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Through the lens; meeting the Beatles, Strawberry Fields, Knole, Sevenoaks 1967

Through the lens; meeting the Beatles, Strawberry Fields, Knole, Sevenoaks 1967

A rare memory here of the Beatles first trip to Knole, for the filming of the Strawberry Fields promo video.  The finished video would feature footage of the band on horseback, riding past the 430 & 730 amps, cabs & guitars on a platform in the background.  The first day of the shoot (Tuesday 31st January 1967)  proved to be quite a day for a local Sixth-Former, Alan Cutts, who witnessed some of the filming;

It is getting on for fifty years since I met the Fab Four, by the remotest of chances.  Given the personalities involved, it would be surprising if the memory dimmed even slightly…   I was the first person to come across them, when an afternoon School run in Knole brought us to the lads filming, which was a wonderfully diverting sight on a freezing Winter’s day.  Sevenoaks School operated for six days per week in order to get in three afternoons of sport, and this was one of the Hilary Term pursuits.  There were two of us on the training run; our route went around the house and back to the Lodge down from the Manor House.

When I stopped by, it was for a brief rest; there were Minis parked nearby, and the odd Roller.

I was at a party some months before on Eel Pie Island, where Lennon had put in a fleeting appearance.  John had maybe recognised me despite the running kit, saying “Ay oop!”, with a remark about so that’s how you southerners dress in the winter, with a wink.  Maybe he didn’t recognise me and it was just a friendly greeting…that’s how the film crew realised there was not really an issue.

I spoke with John, and Ringo was voluble too.  We chattered about the ideas they wanted to act out, which I did not follow too well, as it was private to the band really.  Lennon was speaking about the real location of Strawberry Fields,  but his references were strange and only made sense much later when the record had been out awhile, and folk could understand what was being imagined. There are some vague phrases in the lyrics even now.  Both he and Paul, in retrospect, seemed to know what they wanted to create.  I had more a sense of watching something starting to happen, a happening, as was the word then.

Ringo was very pleasant, and spoke about ordinary stuff.  There was not really a drumming role anywhere at that stage, and not a guitar in sight.  The lads were following directions called by the film crew, intermingled with retorts from the Band, mostly disrespectfully funny.

John discussed briefly where they were shacked up;  Ringo nodded, speaking of the Royal Oak, I thought.  there was general chit-chat as they dashed hither and thither, getting things done under a volley of orders – looking back not wonderfully planned, whimsical.

lennontripod

“…This (internet) photo captures the cold day quite well, and the colours are exactly as I remember them, with the trees leafless and spiky, and everything waiting for Spring.  The camera on legs is the one I looked through, although then it was pointing down more.  We were over to the left a bit, and there was a bushy outcrop which served to segregate me and the Four, three with Paul up in his tree, way over left, or two with George sulking/resting. He does look cold !  I have to be careful not to embellish true memory or stir stuff into presumed recollection, but the mood sense is good.  The light faded about four pm, so I continued on my run, with a wave goodbye, not wishing to be a nuisance; but I had what I wanted, some time there, watching and speaking, generally out of the way”.

Truly exciting, better than a glimpse across a party room of a revered hero, now actually making eye contact, happy moments, looking back, so very near that it was almost ordinary, like with one’s mates.

Paul was up on a tree branch; no piano then, that was much later, as per the videos, with his big fluffy dog below.  In a comic broad Northern/Scouse accent, “Eeehh..”, he was questioning what “Me dog” was up to at the foot of the tree.

There was no music actually being played in the Park when I was there, just some footage being run out. Films, so forth.  They were very busy but did send me a photo, I gave my address, but never expected anything. I got it copied years later as it was falling apart.

The photographers in Knole noted that our contact was friendly and snapped a couple of pictures, one of which they sent on to me a while later.  There were several shoots taken in Knole, and the February ones, which may have turned to Penny Lane backings after the SFFE ones had been completed, were those commonly recalled by the many young visitors to the park, including coeval Sennockians.  The Chronicle ran a brief piece at the time.

The entrance to Knole was largely hidden by trees but this one stood alone, and yet was secluded. Last time I was there was in 1990 on walkabout, but so much had changed … now some of the paths are metalled and the old tracks are long gone.

The full shoot was a couple of weeks later on the SECOND visit in Feb when many Sennockians cut school to wag a glimpse of the foursome, news having leaked out from my day there, which was Day One.  Unique experience, and I did not splash it about  – it was my own experience, & special.

The ‘Owl House’ ( or ‘Bird House’) and the crumbling old arch were off the run we did, so we bypassed the second site.  That one is featured in the SFFE footage all over You-Tube etc, and the piano and period dress are mocked up in the then mishmash of cultures adorning the young guitar-wielding brethren of the revolution. There were horses and so on, from what I have seen many years later.

The real social life in the town then centred upon La Cabana, and several pubs..  ‘La Cabana’ coffee house was the Cavern Club of the time in Sevenoaks.  My peers, and I, were aficionados of La Cabana in 1961, as schoolboys ( & later as Mods and Rockers in the evenings… the wall-hung juke-box…)   The embryonic band ‘Breed’ played there, two of whose members (Ray Bennett and Bill Bruford) went on to fame and fortune in association with King Crimson and Yes.  Fights between the Mods and the Rockers, and before that the Teddy-boys, had been a part of street life in the mid-60s;  there was still a sense in the air of Mods and Rockers lurking in dark alleyways.

We had seen John some months before at the party on Eel Pie Island; lots of pretty things were there, hanging on his every movement.  I don’t remember how we got on to the Island, but there were a number of people off their heads who got drenched.  One has to be careful with rivers, so forth, although it was quite shallow I think.

