to recognised T-Bone Walker in a set of five guitarists and knowing there is a George Washington Bridge in New York.  Pointless - so well named on a more than one front... subtle.

To the point(less) in question.   If I was to ask the 100 people "The most successful motorcycle racing nation in the world in 2013".   I would suspect the highest number of people would say "Spain" as we watch Lorenzo, Marquez, and Pedrosa slogging it out (sometimes literally) on the global glory stage that is MotoGP - the blue ribboned motorcycling series.

However I contest M'Lud that the answer is the UK.  World Superbike Champion this year after missing out last year by only 1/2 point is Tom Sykes - lovable Yorkshireman who has simply ridden his heart out this year on a bike that probably shouldn't have a champ on top of it - no disrespect to Kawasaki but no other rider is close to Tom on that machinery, Aprilia, BMW they are the two teams that looked likely to prevail with all their riders normally near the front but annoyingly there was Tom continually banging in results on the green Ninja.

World Supersport champion (feeder series to World Superbikes) - Sam Lowes a young guy from Lincolnshire, and in another odd twist that will be a Question of Sport question one day no doubt - his twin brother, Alex, won the British Superbike championship this year too!

Now I was going to hang off writing this in the hope that Scott Redding would win the Moto2 crown (feeder series to MotoGP) but sadly Scott fell off at Philip Island last week in a cross wind and broke his wrist so has fallen off the lead of that championship.  Shame.  He may get back and beat Pol Espargaro to the title yet which would be a great result and would seal it for the UK to claim to be the best on two wheels.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

New and Old.

One of Fender's classics from the 1970s that had so far missed the re-issue bandwagon was the Fender Starcaster.  Whilst we've had all the various Telecaster versions featuring the wide range humbuckers the large bodied, and even larger headstocked, Starcaster was missing.  Until now.  No doubt due to Killers guitarist Dave Keuning use of a Starcaster in recent years Fender have brought it back, and currently retailing in the shops at about £610 it looks a really tempting proposition.

My only minor gripe is that there are a few significant changes from the original.

Here is the reissue (courtesy of

and here is an original... (via Ebay where this one is up for sale at the moment)

So the differences? 

No master volume control - like good old John Birch you could wind down or up a pre-mix setting with both pickups on.  Not a great loss but you're a knob down on the deal!   More for me a shame is that the original followed the Fender tradition of through body stringing using a modified strat hardtail bridge - similar to a Tele Delux or Tele Thinline (2nd version).  The use of tunamatic bridge on the re-issue no doubts keeps the costs down as they don't have to tool up for a special bridge plate but...  it loses a lot of the Fender character to me.   Still nice to have it back at all really so I'll not moan too much.

Music Shops

Sadly earlier this week one of my local music shops closed its doors for good.  Mid Air Music of Chatham is no more.  :-(

* 1 minute silence *

Sad days - I've bought a few things out of Craig's emporium over the 6 years it'd been in existence, notably my PRS CE22 (huge bargain) my Hughes & Kettner Statesman Dual 6L6 combo (another bargain) my Yamaha CPX 500 and some mics, pedals etc.

Sadly all too many shops on the High Street are closing, my favourite hardware and ironmongers store closed down.The last time I was in both the writing was on the wall. Stock levels down, things you'd expect not for sale and just me lonely punter wandering around with little money to spend in them.

But it is a complex issue isn't it.  Craig at Mid Air tried to have a quality music shop for our area - i.e. he stocked things like Blackstar amps, H&K, Carvin, Vigier guitars, Mayones guitars, Warwick basses etc.  Now I applauded the effort but...  how many people need a 100W stack?  How many can afford one!  How many people will pop in and just go - "oh look a Vigier at only £1,800. I'll buy that".   Sadly if you have money like that London is only 45 mins up the line and you can hit several shops with a wide selection to make your choice from.

We still have Manny's Music in Chatham.  Manny's is a mix of new/secondhand CD store on the ground floor and guitar emporium upstairs.  Now Manny does stock some good stuff, Ltd's, Ibanez, Fender's (normally from the cheaper end) and a good selection of Tanglewood acoustics, cheaper Martin's, Yamaha etc.  However, it is normally all lower to mid bracket - I understand why ... that is simply what he can sell to the punters in the area and therefore Mid Air and Manny's complemented each other to a degree.  Will Manny now look to stock Vigier?  I doubt it there sadly just isn't the money in it.  I do hope Manny's continues though - you need local shops like these to ensure that people locally have access to instruments, advice etc.  If they all die what then?   Oh yes - bargain of the moment at Manny's he has an LL11 - like the one I just fitted the Fishman in - going for about £275... I bet he'd be open to haggle on that.  Frankly a bargain that I can't believe has been on his wall already as long as it has - people ignore the second hand bargain whilst eyeing up a respectable new Tanglewood which I guarantee the Yamaha could see of with one hand behind its back!

