Friday, 31 October 2008

Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scotts

Last week the BBC showed film of Jeff Beck playing at Ronnie Scotts at the end of 2007.

Stunning. Breathtaking. Genius.

Jeff Beck has for a while been one of the few guitarists I'd say to people was really still out there being inventive, novel, interesting, different. I saw him live backing up Sting some years back but this TV special was absolutely ace. I think a CD is already out and a DVD to come.

There's nothing I can find on the net from that show but here is a taster of one of his tunes.

Buying advice

A friend at work is looking to get a Christmas present for one of her family - a Fender Jazz Bass. Good choice! She has a budget of £500 and ask my advice. I offered the following but made me realise that frankly it's bloody confusing as hell isn't it for someone who knows nothing but what they know the other person wants but they want to buy in secret without that person knowing....

No problem – happy to help.

Okay firstly an attempt to quickly unravel the mystery around this…

Largely there are three main groupings of Fender instruments.

American made – these are the “puka” Fenders made in the Californian factories. Generally considered the pinnacle that people aspire to. I’ll explain more about these in a moment…

Mexican made – these are still Fenders but generally not considered the real thing. You have to be careful when buying as these are often refered to as Standard series and I’ve seen Mexican Fenders on eBay with “American” in the title. There is a difference with “American Standard” vs “Standard”… confusing

Far East – some with Fender in large name but these are rare most have Squier as the main name and noticeably cheaper normally.

Okay – so assuming you’re looking for an American one given these are as I say what most people aspire to. There are three divisions generally…

1. Highway 1 series – this is like the one in the link you sent me. These are stunningly good value frankly. You can get them brand new for just around £500 if you shop around. Companies I’d recommend that have on-line/mail order via phone are Andertons in Guildford or Guitar and Keyboards in Brighton You’d be right up against your budget but get a brand new USA built instrument with a guarantee etc.

2. American Standard Series – or USA Series depending on age they recently changed the title. Brand new these start from about £750 - £800 and will go up… and up to many thousands

3. Vintage / custom shop. These are likely to be out of your price range I’d suspect even second hand they generally are limited editions and hold their value very well – many even appreciating over time.

So the things to look for are to confirm that is a USA version – as I say just Fender Standard in the name is likely to be Mexican. These are good but not as good as USA built and won’t hold their value like USA ones do.

If you do see a particular one that you are thinking to bid on please let me know and I can have quick look and give you my opinion. Clearly the whole eBay thing is a bit buyer beware – although I’ve bought guitars via it at very good prices myself. But then I’ve also reported sellers to eBay who are clearly selling things that are not what they suggest they are as well. Final bit of advice – any guitar with the word “project” in the title on ebay normally means something is seriously wrong with it needing someone with serious knowledge, a long time and or a lot of money potentially to fix, for example to replace the electrical components in a bass like this would be easily the best part of £200 - £300 and a new neck and fitting will be likely similar.

My advice would be with your budget to think about getting one of the Highway 1 series brand new from a good mail order/online dealer. I’ve played a few of these and been tempted to get a model from this range myself I think they are excellent value.


The other day I was looking at a large sign in the window of a church where I regularly attend an AA meeting. It was advertising an “Indoor boot fair”. I looked at the steps up to the door, there is a ramp but small and twisty. The door isn’t that big either. So I turned to a friend and said – “How do they get the cars in for this indoor boot fair then?”

He pondered this – “Presumably you empty your boot and take the contents inside”. He offered.

“Wouldn’t that be a jumble sale?” I asked. “Would’ve been in our day” was his considered reply.

However another person spotted a similar sign and then we had a conversation about boot fairs vs jumble sales. And rightly he pointed out that for a good old fashioned jumble sale you separated out your crap into, clothes, bric-a-brac, etc. and placed it with other similar items. Whereas in a boot sale, indoor or traditional, basically all your crap is on your table and then the next table is another similar assortment of different categories of crap belonging to the next seller.

The second sign that had me thinking this week was “Major Antiques Fair”. Hmm – did that mean an antiques fair where all customers had to be a particular rank in Her Majesties forces? Bit limiting that surely? I’d have thought there some discrimination legislation would outlaw that as well these days.