John arrived, already in full party mode; he was kind of far out, but initially very witty, and so warm and friendly.  There were loads of people there, everywhere was noisy and vibrant.  There was some music coming from somewhere, but it was almost drowned out by the people trying to make one another heard. Not all the time, there were gaps, but the lasting sense was of a wall of noise. It was quite pleasant to get back to dry land and normal levels of audio, cars, buses, steam engines at the railway termini, whistles etc.
cutts

The author, 1967

Sadly there are no autographs nor any written dialogue at all from my day in Knole.  I had nowhere to carry anything, being in shorts and running gear despite the chill air.  When Hendrix died, we were all just shocked at the loss to music, but it was an accident waiting to happen, we understood much later.  “The dancers are all gone under the hill” now, to recall Eliot.

( Text – © Alan Cutts, 2016 )

Some previous posts on the shoot;  HERE & HERE

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“All You Need Is Love” – Vox 430 & Conqueror questions

“All You Need Is Love”, 1967.  It’s still tricky to pin down exactly what was going on with the amps in the broadcast and recorded versions of  ” ..this old Northern English folk song” (as Elvis Costello called it at Live Aid).  People weren’t going out of their way to document and photograph amplifiers in the background, or precise elements of all the many mixes involved in editing the recording.  Somewhere in the recorded “All You Need” mix there’s still perhaps an element of the very first recording sessions; these actually started at Olympic studios,  on 14th of June.  It seems Paul had used his double-bass, plucking / with a bow and striking the side for percussion, and George even experimented with a violin.  It seems elements of that are heard here, mixed with added parts, in a backing reference tape/mix;

Opinions differ as to who did what and when – Geoff Emerick in his book recalled that Paul played the bass perfectly, though others argue Paul makes a mistake in the broadcast near the end and pauses…and people argue over how much was live and how much was on the pre-recorded track.  The tape above and others often show pre-mixes had flubs and errors, that were buried in the mix, so it is hard to tell where to draw the line..and we should perhaps be wary of any supposed ‘definitive’ break-down.

 

Things are further complicated by the chaotic events leading up to the recording.  We looked previously at photos of rehearsals/pre-recording; we were able to show that in the lead-up at least to the broadcast, the amp being used seemingly by Paul was the UL-430.  These rehearsals/pre-recordings seem to have taken place the day before, and during the day of the actual broadcast.   At some point, probably on the day of broadcast,  Lennon shaves off his moustache; amps and pianos were then moved around the studio as it was dressed on the day, for some sort of presentation, and the broadcast itself. At one point, a blurred image of a Vox Conqueror on a wheeled cab is seen in the background.

AYNIL-studio-02We know that for the final broadcast, the 430 head has been moved somewhere, and replaced with a Conqueror head;  it looks like Paul was using the 430 (with the same microphone hanging in front for recording/monitoring) in the run-up, so people have argued over whether he was still using it, or if George was now using it for the broadcast…leaving Paul miming, or connected to a hidden amp/direct injection (intriguingly there’s a small metal box visible in front of the amp, d.i. ?).

(A later pic of Paul/bass from about 68 also shows a similar small metal box, maybe on the way to an amp..)mikestandabbey

 

 

 

 

Trawling through other pictures from the day though, we were struck by one black and white photo with more of the scene to the right of George.  This seems to be from the rehearsal/recordings, probably during the day itself; allyouneedgeorgeamp

 

 

 

 

 

This got us wondering whether we might actually be looking at a screened amp/cab behind the baffle (behind George Martin on right), with a microphone stand pointing down in front of it?  This might point to the ‘missing’ amp, maybe the Conqueror, at this point at least.  (In the later Paul photo from ’68 above, there is a microphone stand with adjustment fixtures of the type that could give the sort of shape we see…or it might be something else entirely).  While searching other photos though, we were struck by another photo of George, which doesn’t seem to have been assigned – it is usually described as being George during Pepper or Magical Mystery TourGeorgeconqueror era recording.

 

 

 

 

 

conqallyouneed

Amp & cab in background

The clothes he is wearing look to be the same as in some of these All-You-Need rehearsal/recording pics; shoes, shirt, something hanging round his neck (Lennon with no moustache, so probably the day itself, but not yet in full final outfits).  allyouneedharrisonclothesThe situation too, that same part of the studio/ wall/divider area, that baffle…it seems reasonable to suggest (-someone probably has already?) that this is from the same time, and therefore shows the same amp that George was using.  Probably the same Conqueror head too, that was plonked on top of the 430’s cab for the final broadcast?  (It looks slightly askew, suggesting it wasn’t firmly secured to the cabinet).  Another photo from that day showed a blurred amp/cab in the background behind Lennon, but while things were being moved around.  Very suggestive, especially with the final use of a conqueror head.  If this is the same amp,  then it helps to give us an impression of an amp, cab and mike behind the baffle, and a better sense too of the equipment & arrangements in the lead-up to the broadcast.  The Guitar/Bass Isolation Screens with the long chrome handles running along the top were introduced in late ’66; they had wooden frames, and fabric over an absorbent material filling (from Recording The Beatles).