Big Big Train Make Some Noise

I've really enjoyed Big Big Train over the last year or so with their two releases English Electric Part 1 and ... Part 2 (you saw that one coming didn't you!).  Now they have re-released both of these in a double album version with four previously unreleased tracks.  This is one of them "Make Some Noise" - this is probably the most "pop" these boys are ever likely to get.  Top stuff... flutes, rickenbaker basses etc.  yes it is British prog at it's best!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Rush - Clockwork Angels Tour

Here is Rush playing "The Garden" the closing track from their excellent Clockwork Angels album live on the Tour they've been on across the globe this year promoting the album, complete with a full string section.  Now if you know me you'll know I love Rush, they are up there in my favourite three bands of all time, so I loved the album and the tour and the book that embellishes the album.

A DVD package of this tour is due out in November - put it on your Christmas list now!  The gig was up there as one of my best ever, alongside Led Zep at Knebworth etc. for me.

Now - click on the video below and enjoy - oh yes and about at 4:30 one of the best guitar solos comes forth from the fantastic Mr Lifeson.  The lightshow is flipping ace too - the whole thing is just flipping ace!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


A colleague just really surprised me.  We'd been talking about favourite foods and stuff the other day - we had a charity cake bake competition underway... I didn't bake, just made a donnation and eat!  She just came in and said "I've some Biriani I made last night left over - there is enough for you".  Simple little acts like that stun me at times do you know - they really do.  Largely as I often fail to perform such acts myself.

Darn - should this have been on the other blog... whatever.  Remember I'm in two places now - the split personality coming to the fore!

Monday, 14 October 2013

This blog and that blog

Right ...

this blog here will become more mostly about guitars and music and all that.

My other blog is going to focus more from here on about the life part of the title.  To that end there is a new post about my life over there... go read, follow etc. over there...  ta

New music... and isn't Amazon clever

Some new music I've been listening too.

Alter Bridge - Fortress.

Hello did I put on the wrong album?  The first few bars are a really nice acoustic guitar solo, a bit Spanish in nature and I was wondering what was going on...  but then Cry of Archilles kicks into the drums, bass and heavy guitar riffs.  Oh yes Alter Bridge on top form - Miles' voice soars in and this is all very good territory.  On the whole a little heavier than their normal fair to my ears, with one track The Univited reminding me of the music Metallica should be producing.  Highlights... hmm - too many but probably Waters Rising is the stand out track for me - following a well worn Alter Bridge formula, nice finger picked intro with laid back drums and bass that kicks up when the chorus arrives.  Yes they nailed this as Creed with the other singer but hey if you have a formula that works why break it?


Right - this is the version with the new singer... like Alter Bridge is to Creed, but they kept the same name... but then so did the singer - so there are two bands with same name... confused?!

Ok so this is the one with the new singer again.  And much better I listened to both albums and this is a Queensr├┐che album of old, La Todd is a great singer and fits in well.  I really like this album and if you turned away when DeGarmo left and think they went down hill after Empire try this out - I think it is their best album since that opus probably.

Highlight - In this Light - just a mega track, great arrangement, guitar playing and the vocals are superb!

Newton Faulkner - Studio Zoo

The big lad with the ginger dreadlocks is back.  And is he back, this is the best album since his debut I believe.  Excellent production, writing and playing throughout.

This is him warming up in a basement before a record store appearance with Treading Water which is one of the highlights off the album.  Note the Gomm/Legg like retuning - but note that young Newton doesn't use Banjo pegs just his ears... astounding!

Finally aren't Amazon clever.  I bought two of these albums with a voucher my sister got me, along with a new book for my Kindle.  Now if you buy a physical CD from Amazon (I'm old school!) they give you an MP3 download for free!  Better still log on to their Cloud player and everything you've bought through them before is available for you to play - I've loaded this on my phone and whilst conscious of data charges where I have wifi I can listen to anything in my library.  Also most you can download again - so remember that album I got rid off 'cos I wasn't sure - I can try it again.   I know they want to trap me in and kill off Manny's in Chatham but sorry it is flipping clever isn't it.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

I sometimes wonder...

Reading the news today there is a big story about the UK e-borders scheme.  The bit that really made me chuckle was the statement from Immigration Minister Mark Harper - who says...

"We have the best coverage of any country in Europe but we are working to improve our coverage further."

I think his title should be Minister of the Bleeding Obvious.  Could it be that we have the best border system in Europe as we are pretty much the only country that has a border?  The map below shows the Schengen Area - those countries with no border controls between them (those in green are going to join those in blue in due course)

The Schengen Area
The Schengen Area

Still Mr Harper will no doubt be pleased to see that quote over the press in a time when the press continually seem to tell us we should be concerned with immigration...

