Friday, April 25, 2008

Guitar Dummy Goes Ape!

Hey, dummies! What up?

So, I traded my Hagstrom Swede for a Mosley "Pasadena" Tele. I dunno why, I just felt like it. Ended up getting acquainted with Mosley's sales rep, Jay. A nice guy.

Apparently, Mosley was an obscure brand name in the 60s. I cannot find any evidence of this on the web. No mention in any of the rare guitar books I have, either. None of my guitartard friends has heard of the name. According to Jay, though, and the Mosley website, it's true. I thought it might refer to MOSRITE, and Semie Mosley, the owner/designer of that legendary company, but Jay says no.

Mosley these days is a relic guitar company, that is providing relic'ed, original vintage style guitars at cheaper prices. Some very very nice guitars on their Website.

So of course, I was interested, and Jay was interested in getting his hands on my Hagstrom so they could relic the thing and sell it on eBay.

I'm not at all into relic guitars (you want me to pay MORE money for a guitar that's beat up???), so i was glad to see their Hot Rod Pasadena model.

Here's the axe:

Nice, no? Upon recieving the guitar, I noticed some stuff. First, the headstock says "USA Custom Shop", but it's obviously a Korean guitar. Jay confirmed this for me. Korean parts, anyway. Secondly, that the neck plate on the back of the guitar reads, "Number 100 of 76." Hmmm. Jay assures me that this is the "old school" way of doing things, and people of today just don't understand. Could be true, but I've never heard of that. In all fairness though, who knows, stupider things have happened.

I also noticed that they are selling a Strat copy, very nice one, that they are calling the Fullerton. However, the headstock of the guitar pictured actually reads, "FullertIon. Perhaps that's the old school way of spelling Fullerton, who am I to say?

So back to my swank Pasadena. It's got some other weird things going on. The headstock also says "Vintage '52 Series". Anyone who knows guitars , though, will see that this axe looks nothing at all like a '52 Tele. It's very, very nice, but sorry, nothing to do with '52. Jay says that the headstock refers to another model.

I asked jay if this was a B stock guitar, as there was a bit of scraped finish on the fretboard. Jay said not at all. On further inspection, I noticed alot more stuff:

A loose tone pot/knob, and a very acute and worsening grounding problem. I've had the guitar two days, and it's already giving me little shocks every time I touch it.

My final issue with the beast is the pickups. Mosley refers to this humbucker design as their own "exclusive" Quad blade humbucker. However, the much cheaper China-made Stadium brand has a Tele with EXACTLY the same set-up. Jay tells me the pickups are "basically" Seymour Duncan hot rails. I'm not a huge Seymour Duncan fan, but this pickup has no character whatsoever. I'm going to be switching it out,very soon, for a Guitar Fetish Nashville pickup.

And I'm going to take it to a Pro to get it done, so he can fix the grounding problem and loose knobs while he's at it.

Mosley is selling this guitar on their website with a case for $799., and without a case on eBay for $499. But my opinion is that it's actual selling price should be around $199. to $249. There are Squiers and Rondo SX's that are better than this.

It's big selling point is the way that it looks, because this is a very swank looking retro/modified style guitar. I'm going to fix it up and keep the sucker. Just replace the bad parts as they crumble beneath me.

I also reviwed this guitar on Harmony Central, but that was before the grounding problem got so bad and the knob started falling off.

I hate to say this stuff because sales rep Jay was so cool and nice to me, very friendly and helpful, but man, this guitar...let's just say I can work with it and make it into something decent.

Meanwhile Jay is going to take the Hagstrom I traded him, relic it, and probably make some big bucks off of it. Yeah, I kinda got ripped off, but...I knew better and went ahead and let it happen.

Still...damn guitar looks swank, doesn't she?

Stalking My Guitar Hero!

So, there we were, Damian and I, going to see the Clash's Mick Jones and Generation X's Tony James play in a club the size of a tampon box. A club which I myself have played (sadly). I have also attempted to play inside actual tampon boxes. None of these things have won me the acclaim I so richly deserve.

Damian's car smelled like cat pee. So I felt right at home. I forgot the tickets and we had to go back to my house. Damian barely supressed his smoldering rage. I figured if I had to, I could take him. He eats alot of fast food, so he can't possibly be that healthy. I had been laying off the booze and giving myself leg and thigh massages and peptalks, so I thought this might be the time to go for it. Unfortunately, Damian did not attempt to strangle me. Not even the suggestion of homoerotic Greco Roman wrestling.