For the broadcast itself, that part of the studio was turned into a set, and many people were allowed in, some sitting on the floor in the area where the Conqueror & cabinet had been behind the baffle.  Photos aren’t clear enough to say for sure who/what was where; we know a Conqueror head was moved over and put on top of the (430?) cab, which (we can now suggest a bit more firmly) Paul was using.  One photo (below) seems to show the baffle, folded back.  The style of the main cab’s logo shows it is probably one of the 4/7series cabinets, in the same place, without a trolley, and with the same mike/stand in front of it.  The final broadcast ‘take’ was apparently take 58, which shows how much preparation had been needed to get to that stage.  Photos of the Conqueror aren’t clear, but seem to show it only having one lead in;  if George was now using the Conqueror (which we think was probably paired with the in-place 430/730 cabinet), then what amp if any was Paul using?   It is possible the 430 was swapped over and put on top of the Conqueror cabinet, and then hidden somewhere in the space behind or tucked behind the foliage, or the signal split with the d.i….or perhaps d.i. out from the amp… or maybe just the pure d.i. signal was taken.  Paul could also have mimed the bass; it would have been easy enough to have some/most of it incorporated in the previous recording of the backing track.  Or maybe George used the d.i. …..but why move the Conqueror head?  Vox asked Epstein maybe to use the new amp in shots?  Why not just wheel the Conqueror with its cab on wheels over? And then we find another picture, with Paul standing near the same area, with the Conqueror in the background.  allyouneed_conquerorPaul seems to have had a long lead back to the 430 in the other pics, and we only have a limited view, but it does muddy the waters even more.  Still so many questions… but even if we can’t see the complete picture, at least we can put a few pieces of the jigsaw in place.

On the “DIT” box, the superb Kehew/Ryan “Recording the Beatles”, describes it as the ‘Direct Injection Transformer”. It was dreamt up by the innovative Ken Townsend; the second later pic of Paul with the bass seems to show one in use, and it looks very like the box by the amp in the All You Need rehearsal/recordings. The book states, “..the musician plugged his guitar into the middle jack,  The cable coming from the box was the output to the guitar amplifier; the Tuchel socket on the Right provided a direct balanced output which could be sent to the desk”.  The box is a squared-metal box, the right-hand Tuchel socket is much larger.  “One of the most difficult instruments to record was the bass guitar…no matter which type of high-quality microphone we placed in front of the bass speaker, it never sounded back in the control room as good as in the studio…”.  ‘Revolution’ would later see the Beatles recording in the control room itself, using these boxes to input direct to the mixing desk, while Ringo recorded drums in the studio without any sound bleeding through from the guitars.

Conqueror moved to main cab, but is that the baffle folded back on right, still with cab/mike there? 430 Head swapped over?

Costume change, Conqueror moved to main cab, but is that the baffle folded back on right, still with cab/mike there? 430 Head swapped over?

Some good info on “All You Need” sessions on web HERE

and this suggestion of final takes, 58 and the one before,  from “Beatle Brunch” site HERE;

  • Live Take (57)
  • 1. Bounce 2
  • 2. Rickenbacker bass, lead Casino guitar solo, drums
  • 3. lead vocal (Lennon), orchestra, chorus, tambourine
  • 4. open

The final take, numbered 58, added Ringo’s snare drum roll and some additions to Lennon’s vocal part on Track 4.

  • Final Take (58)
  • 1. Bounce 2
  • 2. Rickenbacker bass, lead Casino guitar solo, drums
  • 3. lead vocal (Lennon), orchestra, chorus, tambourine
  • 4. Ringo’s roll in intro; Lennon vocal scatting at end
allyouneedscreen2

a baffle visible during actual broadcast, but view of what’s behind it is obstructed..possibly a studio monitor, with dark shape of something in front of it..?

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(almost) 50 years ago …the Beatles get the first 7series amps

 

Soon it will be 50 years since Alf Bicknell was jotting notes in his diary, about picking up the new Beatles 7series amps.  DSCN6799

 

diary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alf Bicknell was the Beatles chauffeur from 1964-66.  When Alf later started to tour telling stories & memories of his time with the Beatles, George Harrison provided this as part of a testimonial for him;
“…Alf Bicknell lived moment to moment with the Beatles through those years … Anyone who was beaten up by Imelda Marcos’s bully squad is a friend of mine.” (This was a reference to the rough handling the band received while on tour in the Philippines).   The wikipedia listing describes how,  “..Dressed in a blue suit, crisp white shirt and tie, he first drove the group in an Austin Princess (registration SST 626) – at that time, he later said, it was one of only two cars in London to have blacked-out windows (the other belonged to Peter Sellers).  Later Bicknell drove the band in John Lennon’s Royce-Royce Phantom V, which was kitted out with a television set. On occasions when any of the Beatles wished to be more discreet, the chauffeur would use a less conspicuous vehicle.” (full version HEREalf

Maybe Alf & Mal used the large  Rolls  (which Lennon got in ’65) to pick up the amps.  (One of the Indian musicians on the earlier “Granny Smith” (Love You To) session,  Anil Bhagwat, later recalled that he too had been picked up by Alf in the Rolls-Royce).    According to wikipedia,

“With take 6 selected as the best performance, a reduction mix was carried out on 13 April, freeing up space for moreoverdubs on the four-track tape.  Harrison added another vocal part onto what was now referred to as take 7, and Ringo Starr played tambourine. McCartney contributed a high harmony vocal over the words “They’ll fill you in with all their sins, you’ll see“, but this part was omitted from the final mix.[57][nb 4] Harrison also overdubbed fuzz-tone electric guitar,[60] controlling the output via a volume pedal.[58] Producer Tony Visconti has marvelled at the guitar sounds the Beatles introduced on Revolver, particularly Harrison’s part on “Love You To”, which he says “sounds like a chainsaw cutting down a tree in Vermont”.[61]

Harrison had experimented earlier on “Tomorrow Never knows” with backwards guitar tones;   “..— one ordinary, one a fuzz guitar — which were superimposed on top of one another. Geoff Emerick recalls that this was all George Harrison’s idea and that he did the playing.”

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.78, 1988

It would seem then that the amps were picked up on the 12th, and probably first used on the sessions on the 13th, which started with overdubs for ‘Love You To’ and continued with the first takes of ‘Paperback Writer’.