The other immigration related story that caught my eye was - Jack Wilshere says only English players should play for England.  Mr Wilshere is stating only people born in England should play for England - but that isn't what the rules say live here for 5 years continuously and you are in, my son could have been elligble to play for Wales on the RFU rulling of 3 years).  I suggest Mr Wilshere looks at other sports - we have been celebrating Mo Farrah's success (born in Somalia), Chris Froome's Tour De France win (born in Nairobi), a bunch of Rugby Players (Brad Barritt - Durban, Alex Corbisiero - born in USA, Vunipola - Australia, Marlon Yarde - St Lucia)...   I won't go on I'll be here all night...   These people come to the UK and settle here and chose to be here and part of our country, they have every right to represent us.  I just don't understand this way of thinking - we're a multi-cultural society, we have been for 100s of years - I mean the monarchy has routes from France and Scandinavia via good old William The Conqueror, Scotland - King James I (or VI) when the crowns of Scotland and England united, Germany via the Hanoverian's blah blah - I mean the Duke of Edinburgh is Greek and he seems to represent the country.  When Mo won at London I think the one thing it showed about the UK is that we will welcome, support and nurture those that come to us from places of real hardship in the world and we will embrace them, rightfully, as one of us when they pay that back to us with success in any field be it sport, science, art or simply being a cog in our wheel of commerce in some way.

I get annoyed with all this stuff - people are people, some come from here , some from there, we feel an allegiance to where we live and where we are brought up etc. however at the end of the day this is all just artificial nonsense, the lines on a map that denote my town from your town, my country from your country are just that - arbitrary lines drawn by someone for convenience they mean nothing in grand scheme of things.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Fitting a Fishman Rare Earth pickup

I've fitted the Fishman Rare Earth Pickup I got as a birthday present.

I was fitting it to my trusty old Yamaha LL11.  I bought this guitar brand new in London in the old London Acoustic Centre, which was based down in Wapping in those days, it was in the mid 90s at some point.  So this is heading for 20 years old now.  It is a lovely guitar, most of my recordings have featured this guitar via a microphone.  However live I've used a CPX500 for some time or I have used the LL11 with a Dean Markley soundhole pickup but whilst that sounds ok it isn't the best solution.  Recently I bought a Vintage Gordon Giltrap that has a Rare Earth Blend pickup, that was really impressive when I used it live and I thought I'd get one of them, but the blend (which has a magnetic humbucking pickup and a small gooseneck mic as well) is £250 vs about £130 for the humbucking only model.  So this is the non blend model I'm fitting here - which the darling Mrs F bought me for my birthday.

Ok whip the strings off and gently twist the old strap button out with a pair of pliers and here we are ready to go.

The only real modification needed is to enlarge the strap button hole so that the combined output jack and strap button can be fitted.  I bought this reamer cheaply (i.e. £30) from a local hardware shop earlier this year as it was closing down.   It should have been closer to £100!  This is hard slow work but worth it to get a neat looking hole.

This is the fitted output jack being pushed in from the outside to check the hole is large enough.

This is how I got the jack socket into the right place as my arm is too tight to fit right inside the body to the strap button!  Feed a cable with a jack socket on it through into the body.  Push the jack home and ... viola you can just pull it all into place.  The hole in the end of the socket assembly is to hold it all steady with a small allen key whilst you tighten up the nut with a size 13 spanner.

The pickup is easy to fit in place.  Slacken off the clamps on either side, slide into place a the front of the soundhole and making sure nothing gets in the way of the clamps tighten them back up.

Here she is all finished and re-strung up.  You can see the new jack socket/strap button in place.

And here is a quick audio test.  This is via my Zoom A3 processor giving a Yamaha style body back into the sound, a little compression and some reverb.  Recorded on my BOSS BR600 with no effects etc. on board that.  I'm more than pleased with how it sounds.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Birthday booty!

Some of my booty from the family. A new Fishman pickup which is destined for my Yamaha LL11, a really neat neck support from Crimson Guitars, Alter Bridge's new CD and Allsorts!!!


Can you believe it... another orbit has passed with Furtheron sat on this lump of rock going around a small star in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.  A year - is is funny that we get preoccupied with this stuff isn't it, we divide up things into seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years.  All of these are just to a point arbitary constructs we use to make sense of our planet and it's place in the cosmos if you think about it.  A day is only a day and a year only a year because of where we are in the solar system.  Anyhoo I've managed to sit here on the planet we call home for 51 of these orbits around the sun.

Now if you want to really feel inconsequential in the scheme of things consider this.  The solar system is gracefully swinging around the centre of the galaxy at around about 514,000mph (puts any land speed record into context doesn't it!).  To complete an orbit like this known as the "Galactic Year" will take around 225million years or so.  Therefore if you break up the Galactic Year using the same constructs as we use on earth - i.e. 365 days, 24 hours, 60mins, 60 secs... you find out I'm just a smidgen over 7 Galactic Seconds old.  Even the oldest living person (approx 116 years) is only just over 16 Galactic Seconds...