Finally we stood in line to enter the club with a few other sadly dejected dregs of humanity, all of whom were drooling and picking their noses. I decided at this point that I would get roaringly drunk, and attempt to hump Mick Jones' leg. This did not transpire, because Damian reminded me of how horrible I was at the Tyla show. Even I feel some small embarrassment when I misbehave to that degree. Also, an odd sense of pride. I don't get me.

Anyway opening band was godawful, I got drunk, then Mick and Tony's band, Carbon/Silicon, (a rather stupid name) came on. they were great. Much more live rocknroll than their album, which is great but can get a little studio-sterile sounding at times. The place was packed, everyone seemed to have a great time.

Then we got to meet them, yay! The only embarrassing thing I said to Mick was, "You're my Guitar Hero, heh heh, snort." he sort of rolled his eyes and smiled.

I slurred drunkenly to Tony James, something about his former sisters Of Mercy cohort Andrew Eldritch, and Tony seemed like he wanted to sprint as far away from me as he could. But he posed for this picture, where it looks like I am trying to finger his ass. Swear to god I wasn't. All pics by Damian, because my camera was dead.

So that was my encounter with Punk Rock Legend. You're next, Charlie Harper! Probably not.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Surgery for a Starlet

Any guitarist worth the salt in his goddamn tears knows that guitars from the 50s are the most desirable. Unfortunately, classic guitars cost thousands of dollars for examples in poor condition. Old axes in prime condition will cost you more than you can imagine. The emotional and nostalgic value of a classic guitar is, like anything else, subject to the crassness of capitalism.

Alot of American companies now produce replicas of classic guitars in Korea and China, to cut costs. This was once thought to be a sign of poor quality, but experts these days are having a hard time telling the difference between the copies and the copied.

Companies like Eastwood, Dillion, Mosley and Waterstone are all producing affordable copies of classic instruments at high levels of quality. Some large companies are even copying themselves, as is the case with Gibson's Epiphone line and Gretsch's Electromatics.

The main thing I like about this however, is when small companies reproduce guitar classics at low prices. This allows a low rent schlub like moi to buy them and avoid paying huge corporations like Gibson thousands of dollars for their generic product.

Hence my sick hearts and flowers love-crush on the designs of one Mr John Dillion of Dillion guitars. He makes very high quality mid priced guitars that look like the classics of yesteryear, but with modern features and upgrades. He manufactures these guitars in Korea. Not in sweatshops, but in modern factories that are offering jobs to local peoples.

Perhaps my favorite guitar of all time is the 1950s style Les Paul Junior, originally by Gibson. Dillion makes a very high quality replica of the '58 Junior, and I was lucky enough to score one on eBay. I've had two Gibson LP Juniors, Three Epiphone LP Juniors, and several other copies. All were pretty good guitars except one horrible piece of TV Yellow crap by Hondo that I'd rather not talk about. But this Dillion is truly special. It's not perfect, but no guitar is. I love the hell out of this thing.

I like the lightness of the Junior (as well as it's cousins the Special and the Melody Maker), and the biting tone. Of course, the cool retro 50s look and Johnny Thunders connection doesn't hurt either. However, there is one problem here. I also have a huge fetish for the Bigsby vibrato. A device that, when bolted to your guitar, enables you to make cool snazzy rockabilly and surf sounds and look cool as hell doing it. That is not the technical explanation, but you're smellin' my guacamole, no? I basically don't want to play any guitars without a Bigsby, ever ever never ever. Get it?

The Bigsby comes stock on alot of Grestch and Gibson guitars, and you see 'em on Fender Telecasters sometimes, but seeing one on an Lp Junior is very rare indeed.

I looked on the web, though, and found this gorgeous original 1958 sex-beast:

And I decided I needed me one of those,right quick like. So I set about turning my new Dillion LP Junior replica, pictured below, into one.

First, I set the Bigsby on the guitar to determine string angle and placement. Then I used some meat string I stole from work to simulate the path of the string.

Then, I very carefully drilled the bastard a new one. Five new ones actually. Then I drove the screws in and voila! Bigsby goodness! You string it up (always a bitch) and it looka like dis:

And now the thing sounds like Brian Setzer playing Johnny Thunders' guitar. Hipsters, you need to know what I'm talkin' 'bout. This guitar makes you wanna take off your girl's jeans, shave your ironic beard, throw out your Mastodon CDs and be a real man!Like Eddie Cochran! Except not dead!