 

Alf is described as having been very approachable, friendly and modest…. this is certainly how Steve Zazulyk, who met him once Liverpool, remembers him;

“I believe it was 1997 or 98 my wife Kelly and I won a trip to travel from our home in Canada to Liverpool and attend the re-release of “The Yellow Submarine”. We arrived at the hotel and missed the bus, and so did a very friendly looking soul in the lobby, sitting at one of the long tables. I made a comment about missing the bus and he invited me for a seat. It was then that I met Alf and for the rest of the night he told me every Beatle story I could have ever dreamed to hear. All the questions I had about what happened the night of Shea Stadium and what was it like to have been in the same room as Elvis and the Beatles at the same time (They only met once at Graceland, Alf, Brian E. and Col.Tom Parker were the only one’s present).We stayed in England for 8 days (of course) and saw Alf every day (I think he thought my wife was cute!) what a great and gentle man. He used to laugh and get excited then he would do his signature pose…grasp the wheel of the Rolls Royce Phantom V and pretend to drive!  That was Alf he was great…. To Alf’s family.. he really was a part of history and a unique and great man.”  Steve also recalls, “..I specifically remember Alf talking about lugging these big ass speakers around”.  This could be a memory of shifting the ac100s; but with the increasing power & size of the new 7120 amps,  even the giant Mal needed more assistance.  In the violence as they tried to leave Manila airport, the authorities even switched off the escalators….lugging 7120s and cabs up stairs while being punched and kicked by the military may well have been what he had in mind.

 

More on earlier posts; the arrival  HERE ,and on moving the amps around- HERE

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4-series, “The Elastic Band” 67/68

 

From a site about Andy Scott, who went on to play with the Sweet in the 70s – pics here from around 1967/68 with “The Elastic Band”.  This was re-formed from “The Silverstone Set”; they had supported the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Manchester.  Some sort of 4-series amp is being used,  hard to tell from the pic, but probably a 460 with a foundation cab?

ElasticBand043ElasticBand044

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Around the amps; seeing the Beatles gear in Abbey Road (1965)

 

Alan Powell,  then drummer with the mod band “Ivan’s Meads” (and later on Hawkwind), gave permission to quote some memories of recording at Abbey Road around 1965.  The specific details are a little hazy now, “…almost as if the whole thing was a dream”  ( -might it even have been during/after the recording of Help?   It could have been slightly earlier than he originally recalled)….  Rubber Soul would be released in December;  the 7-series amps would  arrive in the studio the following April ( brought in by Mal, having picked them up from Vox).  This snapshot though gives us a fleeting glimpse of London’s Abbey Road studio, and the environment in which they were to arrive.

“…I remember making my first record. By this I mean real record – major label (Parlophone), big time producer (Ron Richards – he was the guy behind all the Hollies hits) and big time Studio.That would be E.M.I. Studios on Abbey Road.

This was 1965 so Abbey Road had not yet become the world famous icon it was destined to become. The band I was in then was Ivan’s Meads, a “mod” band fashioned after the Who. We were the next big thing from Manchester, we already had screaming girls at the shows we did and we were well on our way to pop stardom but going to London to actually make a record with Parlophone, one of the top labels in the U.K. with the aforementioned Ron Richards was big time.

Ivan's Meads on stageHeady stuff for a bunch of 18 year old Manchester lads. We left Manchester in our old converted ambulance, which served as our equipment wagon and bus, around 6a.m. so we would arrive at Abbey Road studios around 2p.m. None of us had ever been to swinging London, the centre of the known universe, before and we were excited and nervous. This was a big, big deal you must understand.

We parked our van near a pedestrian crossing which would, in just a few years become the most famous pedestrian crossing known to man. We carried our equipment into the unimposing building and were told to get set up in Studio 2. We walked into Studio 2.

The air was a little stale and full of smoke. Scattered around the room were half empty bottles of coke and some magazines. Obviously someone had just been using the studio. And there, right in front of us, next to where we would be recording was the most awesome, jaw dropping sight we had ever seen a line of vox amplifiers with a gretsch guitar on one, a Hofner violin bass on another, and a Rickenbacker guitar on the other. In the middle was a Ludwig drum kit. On the front head, written in black paint, it said “The Beatles”.

You have to understand that (in 1965) the Beatles were living gods. London, or swinging London as it was then referred to, was the most happening, fantastic place a teenage guy could possibly be. No other location on Earth had the mystique, the magic, or the allure that the city had. And the Beatles lived there so that sealed the whole deal. And there we were in the same studio THEY were in. just a few minutes prior to us walking in, the Fabs were recording a new album which would be called “Rubber Soul”.

For some strange reason which I find hard to explain, being in the studio with just the Fabs guitars and drums had more impact on us than if the Beatles had been there in person.

Postscript: the record we made that day was released and became a hit and Ivan’s Meads became pop stars for a year or so. I really believe that making that record whilst in the presence of the Beatles gave it some kind of phantom push and helped it to become a hit…   “

( originally found on the great ‘Manchester Beat‘ site )

Alan went on to work with Vinegar Joe in the 70s.  He would go on to collaborate and co-write with Robert Palmer, his friend from Vinegar Joe.  He also formed a band with Brian Jones of the Damned in 1978, recording  a Peel session before going on to tour with Black Sabbath, before moving to the States.

“..By the way, the best book I have read about the start of the British ‘Beat’ Scene in the late 50’s through the 60’s and the gear that was used in that period is: 17 Watts?  by Mo Foster….Check it out, its a gem.   Best,  Al Powell”

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Around the music; Big Boy Pete – Vox, Beatles & Harrison’s Gretsch

 

The amps themselves were born out of the experimentation of the 60s, where companies like JMI tried to respond to changing technology, and the desires / styles of the musicians of the time; the memories of Pete Miller (‘Big Boy Pete’) give us a good glimpse into this world.  Touring alongside the Beatles in 1963 (and later alongside the Stones), he played in the Jaywalkers, who JMI would supply with gear and sometimes ask to try out their new products. They had a punishing schedule, and Pete tested the Vox gear to destruction, often finding it wanting. These extracts from his records though give us a real insight into the way touring bands like the Jaywalkers and the Beatles dealt with the various companies supplying them with gear.  We also glimpse the sort of issues that were driving JMI/VOX to experiment with a new series of hybrid solid-state amps, the search for new, lighter, more rugged and reliable technology, and how they worked with bands to test and develop their products.