Or was it selling major antiques – what make an antique a major antique? Size? Value? Some antique judging panel?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Then suddenly it was different... after weeks of effort…

(Bit like the quote from the Roger Miller the singer who said something like “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success”).

For anyone who’s followed stuff here or elsewhere before there was a here will know I went through a low patch. I’m slowly coming up the other side. I was sharing about that and some other stuff at an AA meeting last night and as ever in that process I began to realise that things are better than they were a while back, I’m moved on and am getting on with stuff better.

As ever though my negative default brain process clicks in and almost demands something more tangible to prove to me this improvement. I try to quell that with “This will pass..” “Time takes time”, “Acceptance is the key” etc. thoughts and application of the programme.

Then in my inbox this morning is an invite from a Prof at a learned university to step in at the last min as a speaker at an international conference next week. Someone can’t now make it and they know of some work I did some while back which they believe will fit the agenda. Best of all my boss is giving a talk at another conference next month based on that work and I can lift that presentation and use it as appropriate.

How cool is that? Also it might just quieten my “Where’s the evidence then?” sullen persona that lurks around in my head sneering at my attempts to gain a serene recovery.

Much to be grateful for today, much to continue to be thankful for.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Happiness is the Road

The new Marillion album has arrived in it’s jiffy bag. A double CD with two books of photographic art work, lyrics, credits and of course the list of nutters from the Marillion “family” who parted with their hard earned cash some months back to pre-order and hence pay for the production before a note was played. So yes my name is in there. Marillion have pioneered the use of the internet to connect directly to their fans since the 90s and this is the third album they have funded through a direct appeal to the faithful to pay for a special issue of the finished result before they begin to make it. This one is currently only available direct from Marillions on-line store.

Like many of their albums after the first listen through I’m thinking… “Hmm need to listen again”. After another few listens (despite my daughters protests) it’s a classic Marillion album. Very much more Marbles than Something Else was. The lyrical concepts are pretty neat as well. It’ll be in the player for a long time to come before I grow tired of it I think.

Stand out tracks are… Happiness is the Road, This Train is My Life, Woke Up, Half the World, Whatever is Wrong with you. Whatever is Wrong with you is the first single off the album and the subject another Marillion invention – they are running a competition for fans to create a video on the subject. The one with the most views on YouTube by 1st Dec wins £5000!

“Find a better way of life at”.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

she's back

After over two weeks and just when we thought there was no possible hope my mother-in-laws cat has reappeared. She'd been less than half a mile away and via the cats protection league she's back home now. The lady who had been feeding her had no idea who she belonged to.

a happy ending...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Gig Review – James Blunt

I took Mrs F to see James Blunt at the O2 arena last night.

Second time I’ve now been to a gig at the O2, my son took me to see the Metallica fan club show last month there, which I missed a review on as that was during blog hiatus… Just for the record, bloody brilliant, bonkersly loud and all very Metallica. I’m very impressed with the O2 as a venue given there are loads of restaurants in the building, for us it’s only 50 mins drive away and the parking is really close if expensive (£20) but then we can leave the gig and be home in less than an hour from leaving our seats. As opposed to Wembley, Earls Court or Hammersmith where we’ll be lucky if we’re on a train by then.

I’d done very well getting tickets in the third row right in front of the stage. Mrs F was very impressed although we were surrounded by a few slightly worrying JB fans who looked like they might stray into psycho stalker territory on occasion. They were having various chats about how to get backstage after the show.

So Mr Blunt isn’t my preferred cup of tea but his stuff is pleasant enough and he performs it in a pretty polished way. The band were very accomplished and tight. The slightly odd highlight was a rendition of Slade’s Cuz I Love You complete with a stage leap from JB and him running down the aisle complete with bunch of security fellows to a piano that appeared in the middle of the floor area next to the sound mixing desk etc. from which he performed a couple of numbers.

