It’s not every day of the week that you blow a bass amp. So it was a bit of a shock when, towards the end of what had been a great gig at the Britannia in Southend-on-Sea with Collibosher, that there was suddenly no sound from my bass amp half way through the second encore! A later examination from Jeff’s dad, somewhat of an expert in the field, revealed that the speakers had blown and short-circuited everything else, leading to a totally dead amp with a very uneconomic repair.
Updated 23rd-24th June….
I wrote the other day about the modifications I made on my Fender Jazz Bass. Yesterday, I took my friend Robben to see it, for a more extended look. The first time I took it to the basement where Collibosher rehearses, I thought it was good but to be frank I was just relieved that it all worked after the money I’d spent. Let me digress on that one for a moment. The guitar has now cost:
- £150 to actually buy it.
- £26 for a set of Rotosound Tru-Bass Black Nylon Flatwound Strings
- £205 for the stuff from Audere after import duties and postage.
- £78 for the replacement pickups.
That’s £459. So I guess the real test is: did the cost justify the result? Well, co-incidentally, £459 is a typical price of an Ibanez SR500 bass, and Robben has one. So her opinion is very valuable. And she fell in love with the strings so is thinking about adding them on hers! Though maybe at the next change….
I was getting increasingly frustrated with my bass guitar. Lovely Fender Jazz Bass though it is, beautifully resprayed in electric blue, there was a problem – despite the lovely bodywork, every so often it would sound out of tune even though it wasn’t. You could hear how nice and clean the strings sounded when plucked, with no amp, in a quiet room, but not necessarily through the amp. It never went out of tune, though, unless I knocked a machine head, and the action is very nice.
One thing about my bass, is that it had once had an active unit in it. There was an unused battery box and an extra output socket (which was wired wrongly so couldn’t be used). Hums, pops and clicks were the norm, and occasionally a very loud hum cured by fiddling around with the lead in the socket. Clearly, at some point, the owner had taken out the active stuff for another bass, and put in a passive unit and cheap, non-matching pickups. And didn’t make a very good job of it.
We had another great night out in Dartford at the Huffler’s Arms on Saturday, 15th September. It was one of those nights of extremes. The crowd was noisy and boisterous, which is great if they like us, but if they didn’t, I think we’d have had a hard time!
But then again, if, with our material, we couldn’t give the “scooter” crowd a good time, then we’d deserve all we got. With the stuff we play, The Who, The Jam, The Kinks, Small Faces and so on, these are our core audience. If we can’t make them happy, we don’t deserve to be playing. That’s always a worry but we needn’t have.
I think that we have a different outlook to a lot of 60s/70s Britpop cover bands. We’re not interested in perfection, we want to give the people the energy they might have got back in 1965 or so, actually watching these bands, not necessarily the more refined, produced music you heard on records of the day. They’re too young to have heard these songs live at the time, we are too! And, especially me, we’re too old to leap around the stage like demented salmons, so that energy has to go into the music itself. That’s why I think they like us.
Watch some of the videos from that night, and you might get what I’m on about. I’ve played on and off in bands (more off to be fair) all my adult life, and this is the first time the two most important things have come together. One that we like what we’re playing, and, two, that people want to hear us. It’s always been one or the other before, now at the grand old age of 58, I’m finally fulfilling an ambition that I thought I never would. I don’t need fame, or even to be able to give up my day job. Just playing to a crowd of people who respond to what we’re doing, that’s what I want!
We were booked to play at the Cricketer’s Inn in Southend-on-Sea on Saturday 18th August. The original plan was that Russ would pick up the mini-bus, we’d meeting him at the Cherry Tree around 5, get all the stuff loaded up, get to Southend fairly early and do our set up and sound check and chill for an hour or so before playing. But you know about the best-laid plans of mice and men!
I was at home at 5:20 and had not had the call that we had the bus, so I phoned Russ, who was at the Cherry Tree packing up the bus already! I said I was on my way! But I got only as far as the bus stop outside Barking station, where the stubborn refusal of a number 5 bus to arrive, coupled with the caterwauling of a God-botherer who wrongly thought that her Lord had given her the gift of song, gave me 20 minutes of torture before I phoned Russ again, who by this time had packed the bus himself, and came and got me.
I have a cheap Harley Benton JBass, a JB20 – currently £75.20 from Thomann in Germany. That’s very cheap, and you don’t expect too much. Out of the box, I’d describe it as OK, and attractive enough, not great, but OK. One good point is that it seems to stay ruthlessly in tune. This is probably due to the bodywork, which is solid wood, and not MDF or plywood that you often get in cheap guitars. I since bought another bass, which is my main one now, and, due to my rather soft skin, I restrung it with Nylon covered strings. It sounds great, but very smooth, and doesn’t have that “twang” that you need with songs like “Substitute”.
So I thought I’d try something on the JB20: a set of traditional medium weight Rotosound roundwound strings. These were all the craze in the 60s, John Entwistle being a user. These, coupled with the very solid bodywork of the HB, resulted in a major transformation! Even before plugging the bass into an amp, I could hear the difference, though the strings did not look or feel all that different, but I got an audible twang replacing the dead sound of the unamplified original strings. I tuned the strings using an online site called tunemybass, gave them a week to stretch and tuned them again.
Didn’t start too well though. We had to play the whole evening, because The Snare couldn’t make it. One of their number was inconsolable following a bereavement, and they had to pull out. Still, two of the band turned up in their two-tone stage gear, to give us moral support, which was a nice touch. But first, we ran through a few songs we thought we ought to rehearse one last time, in the basement. Then we moved our gear up to the stage, we had serious problems with getting the PA right, and getting the DJs to stand down for a bit so that we could have a sound check. Which finally happened after 7.30 when people were arriving! So far, not very good.
I first picked up a bass guitar around about the age of 16. I even recorded a couple of songs with some lads from school. Mick Perry, Dhev Nair and Steve Isaacs where are you now? I had a few periods in a few groups, but it was all a long time ago. Last time I played in public, before Collibosher, must have been around 25 years ago or more.
There were two types of band I was in back in those days, the type that enjoyed what we did, but no-one wanted to hear it, and the type that could get bookings but our heart wasn’t really in it. With Collibosher, it all feels different, it’s as though we can enjoy playing and people can enjoy listening. That’s a great feeling.
Remember the defeat of John Major’s Tories, and smiley Tony Blair PM (an anagram for I’m Tory Plan B, too true as it turned out) and dancing John Prescott? Somehow, what followed will always taint my view of that song. After my last blog, the final insult took place! But since then things have picked up, with a couple of surprises that I was not expecting.
This is getting beyond a joke – on Sunday I woke up feeling I had a cold. Just a little one, nothing to worry about, and we had a band practice that afternoon. When I got to the pub, my bass amp wasn’t there in the basement. I checked all the nooks and corners, thinking I was late and my bandmates had played a practical joke, but no, they were later than I was! Went back up to the bar, and there it was, large and life and twice as ugly, on the stage. It had been borrowed, as it turned out with Mark’s permission. Jason had promised to take it back to the basement, but was too drunk at closing time and came back Sunday to find we were already practising and had lugged it, and a few other bits, down.