Regarding a trial of some Vox Guitars;


‘…Just after our endorsement deal with Vox, the Phantoms were introduced. One
afternoon we drove our bandwagon to the factory in Dartford and the good
people loaded it up with about a dozen AC30,s and about the same number of
Phantom guitars, including six stringers, twelve stringers, four string
basses and six string basses. These were early production models and
somewhat less than perfect. (We had been playing Fenders and Gretsches up
until that point). The amps were fine but the guitars were difficult to play
– doggy necks – shitty pick-ups and wanky tremolo systems which kept busting
strings.

In exasperation one night, on stage, I removed my Phantom, hurled it like a
javelin across the far side of the stage where it hit the wall and shattered
into a multitude of pieces which rained down all over our piano player.
Nonchalantly, I picked up Henry (my trusty Gretsch) and finished our set.
The audience loved it and thought it was part of the act. (This was quite a
few years before Townsend, Beck or Hendrix destroyed their instruments).

That night we happened to be on tour with Billy Fury et al, playing at
Slough Adelphi. Of course, Slough is close to Dartford in Kent. Unbeknown to
me, most of the Vox directors and top dudes were in the audience and bore
rude witness to the Phantom javelin-hurling incident.

In the intermission, our agent and manager stormed into our dressing room
and proceeded to verbally kick my arse and threaten my very being in the
group. I tried to explain that playing that Phantom was like trying to play
a ukelele with boxing gloves underwater.

But good things came to pass. A few weeks later, Vox presented us with a set
of Phantoms which were one-off specials. They bore Fender necks (carefully
disguised with the Vox headstock), and actual Fender pickups. They played
and sounded great.”

Big Boy Pete

Some biography extracts;

‘…Then came the stage full of Voxes. The band had two bass players and two guitar players and also needed a PA for the dance-hall tours. The endorsement deal with Vox was very generous. They would give us what we asked for whenever we asked for it and it arrived promptly. We didn’t take advantage and luckily this went on for a few years. Initially the Vox equipment was thrust upon us without us being able to select individual instruments, but it was free so nobody bitched. The AC30 amps were always great but after a while we became despondent with the poor sound quality and virtual unplayability of some of the Phantom guitar necks. The twelve-string guitar was just dreadful. The four-string bass wasn’t at all bad but the only instrument which really sounded great was the Phantom six-string bass. You can hear Pete soloing with this at the end of their “Poet and Peasant” record and also playing the introduction to “You Girl” on the Phantom 12-stringer.

Talking about endorsement deals, George Harrison also had one with Gretsch. I remember midway through the Beatles tour, we were playing Manchester I think, probably the Apollo theatre. The morning after the show we all arrived back at the theatre to pack up the gear and re-board the tour bus for the next night. Jack, our driver looked a little shocked and told us that the theatre had been broken into during the night and amongst other things, George’s Country Gentleman had been stolen. George, to my surprise was quite unfazed. “Doesn’t matter. Who cares. They’ll send me up another.” To me, the loss of your very own guitar is like losing a member of your family and in no uncertain terms I told him how I felt about his attitude. We had a bit of a barney about that. Anyway, when we arrived at the next town on the tour, a policeman was awaiting the bus with George’s Gent slung over his back. Looked kinda funny – with his Bobby’s helmet and all! He explained that the guitar had been found only a few blocks away from the Apollo theatre, just hanging on the wrought iron fence of a church graveyard. Maybe the thief had second thoughts.

…..

Another iconic date on that tour was November 22nd. We had played at The Globe theatre in Stockton that night and when we got back to the hotel, somebody switched on the TV in the bar. An announcer informed us that John Kennedy had just been murdered.

96468-7269a815debad444876467fe9d6b5bf1Soon after Vox started making solid-state amps, circa 1964, a pair of Vox Super Transonic amps were manufactured and given to the Jaywalkers to try out on stage. Pete believes they were the only pair ever to leave the factory. They were essentially fully-working prototypes which were given to the band to test on the road. After a quick trial we found they were unsuitable for public consumption and for any kind of bass or low-end instrument because of their small 3-inch tweeters. They were barely passable for lead guitar and rhythm guitar. We used them on tour for about a week before shipping the remains (I think in a coffin) back to the Vox factory in Dartford along with our disgruntled evaluation: In comparison to the trusty AC30s, they were a load of crap. The transistor amps sounded distorted, toneless, thin and nasty. The tweeters soon blew, the chrome hardware broke, the counter weights fell off, the casters broke, and the fuses continually blew. Even the Vox logo fell off. Needless to say, they never went into full production. The two 12-inch speakers in the lower cabinet were whatever Vox was using at that time in its AC 30s. However, the Super Transonic looked really cool. The amp and speaker cabinets were covered with the same orange vinyl cloth that was used later on the Vox Continental organ. The grill cloth was a light beige. The two tweeters were housed in circular chrome balls, balanced by a solid counterweight. They would rotate horizontally but not vertically”.  *UPDATE; here are some pics we’ve found of another band using the rare super-transonic amps, Jamie & the Raiders, around 1963; _wsb_399x393_Raiders+-+Darleys _wsb_550x336_Jamie+$26+The+Raiders

“…Vox had made a valiant but failed attempt to enter the cool. Like many other musical instrument manufacturers who over the ages have unsuccessfully tried to expand into new waters, it may have signaled the beginning of the end for the company. They panicked with more untoward and preposterous products such as the Electric Conga Drum which also has a story. It was essentially an oblong wooden black vinyl-covered wooden box with nothing but a microphone inside – and it had its own chrome stand. Of course it sported the Vox logo. My band The News took one of these to Thailand in 1969 (we were touring the US bases, working for the Vietnam GIs.) Firstly the “drum” got lost by Alitalia airlines and never arrived with the rest of our equipment in Bangkok.