So guitar fans… loads of Gibson acoustics – which is not a topic I’m hot on frankly. They were all J45s I think of some description – lovely red sunburst one but also a plain one that was obviously custom with a very ornate fingerboard inlay that I think I’d have struggle to play if I needed to look at the fingers. Looky here. A Seagull 12 string which sounded lovely and, shock!, Mr B on an electric – looked like a relic telecaster but wasn’t Fender – pickup height adjustment screws visible above the scratchplate and slightly odd headstock shape being the give away. His backing guitarist was a variety of telecasters and a couple of 335s for a few numbers.

All in all though a good Tuesday night out. Mrs F phoned our son as we left to tell him it was “Brilliant so much better than Metallica”. How would she know she never went to the Metallica gig :-)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Julian Bream

There was a great programme on BBC4 on Friday night showing clips of Julian Bream from the early 60s through to the 90s.

Now I remember him being "the man" of the moment when I picked up classical guitar in the mid 1970s. I remember him being this outrageously ostentatious bloke driving old 30s sports cars etc. Also I remember his facial expressions whilst playing.

This programme though was a really good sample of his playing - he is a man with great tone.

Here is one of the things I found on youtube.

Made me think about getting the old classical out more and trying to knuckle down to playing that more... then the Les Paul called and I was seduced by the mistress of rock n roll - well Red Barchetta by Rush mostly... do you think that was a bizarre round the houses reference re the red sportscar of said Mr Breams?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Great Guitar show

If you've not seen yet the BBC is doing a series on the history of the guitar - I think the 1st part is repeated on BBC 4 this evening at 11pm - set your recorders up now!

Here's an example of the exclusive video clips off the web site the BBC has set up.

What’s the bloody point?

I was commenting on another bloggers blog about energy and commitment etc.

So here we go guys here’s my major issue at the moment my major character defect that is causing me pain.

Sometime ago I used to have the energy thing where I used to throw myself in to something with a passion. Nowadays though I find myself begrudgingly struggling into some action with a continual “What’s a bloody point?” question bouncing in my brain.

Why is that?

Am I just lazy? Fair question to ask. It may just be that but I don’t think that is it. I do “turn up”. I go swimming quiet a bit, I put in the hours in at work, I attend regular meetings for AA and I so service commitments in AA and again I turn up and contribute there. I regular take my kids to events they want to go to, I do my bit about the house and garden. If I was just lazy surely that’d show through in those kind of things or in how I take care of myself physically etc. So whilst I’m prepared to admit to a bit of that I don’t believe I’m an inherently chronic lazy git.

Is it because of the experience of the past where I fear that whatever I’m doing will likely as not get stopped, highjacked by someone else’s ego or just peter out as the enthusiasm and commitment of others wane? Some truth to that. My company is embarking on another major restructuring initiative less than 2 years since the last one. To be honest I think we’ve barely got the model that was designed then working and they rip that up and present another. It’s business I know, it’s driven by a continually falling share price and a perception we’re not delivering what we need to meet the expectations of the board, the analysts and the shareholders. But you then look at the new system and inherent changes in our processes and interfaces and think – “so do we just band aid a solution as on current form we’ll ditch this in 18 months vs doing the full job on it properly”. (Hey reading that back I’m just becoming a cynical old git maybe that’s it :-) )

Or is it fear? That’s my biggest fear right now is that my reticence to bite the bullet, grasp the nettle and launch myself at stuff with any passion is fear. Fear of what? Fear of failure, fear of exposure as a fraud or lacking in some manner, fear of being labelled with the commitment to whatever it be and that will be to the future detriment in my career or personal advancement. Fear of having to give away my passion and possibly then having to suffer the pain associated with that deal when inevitably the activity ends. So I run the risk of suffering the internal pain of feeling like a perennial under/non achiever because I have the fear of the loss associated with the end of the commitment but miss out on the feelings of success over adversity etc. that taking the challenge on would present me.

Let’s just pick at some this for a moment.

Fear of failure is a biggy for me. I know I don’t start stuff as I project the likely failure therefore consider it not worth beginning.
Fear of the exposure again is a paralysing one. At heart I want everyone to like me and respect me, therefore I have to be great at whatever I do so that you like me and respect me. A bit of an unrealistic expectation that – I’m human and can only be good at some things. Plus will my attempting something and going – oh actually I don’t know about this make you think I’m any less of a worthy person?