And it was easy, and only caused me a little bit of nausea. Which for me is a light afternoon.

I'll be talkin' guitars more on this here blog, so if you liked this, check back. If you didn't, go play Guitar Hero or something, you useless little chunk of My Chemical Romance fan!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Youth Cult Apocalypse!

Well, friends and hated enemies, it's One pm, I'm having my morning coffee, and cradling a Fender guitar in my lap. Looks like its time for an informative and helpful article by Chaz. Hold your nose and dive in.

Youth culture. Basically, in America that means juvenile delinquents, gangs and hip hop. It could also mean the math club, or a basement full of Harry Potter geeks, I dunno. You tell me. With our Bobby Soxers, Beatniks, Jazzbos, and later our Rockabillies, (and much later, our skaters, punks, etc) we in this country basically started the modern youth culture. For us, however, these lifestyles are often a simple symptom of teenage growing pains and the quest for an identity. We are expected to "grow out" of these "phases".

In the UK however, they took it to a much more violent, and interesting, extreme. People there, most often working class folk who are not career people, immerse themselves in subcultures at a young age, and never leave. They don't grow out of it. It is a lifestyle, and a way of life. It is not just simple dress up or indicative of the music one listens to. It is handed down from Father to son, Mother to Daughter. There is an intense sense of pride. Many people are aware of violent clashes between Brit youth groups...Mods Vs Rockers in the 60s, Teds Vs Punks in the 70s, Skins Vs Everybody, etc. This is the extent of British working class dedication to their subcultures, and also an indication of the extent of British working class boredom. these are not people who have a lot of opportunities in life. the Brit class system is still very much alive, and in times of economic recession especially, these people are on the low end of the totem pole. They have hard, physical jobs and they raise families on a shoestring budget. Often the only enjoyment these people get out of life is through Football (what we would think of as soccer) and subculture. Dances, Rallies, Meetings, festivals are organized. Most of the subcultures developed heavily in britain throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s still exist, although thankfully the violence between the subcultures has lessened, and usually revolves around Football matches more than rock n roll gigs.

I have a great admiration for the music and fashion of some of these cultures, and for those of you who don't know about them, consider this an education. For those of you who do, I found some cool rare pics on the web you can stare at.

I personally take my fashion tips from ALL of these subcultures, which is a jumble sale, very American thing to do. This is probably a horrible sin that would get me beaten to a pulp in the UK, at least in the old days...but I'm an American, what do I know, eh? I'll wear a mod parka with Teddy Boy brothel creepers, I'll wear a Rocker style leather jacket with a Mod target pin on it. Punk Rock sort of stole from each of these cultures, as well. Below are some of my fave subcultures,. By no means is this a complete list. Just my faves of the PRE- PUNK ROCK Brit subcultures.

We start with the TEDDY BOYS:

An unlikely fashion alliance between 1800s Edwardian frock coats and 1950s Elvis/Bill Haley rockabilly style, Teddy Boy is a striking fashion. They listen mostly to original Rock N Roll: Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Billy Fury. The brothel Creeper, a staple of modern Rockabilly and Punk fashion, started with the Teddy Boys, supposedly as a slightly "off" copy of the shoes Jerry Lee Lewis wore on his ill-fated first visit to the UK in the late 50s. Long drape jackets in bright colors, string ties, brothel creepers, and highly sculpted sausage roll Quiffs (pompadours to Americans) are the marks of true Teddy Boy-ism.


Descended from the Teddy Boys, Rockers also live the 1950s rocknroll lifestyle, but prefer the dirtier, Biker gang, leather and chains approach first seen in American movies like "The Wild One".

The Rockers dragged the 50s style kicking and screaming into the 60s, 70s and beyond.They would wage war with any subculture who professed to be more modern, like their famous battles with the Mods. They rode classic British and american motorcycles, and often spent most of their money on maintenence of said vehicles. Like the Teddy Boys, they too listened to American rocknroll music of the fifties, and any newer bands with that sound.

Their arch rivals were, of course....


Mods listened to a hodge podge of American and British Soul Music, modern British "Beat" music like the Small Faces, The Who and the Kinks (although regarding the Beatles and Stones as 'too mainstream'), Jazz and especially Jamaican Ska and early Reggae.

This was entirely a 1960s born phenomenon, and the Mods hated the rockers for being so retro and not embracing the new.