Electric what?

Electric what? – (Jennings version)

A few weeks later Vox sent us a replacement and we used it for such sillyness as 50-minute jams on “In A Gadda Da Vida”, complete with Electric Conga Drum versus Electric Wah Wah Sitar solo battles. The drum acquired the name “The Electric What” because GI’s would come up to us on stage and ask “what’s that box we were beating on?” We’d tell them “It’s an electric Conga” and they would say “An electric what?”. “We also were privy to some of the very first Asian guitar and amp knock-offs. Most of them were quite dreadful and fairly obvious to any experienced picker that they came from cocoanut trees. They certainly wouldn’t get past George Gruhn – even at closing time. However, some GIs were fooled and bought them real cheap from the PXs. Many ended up back in the USA.

Vox also issued a small amount of ribbon microphones. Many of you may have noticed pictures of English Beat groups on stage singing through these oblong looking mics. They were actually manufactured by the Reslo company but Vox stuck their logo sticker onto the body of a few of them. They sound excellent with a warm delicate resonance. The only drawback is that ribbon mics are very fragile and don’t stand up to the rigorous road life very well. You can break the ribbon even by blowing into the mic. Our band would go through a couple of dozen of these every year. Pete still has one of these Vox/Reslos in his studio that he uses on occasion for special sounds. It works nicely miking a low-level Deluxe reverb, off-axis, from a distance of about twelve inches.

Upon hearing of our disappointment with the Phantom guitars as well as the Martian amps, Vox invited the whole band to come down to the factory one afternoon. “I remember getting excited seeing the Phantom guitar-organ on the workbench but it wasn’t quite ready for a test drive on that day. The people gave us cups of tea and a proud tour of their factory and we left with a van full of goodies, including about eight guitars and the same number of AC30s. They also supplied us with a hefty PA system which we would use on the dancehall circuit. This had a pair of Vox columns containing about six tens in each and a complementary mixer/amp of quantiful wattage. All this gear was quite enough for a couple of long arduous tours. We were working over 300 nights per year. It was on one of these tours that the javelin Phantom incident occurred. This resulted in a replacement one-of-a-kind pair of look-a-like Phantom guitars which to all intents and purposes, from a distance, looked just like the real thing, but actually contained Fender Strat pick-ups and fiendishly disguised Fender necks with the Phantom headstock glued on. Needless to say, they played and sounded great.

The AC30s not only suffered from overheating – even while working for short periods, but they’d start smoking and burst into flames every once in a while. We learned to use the stand-by switches at every available opportunity. Furthermore the cabinetry was less than stellar. Twelve months on the road being dumped daily into the cargo hold of the Timpsons tour bus by ex-wrestler Jack (our cigar-drenched driver) took a toll on the mortise-and-tenon joints which would gradually come apart due to the overheating. I remember picking mine up one day and the handle and top just popped away from the rest of the cabinet. Never mind – call Dartford.

I think even Paul would agree that the T60 was less than fulfilling for bass. (Dick) Denny would crucify me, bless his soul, but let’s be honest the AC30 was king. The rest was crap. Vox should have stuck with their valve amps and Jim Marshall might still be trading used gear in his Hanwell shop.

That night on stage at a dance hall gig in High Wycombe he (a Gretsch Anniversary) made his premier appearance. I remember being a little disappointed because his Hilotron pickups were not as strong as my Hofner Verithin’s although his tone was magnificent. A few months later George pointed it out to me after he’d used Henry on stage a couple of times: “Trade the Hilotrons for Filtertrons”. Yeah sure! Finding Gretsch parts in England? No way! (Both George and John would use Henry on stage occasionally – when their own instruments were out-of-commision due to broken strings etc. This was long before anybody had the luxury of roadie guitar-techs.)

..

While in London he heard of an Abbey Road tape-recorder that was looking for a new home. “It weighed about 400 lbs. We actually loaded the monster EMI machine into the trunk of my drummer’s Jaguar car (of course the door wouldn’t close) and drove it back to my home with the car riding at a 15 degree angle. The machine was far too heavy to get upstairs into my bedroom-studio so my mother kindly allowed me to move the studio downstairs into the lounge – which was sizable by English standards. We pulled a curtain across that corner of the room when guests were due to be entertained. It actually worked out well because Dad’s upright piano could now be implemented on my recordings. He wasn’t too keen on the thumb tacks I installed on the hammers. I told him to imagine he was playing a well tempered clavier!”

 

With Pete on lead guitar, the Jaywalkers enjoyed immense popularity in Britain, releasing a dozen singles for Decca and Pye records between 1961 and 1966. Many of these tracks were produced and engineered by the legendary Joe Meek (Outlaws, Tornados, Honeycombs, Heinz etc.) from Joe’s bedroom recording studio at 304 Holloway Road in London. It was from Joe that Pete learned many tricks of the trade as far as recording techniques are concerned which is quite apparent in the sounds on the Big Boy Pete records. It was around this time that Pete turned down an offer from Clem Cattini to join the Tornados – just days before they recorded the world-wide smash Telstar. No regrets!….”

Having toured with the Beatles and the Stones, Pete recorded one of the earliest classic psychedelic tracks (“Cold Turkey”), and later moved to the States, via Vietnam-War-time Laos  (where he narrowly avoided becoming a guest of the Viet Cong).