Finally the fear of loss. The fact that in committing to anything means you give of yourself a little and therefore take a stake in it means there is that inevitable loss will happen but I fail to look on the positive strokes side of the equation that I may well gain more positives than negatives from the experience. I must read that book The Secret that’s been recommended to me – it’s all about looking for the many positives not the negatives isn’t it?

You know I’m glad I wrote this – it’s really helped clarify my issues. “Nothing to fear but fear itself” – 2nd time that quote has appeared in this nascent blog. Maybe I should have called it the road from fear or fear factory … oh that’s been used before hasn’t it.

It's been a week now

My mother-in-laws cat, Mitzi, wasn't well last week - a problem with her kidneys that she's had before. So she got some medicine from the vet etc. but then almost immediately and very unlike her the cat went missing. She's old and a rescue cat who'd been poorly treated so she stays pretty much in the house and the garden. Sadly it's been a week now with no sign of her.

It's the not knowing that's the worst bit isn't it.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Missing the boy

Son-of-Furtheron has started at university – he is now in his third week.

To be honest it’s been a bit traumatic for us. He really struggled with homesickness at the back end of the first week much more than any of us really expected I think. I wasn’t sure what was best to call him each day or give him distance. The calling each day seems best at the moment. He then got “Fresher’s Flu” no doubt due to the stress, a whole load of new folks in one place, diff living conditions etc. However he is on the mend now and really settling in well it looks like, however the weather has been terrible apparently but then he chose Wales! He scored on the accommodation he is in a revamped block and not close to the noisy pub area but away in the trees.

But I’m missing him – it’s now me and the two women in my life. There just isn’t someone who gets my humour or encourages me to turn the music up. On Saturday I sat on a bench like some lost bloody tramp for an age whilst the girls tried on multiple make up samples in a cheap make up store. I went off bought a rugby shirt came back and they were still at it! Still new times, new focus I suppose – I should remember to take a book shopping next time.

My birthday…

It was my birthday last week – my belly button birthday as we call them in AA. One advantage of being a recovering drunk is that I get two birthdays!!! My AA birthday – i.e. the day I started to get sober (14th May 2004) and my actual birthday which was last Friday.

I had the day off work as Mrs F doesn’t work at school on a Friday and we had the day together. We went shopping at Bluewater – we are so bloody predictable!!

So now I’m in my late 40s – I have to be according the family as I argued when I was 44 that I was still in my early 40s they then point out the mathematical inconsistency if 46 is not my late 40s… honestly mid 40s suck they seemed to only last a year. :-)

At the shopping centre we bumped into an old school chum of mine and his wife. He hasn’t changed in all the years that have separated us meeting as 11 year olds at the bus stop to head to secondary school in Sept 1974. His son has the guitar bug as well and our music likes still so overlap – he was at Maiden at Twickenham – kicks himself for missing the Led Zep/Foo Fighters mash up at Wembley… oh that brings back memories he was in the crowd of us who went to see Zep at Knebworth in 79. He got the tickets for us. He’ll be at the Queen + Paul Rodgers gig Mrs F and I are off to in Nov as well.

Talking of which my son got me the DVD of that very Foos gig which of course we were at – brilliant. Also I got Pink Floyd live at Pompeii – another of those seminal moments in my life. My Mum took me to see Napoleon at the local cinema in some attempt to educate me when I was about 10 I think. However Live at Pompeii was the B movie (remember those days?) and I remember that more than the main feature so I’ve wanted it for a long time, more poignant now given Richard Wrights recent passing. That’s weird; the random music player I’m listening to as I type this just picked Echoes … how in-the-ether-random-but-all-connected is that?

