Friday, 4 March 2011

Everything must go... somewhere

I've just started to dismantle parts of the studio in attempt to make it look more like a family living room and less like a madcap science laboratory crossed with counter espionage and propaganda headquarters from a low grade B movie. I don't know how I've managed to collect and hang on to so much junk over the years, but I've decided it's someone else's turn to own some of it. I'm going to have a sale, and to that end I've been photographing every random piece of electrical equipment ready to advertise it all on my website, put it on ebay, hold an open house yard sale type of event...

Would somebody like to make an offer for a Lamb Laboratories 24 volt power supply? I've had it since 1988 when somebody gave me a four channel Revox mixing desk which I had repaired at great expense only to find that it was even more crappy sounding than the Wem Audiomaster five channel desk which I eventually used to mix Le Beat Group Electrique and The Donovan Of Trash. Those records were in mono because the Audiomaster only had one output and anyway it's a bit difficult to mix four tracks into useful stereo. It all worked out quite well on Le Beat Group - I remember it well, track one for the bass, track two was the guitar and drumkit, track three for the vocals (which I did live along with the guitar, bass and drums), leaving track four for all the overdubs.
The overdub sessions were a great laugh - I can vividly recollect playing the organ with one hand, shaking a rhythmically sketchy maraca with the other and almost headbutting the front of Andre's acoustic guitar held up to the vocal mike as we lunged for a backing vocal... It was desperate but the energy level was good. We lived on cups of tea, chocolate digestives bscuits and nervous energy - dropping in and out, trying for a modicum of perfection without erasing any of the good bits. The horrified shout of "turn it off!!!" just before True Happiness is the real thing - I'd left Andre recording bits of dialogue from a Will Hay film on the TV while I was in the kitchen making yet another pot of tea. I suddenly realised that our attempts to create an interweaved sound collage to introduce the song was about to actually obliterate the song itself.

I didn't know how to edit tape in those days so the final three songs, Fuck By Fuck, Parallel Beds and True Happiness had to be mixed in one go. I think it was eleven minutes in total and I had to work out all the level changes and echo effects and then mix it down to 1/4" two track tape in glorious mono in one go. I got it just about right the first time and decided to live with it because I didn't think my delicate nerves could stand another run through. After all, I'd only been out of the mental hospital for six months.
For the past couple of years we've had a Farfisa home organ in our hallway. Some of the noises that make up the Bobblehead Doll loop came from it, although they were distorted way beyond what they originated as, slowed down, reversed and edited together with I can't even remember what now. Amy just put the organ up for sale on a site for English ex-pats. We've had quite a success selling stuff there - we got rid of the ambulance and a hideous woodburner which was little more than a metal box from Spain with a door on the front. Come to think of it the ambulance was little more than a metal box from Italy masquerading as a Peugeot, not that that's got much to do with anything.

I'm secretly hoping that no one wants the Farfisa home organ - I had to confess to Amy that when I'm home alone I sometimes freak out on it for ten minutes. The thing holds such recording promise if only I could get around to it, harness the moment. It has automation, meaning that when you select bossa nova, disco or rock 1 or rock 2, it plays a sort of bass arpeggio and you can switch on a setting that throws in a vamping off beat.
Amy's just come up the stairs to tell me we've had two replies to the advert. 'Wouldn't it be great,' she said 'if somebody came and picked it up tomorrow.' I tried not to look too crestfallen. I may have to down tools and make a recording tomorrow morning. Surely there'll be a home organ or two in the United States.
The same goes for amplifiers. There are a lot of great amplifiers over there. I hope they haven't all found permanent homes - most of mine are going to be re-homed before we go. But not the Selmer Truvoice 50 that I use on stage, so don't anyone get over-excited.
And if anyone's after the Wem Audiomaster it's presently residing in a house near Chartres where it's been in storage since the last time I left France. I must go and pick it up - would it be too ridiculously sentimental to hang on to it?

Two days have passed while I searched for the battery charger for the camera so that I can upload some of these scintillating photos, and in the meantime the advert has been answered. A nice man called Tim came and took the organ away. I'm sad to think that all those fabulous tracks I had planned are destined to become just a fading memory in the back of my overcrowded mind - I never had time to down tools and make the recording. Now the hallway looks naked to me. But very desirable - naked and desirable, minimal and buyable. Tim used to be a DJ on Radio Caroline, he remembers The Blockheads when they were Loving Awareness. We had a good chat. He told me all his vinyl, three thousand albums in total, is in storage but before he packed it away and moved house he decided to listen to all of them in alphabetical order, one album a day. It took him five years and his wife left him during the Frank Zappa section.

This is a photo of the fireplace in our kitchen. I didn't tear it out of a magazine, it's real. Someone is going to love this house. Please...