There’s a fuller biography HERE, explaining how he went on to set up a studio in San Francisco, as well as a school for Audio engineers & producers.  He has recently been working with his old friend Hilton Valentine (guitarist with the Animals).

bigboypete

Beat Instrumental interview, 1965

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430 or 730? – All you need is love rehearsals/recording

On the 25th June 1967, the Beatles performed “All You Need Is Love”.  This was at the closing of  the first live, world-wide satellite television programme,  “Our World”.  The broadcast would be a live feed from Abbey Road itself, the sound studio becoming a t.v. studio for the day. With all the preparation and changes for filming and recording of All You Need Is Love live from the Abbey Road Studio, it’s been extremely difficult to tell what was used when and where.  Because the photos were so unclear, nobody’s been able to say whether the amp seen used by Paul in the build-up was a 430 or a 730;  we can now say for sure that this was a 430 after all, at least in these rehearsals leading up to the final performance.  (The 730 seems to have been used for rehearsals on earlier dates leading up to this).

It’s hard enough with modern technology to ensure satellite link-ups go smoothly.  It must have been pretty nerve-racking to face the prospect of the whole world watching a live performance, in a studio with loads of guests and a hastily improvised set, and a whole load more wiring for all the crews to worry about.  A prudent decision seems to have been made then to pre-record a back-up/backing track.  How exactly this was used and what ended up on it is unclear; the ‘Beatles Bible’ site states that,

“For the live performance, which took place at 9.36pm GMT, The Beatles played along to their pre-recorded backing track. The vocals, bass guitar, guitar solo, drums and 13-piece orchestra were live. To reduce the chances of on-air errors, the event was carefully arranged, although care was taken to make it seem spontaneous.”

The 430 was also seen sitting on a cab in some Fool on the Hill sessions, that time with a casino leaning against it.  In another session though, seemingly an overdub for ‘With a little help from my Friends’, Paul looks to have used the same cabinet without a trolley, but with 730 head sitting on a chair nearby.  In most of the All-You-Need-Is-Love pics the amp is obscured,   but we can finally see from the photos below that (in these rehearsals at least) it is in fact clearly the 430.

 

wheresmal5george_on_guitarallyouneed

They seem to have rehearsed/recorded back-up/backing tracks on the day of the performance, even as the large multi-lingual ‘love is all you need’ boards were being brought in and left around the studio (seen leaning against the amp/cab in some pics).  Some of this presumably can be heard being played back in the studio in the lead-in to the final performance.

The respected Ryan/Kehew “Recording the Beatles” book gives some good details on the mixing of the tracks.  It states that some of the original double-bass from the first recordings (at Olympic Studios) made it to one track,  but buried in a mix with drums, violin, harpsichord, piano, banjo and percussion – and seemingly some backing vocals.  It says that track 2 of the final mix had an overdub of bass, drums and guitar; track 3 was the orchestra, and track 4 the vocals.  This raised the question though of what second amp (if any) Paul & George were using?  Paul seems to have used the 430 for the rehearsals/recording leading up to final performance, while George used an out-of-picture conqueror/cab.  For the final performance, we see the conqueror head, but now on top of the cab Paul had used with the 430; the studio is full of people and set-dressing like foliage etc.  The 430 head had been taken off the cab, but where did it go?  There is a small metal box visible in some shots by the amp; did Paul have some sort of d.i. (direct injection) set-up?

“I think direct injection was probably used on Beatles sessions for the first time anywhere in the world,” Ken Townsend, an engineer in the technical department at Abbey Road, said in Mark Lewisohn’s ‘The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes, 1962 – 1970.’ “..We built our own transformer boxes [called DIT boxes] and plugged the guitars straight into the equipment.”   It’s unclear how much if any of the 430 made it through to the final pressed recording, it seems even the Abbey Road records aren’t 100% reliable – but it certainly played its part in the lead up.

Read More: 48 Years Ago: The Beatles Begin Recording the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ Title Track | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-sgt-pepper-song/?trackback=tsmclip

 

Recording the Beatles mentions later use of d.i. during the White Album; ‘…many tracks on the White album have a distinctly different bass sound…Ken Scott..chose to supplement bass mic with D I…two signals treated to sound different..one warm, round.. smooth full low end, the other more percussive, biting… more mids…”.  The d.i. would appear in this case to have been added to the miked amp sound.
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allyouneedlennon430

amp in background

grab

close up; 430 panel

beatles-298-mastered-in-the-same-room-at-abbey-road-where-many-of-the-beatles-albums-were-done

 

There’s some footage of the original broadcast (after short interview with Paul) here –

With the microphones (one over the 430) and headphones, this could be an attempt at recording a backing track with the orchestra.

With the microphones (one over the 430’s cab) and headphones, this could be an attempt at recording a backing track with the orchestra.

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Rolling Stones, proto-style large box 460/4120, July 4th 1966

A fascinating article HERE  describes how some new Rolling Stones photos were  discovered recently, by an excellent pair of researchers in the USA at the Virginia Pilot,  Maureen P Watts and Jakon Hays.  They have a fascinating and wonderful archive, images of vintage Americana.  What is of particular interest to us though, is that it helps us to reveal for the first time that Bill Wyman was using one of the prototype style 4-series amps,  at a concert in July, 1966.  This looks to be either a 460, or more likely a 4120.  No 4-series amps with proto panels survive, though one can be seen in a Vox catalogue pic in the Vox Story (see vox 460 prototype).   Perhaps there’s a hope the Stones might have kept this one stored somewhere?  Wyman swapped out at one point at the end of the tour with an ac100;  two foundation cabs were used, on either side of the stage. Given that a bass amp also needs more power to cut through,  this would suggest it’s more likely to be a proto 4120.

 

As it’s a great story it’s worth copying the full article; then we’ll look more closely at the prototype head.