Other things I got… Daughter-of-Furtheron bought me a jumper, I got a shirt, the latest Bernard Cornwell book Azincourt which already has me enthralled, Queen + Paul Rodgers CD, Elbow CD (One Day Like This is a stunning track alone – just go download it now and make your life better), Gary Moore CD – it’s just Gary… :-) loud blues…, some guitar strings… But the bestest best thing that was best of all was a brilliant chocolate cake that my daughter slaved in the kitchen on the Thursday evening baking for me. It was stunning and lasted less than 48 hours and that was without our son being about and also including that we went to our favourite “eat all you can” Chinese buffet on Saturday as well.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Unfettered capitalism

So is the current money and stock market meltdown the precursor to the end of unfettered capitalism?

I don't know frankly but I do sit and wonder about it all.

a) how can one bank (HBOS) be under so much threat when others aren't? Is HBOS really that badly run? Or is it that people just hate that goon Howard in the tv ads?
b) maybe all those building societies that became banks shouldn't have done. In both the case of the Abbey and Halifax I voted against demutualisation - although I never moved my business. I sold my Abbey shares ages back but held onto the Halifax ones. Whatever given both have been taken over and Halifax / HBOS is about to be taken over again I'm not sure that the few hundred quid everyone got as a result of the demutalisation was worth it now?
c) How the hell is Iceland in the position it is? About a year ago I wondered where all the Icelandic money was coming from as some Icelandic consortium bought Army and Navy. Now I know - they didn't have it they just borrowed it - an old adage "If you owe the bank £200 it's your problem, if you owe them £200,000,000 it's their problem" - very true that.
d) I heard a guy from the premier league say "We shouldn't think like the French that debt is bad just that you need to ensure you amount of endebtedness is comensurate with your income". Well I tell you son my father thought debt was bad and I'm glad I've sort of followed his principles, I'm fortunately not in a debt position myself but have investments etc. I do worry about. But look at my son - at uni and he'll have a stonking debt (in my terms) by the time he leaves. Frankly why worry though it doesn't seem to be an issue still - maybe the govt will bail him out if he screws up. He's looking at various ways out - clearly never earn a lot is a good one as you never pay back the student loan, stay in Wales (if he does they clear some of the English debt to put him on a par with Welsh students - their fees are much much lower) (but I mean, live permanently in Wales?! He'll have to support Ospreys of something equally bad :-)), possibly move overseas as looks like they've not considered the brain drain issue.
e) Who drives these markets? Why is "double digit growth" important? Who to? Are we all to blame as we are the people who demand good returns on our investments in our pensions or whatever? I read a report on my company and us failing to grow at double digit rates was sneered at - btw we are one of the largest in our field and earn billions a year - how the hell do we keep growing? Surely there's some limit somewhere?
f) "there's nothing to fear but fear itself" - very true.

So I glance down my RSS reader at the news stories coming in and just wonder where it'll stop. Looks like some major UK retailers will go to the wall soon as they cannot borrow to stock their shelves or the insurers will not insure them to ensure the suppliers will supply on credit.

Is capitalism a human instinct? - survival of the fitest - the strongest in the pack gets to lead or gets the most women etc. So is greed an inbuilt human trait? Look how the socialist experiment of the 20th century ended up, that didn't work out well.

Now the great depression of the late 20s early 30s hardly killed off capitalism so I doubt this blip will since as soon as the dust finaly settles those that have profited from the downturn will be the people others seek to emulate to get a bit more and it'll all start off again and how long will the memories be? There are 4 billion people in this world who live on income less than $3000 a year (that's about £1700). You know I don't feel that badly off really in comparision - I have warmth, health, good living conditions, sanitation, power etc. It's a shame our govts can pump billions to maintain this creaking system - rather than just taking say $100 billion of all that and giving all those folks a $25 bonus...

So I'm back

So I'm back in the world of blogging after a while away.

I'm going to try to get back to original spirit I had in my old blog before I seemed to lose the point.

So the name says it all really - this'll be about guitars, music, life (mine and others), the funny things I see in the world, the things I don't understand in the world (well some of them maybe - if I go for everything in that category we'll never get finished), and things I learn in the world...

Welcome to anyone who comes here to read and comment. However I will moderate comments and reserve the right to not publish comments I don't like or don't want published. Simply put this is my blog and my life and that's my choice I simply ask you all to respect it.

Bienvenue, Welcome, Wilkommen...