The Mod look was decidedly detail oriented. One must wear the certain type of suit jacket with the most updated style. One's lapels could not be too big. Ones trousers must fit perfectly. The Mods spent their money on tailoring. The hair was clipped short and smart. Fashions were adhered to slavishly.

The Mods look, once again comes from America. American GIs left over from the war (WW2) had settled in England, bringing with them american soul records and stylish Rat Pack era fashions. Sharkskin (or "Tonic") suits, casual loafers, short, neat hair, skinny ties. The Mods took to this heartily, adding 60s Carnaby street flash to the mix. Also a direct American influence is found in the Mods donning of American GI Parkas, again left over from the war and available in large amounts at Thrift Stores and secondhand shops all over London. The parkas were usually worn over sized, to cover the expensive suits and other clothing the Mods wore. Mods also favored Fred Perry polo shirts, Stay Prest trousers and Desert Boots. Very sharp stuff.

The Mods would consume mass quantities of amphetamine sulfate, in order to dance all night and look ace doing it. The best looking and hippest Mods were called "Ace Faces". Mod transportation was largely limited to Italian Scooters.

Onto the most misunderstood and maligned Brit cult of all.


There's" something about a shaved head that just looks violent and agressive. Skinheads evolved from Mod. As original Mod-ism devolved into the late 60s frilly hippy quagmire, some of the old faces, and new ones, began to rebel against the long hair and crap music that was all the rage. Taking original Mod icons like Fred Perry shirts, Stay Prest trousers with them, but ditching alot of the more extrovert dandy-ism, skinheads were the most extreme die hards of sharp, clipped style. Donkey Jackets, suspenders, Flight jackets and Doc Martens (usually worn over size) were other elements of the style.

In the beinning, Skins listened to Jamaican Reggae and Ska as the main part of their musical diet. The look was part Mod, part American GI, part Jamaican "Rude Boy" (gangster). It was not a racist movement at this point. The emphasis was on dancing, drinking, working class family values, and Football. It could be violent, especially at football matches. But there was no "Nazi Youth" element, something which unfortunately creeped in to certain skinhead circles much later.

One of the early Skinhead Rocknroll bands was SLADE, who went on to much greater fame as a (awkward looking) Glam Rock group in the 70s. Driving, loud British RnB was always Slades' forte. I think they looked much better as skinheads though. Check it Out:

Their look and sound at that point was proto punk, several years before punk happened. Proto-Oi, perhaps. So that makes them the UKs answer to the Stooges and MC5, no?

Here's a great pic from the original skinhead era. Ska/Reggae icon and absolute soul master Jimmy Cliff with some skinhead boys and girls (both boys happen to be members of Slade):

In the late 70s, some skinheads (but NOT all) adopted some punk styles and also misunderstood Punks' use of the swastika as a shock tactic. Racist organizations preyed on young working class youth and sucked alot of skins into their orbit, hereby forever associating skinheads with racism and violence even though most skins were not racist. Violent, probably. Racially motivated, no.

Here is a great picture from the 70s that I think illustrates my point:

Smarter Skins were swept up in the late 70s 2-Tone Craze, which was a musically energized period wherein punk musicians began to play hopped up supercharged versions of Ska and reggae. This music is some of the greatest, most unpretentious, most fun music in existence.

There was also a heavy Mod revival in the late 70s, crossed with punk and inspired chiefly by (one of my all time fave bands) the Jam. Skins, Punks, and Mods were both present at the Jams' gigs as well as gigs by any Two Tone band.

When Skinhead-ism spread to America, it was misinterpreted by most. The Neo-Nazi movement got tons of press here,and drew alot of psychotics and racists under the banner of skinhead-ism. Once again, when you mention Skinheads these days , most people think of racism. This is very sad. Especially when there are organizations like the SHARPS out there (SkinHeads Against Racial Predjudice).

In the present day (or more recently, anyway), alot of big UK bands like Oasis and Blur have revived elements of the Mod/Skin style. Paul Weller of the Jam has a wildly successful solo career, and draws thousands of Mods to his gigs to this day.

I've attempted to demonstrate how US and UK styles have meshed over the past 60 plus years and formed most of what we consider western pop culture. Present day "hipsters", seen and maligned the world over, are themselves an unwitting and often ironic hodge podge of mod, rocker, punk and skin styles, adding a hippy/bohemian/slacker vibe to the mix. This is widely considered annoying to those of us old enough to remember the real styles, and how they once meant more than just fashion. Even so, the styles endure in their pure and semi-altered forms to this day.