“..Several weeks ago, I was asked to poke around in the basement to see if we had any shots of a certain building in downtown Norfolk. As I flipped through the envelopes for the summer of 1966, I paused for a moment when I spotted the negative packet pictured below.

 

105201Below are ten never before published shots from that envelope. We hope you enjoy them.

At the end of the post you will find a link to the Back in the Day photo album where you can purchase the photos featured in this post as well as view 15 additional photos not included below.


Text accompanying the photos is taken from the published reports of the visit.

The Rolling Stones – England’s No.1 rock ‘n’ roll group plays at the Alan B. Shepard Civic Center on July 4, 1966. Some 3,500 screaming teenagers packed the house to see the five shaggy singers perform a 15 minute “concert” showcasing their hits, ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Mother’s Little Helper.”

 

105051The band’s plane landed at Norfolk Airport at 6:30 p.m for a 7:30 show at the Dome. After eating dinner on board the chartered plane, the group strolled briefly on the tarmac.

 

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105021


 

105011A fast, police-escorted limousine ride to Virginia Beach ends with the Stones being led into the Dome in the middle of a police flying wedge that (more…)

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Jimmy Page, 4120, Yardbirds-era 68

lee-conklin-yardbirds-bigWe noticed these pics on an excellent site about the final days of the Yardbirds in 1968 (here).

 

They’re not always clear enough to say for certain,  there were some very similar-looking amps around at the time.  They do seem to suggest though that the 4120 was being used at places like ‘Thee Image’ with the Yardbirds, before Page later returned with Led Zeppelin.

4120 behind Page on floor

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part of control panel visible, middle / right

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4120 on floor, looks again like another head balanced on top

Page is seen at one point with a Danelectro;

“..You used a Danelectro with the Yardbirds?

Jimmy Page: Yes, but not with Beck. I did use it in the latter days. I used it onstage for “White Summer” (Little Games). I used a special tuning for that; the low string down to B, then A, D, G, A and D. It’s like a modal tuning, a sitar tuning, in fact.”  (from interview,  here)

There’s a recording of Page/Yardbirds doing  ‘White Summer’ here, in 1968.  Apparently the Anderson Theatre in New York, on 30 March;

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around the amps; mystery strawberry fields guardsman, 67 promo

A blog here draws attention to a ghostly reflection seen in the Strawberry Fields promo.

strawberry.guard

Towards the end of the film, just before the orange toned sections, you can see it just for a moment, reflected in the wood of the piano.  Who was  the mystery guardsman?  We have one suggestion.Penny Lane VOX (1)

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t seem there were any extras in uniform on the shoot, but then again there doesn’t seem to be a picture of our guardsman either.  The image is deliberately distorted;  could it be someone wearing one of the Beatles’ jackets?  The colour is distorted somehow, but there’s the suggestion of a gold or lighter colour epaulette, which doesn’t seem to match the Beatles jackets.  If it is gold, then this would seem to be someone either wearing some of their oher jackets/hats, or someone close to their circle, with his own similar guards jacket, and what might be a hat with some sort of sharp black pointed front?  It’s hard to tell if we’re seeing the edge of a hat with a forward point/vintage regimental headgear, or just lines of strings and dark shadows beyond.

regimental headgear

 

The director,  Peter Goldmann, recalled later, (roughly translated, from here) -“..Cold winds were blowing at Knole Park, but the Beatles kept everyone’s spirits up.  In spite of frozen noses they fooled around, always making encouraging comments….There were several changes of clothing.  Nearly all the clothes came from John, Paul, George and Ringo’s own wardrobes.  Four red coats were all that they had to buy especially for the film; the rest came from the wardrobes.

Peculiar combinations occurred. Ringo loved an old uniform coat.  John changed between a kneel long beige jersey, a scarf and a preachers coat that he originally had hired for a party but didn’t want to return”.

Old military gear was becoming fashionable;  Robert Orbach,  director of the shop “I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet”,  remembered  in an interview how one morning, “… in walked John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Cynthia Lennon.  And I didn’t know whether I was hallucinating… but it was real. And Mick Jagger bought a red Grenadier guardsman drummer’s jacket, probably for about £4-5. They all came from Moss Bros and British Army Surplus.

..So Mick Jagger bought this tunic and wore it on Ready Steady Go when the Stones closed the show by performing Paint it Black. The next morning there was a line of about 100 people wanting to buy this tunic… and we sold everything in the shop by lunchtime”. (Robert Orbach, from V&A interview here).

It seems likely that our mystery guardsman wasn’t just some random extra, but was familiar enough with the Beatles to be in the shoot borrowing their clothes, or wearing his own.  Maybe he’d been shopping with them or someone else when the other 4 red coats were bought for the film.  There is one person that comes to mind, and that is Neil Aspinall.   A childhood friend from the original ‘mad gang’ with Paul & George,  he died sadly in 2008.  “..Sir Paul, Starr and the widows of Lennon and Harrison said: “All his friends and loved ones will greatly miss him but will always retain the fondest memories of a great man”….. And Harrison’s widow Olivia and the couple’s son Dhani said: “Neil takes with him the love and history of his extended family..He was our constant and avuncular caretaker for so many years; there is no way to measure how much he will be missed”.

Here”s a side by side comparison, with a photo of Neil from the 60s;

 

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Neil, the Beatles’ friend and assistant who would become Chief Executive of Apple, had actually been with Lennon in Spain when he started writing Strawberry Fields.  John was filming there for Richard Lester’s “How I Won the War”.   Neil stayed at the villa with John;  it was believed to be haunted, and one night during a power cut, a candle-lit party of actors and crew sang to the ghosts.  Locals would cross themselves as Neil drove Lennon around in his black Rolls-Royce, thinking it was a hearse passing by.  Could Neil be our ghostly guardsman?

 

More on Kitchener’s Valet / 60s fashion fun here

 

 

 

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