Pete Townshend Strat Update!

sjm-l-oslsun-0813-18You don’t have to go any further than this very blog to know Pete changes his stage setup frequently, but recent times have brought a simple, unusual change to Pete’s stage guitars.

At the Outside Lands festival (perhaps earlier), Pete was sporting a series of his usual Strats, with a new feature.

Above the piezo volume knob behind the trem system, his Strats now feature an emory board, on which Pete can be seen sharpening his pick during the set!

 

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Mark Knopfler’s Pre-CBS White 1964 Fender Stratocaster

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One of the benefits of being one of the best selling songwriters, not to mention most famous and idiosyncratic guitarists, of the last hundred years is that Mark Knopfler has his pick of vintage instruments.

This is his white Strat. A 1964 Fender, in “too-good-to-be-true” condition.

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This Strat toured with him on the Sailing to Philadelphia tour in 2001, being used for different songs at different times, and was one of the principal instruments in the recording of that album. It can be heard playing the lead parts in both the title track and “The Last Laugh” on the record.

 

For the more recent “Tracker” album, the guitar was set up for slide for the song “Lights of Taormina”

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Note the cheeky “Money for Nothing” reference in the design on Mark’s slide!

Apart from it’s clean appearance, the most interesting detail on this guitar would appear to be the small ‘catch’ which has been installed on the pickup selector switch.

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One would assume the switch is still the original 3-way selector, and this small ‘catch’ is to hold it in the in-between bridge/middle position.

To hear Mark talk about this guitar, check out the mini-documentary “Tracker: A Track By Track” on YouTube!

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Review: Gretsch Duo Jet

20184092_1255977797858630_8443339013066063872_nGretsch guitars have always occupied a very specific space in my mind. Great for Chet Atkins, good for all that rockabilly jazz. A compromise for anything else.

You may already see where I’m going with this – I was wrong.

Despite placing them in such a small pigeonhole, there’s been an attraction to Gretsches for me which stems from seeing some of my favourite players use them to great effect.

David Gilmour proved the point that, despite my misgivings, they can amply handle a sustained lead tone, Pete Townshend made his entire signature sound with his own Gretsch, even employing both a Duo Jet and a 6120 for live work, and I don’t feel like I even need to mention the Beatles connection! Somehow the cover of George Harrison’s Cloud 9 is hard to shake from memory.

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With all of that, actually buying a Gretsch never entered my head given the lack of examples to play locally and the hefty Australian import fees. But as luck would have it, I sold a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe to my brother on the same night I found a prime example of a Duo Jet on eBay.

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VERY price reduced, due to “scratches, dents, rust and lifting paint” but with images (above) which showed no front-on view and seemed to reflect none of those issues, I was very wary, but reasoning that I wouldn’t have to worry about putting some dings in myself when gigging, I took the chance. I needn’t have worried.

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I’ll save you the time of explaining the condition of my Gretsch, but it’s about fifteen years old, and has the wear you might expect. You can see from the photos that there is no cause for alarm over the condition.

The bridge isn’t pinned, but some double sided tape ($3.45AU) holds it in place with no movement. You can throw this thing around and not move the bridge, and the synchro-sonic has no intonation problems, unlike some of the other Gretsch offerings.

The bigsby is not one of my favourite tremolo systems by design, but the flutter it gives the sound of this guitar is brilliantly subtle. I like to play a lot with the trem arm in my hand, and although it’s a bit more of a stretch to where it sits than a Strat, because the arm doesn’t do a full rotation, it’s an easy adjustment to get used to.

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The pickups are Dynasonics. They are single coils, unlike the more common Filtertron pickups, and the difference in tone is not insignificant. People often refer to the Duo Jet as sounding bitey like a Telecaster, and with Dynasonics, there’s good reason for that comparison. These are very dynamic pickups. If you play aggressive, you can get pretty close to the Tele sound, although these pups are a little fatter. But soften your touch and they sound more like a sweet, articulate Jazzmaster. The bigsby, too, puts me in mind of the more ‘reserved’ travel distance of the Jazzmaster tremolo.

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The Duo Jet body is chambered, but not hollow, so it resists feedback a bit more than fully hollow or semi-hollow guitars with similar specs. Having said that, you wouldn’t want to push it too far, this is still a guitar for subtlety rather than heavy distortion. It’s more well-suited to crunchy Pete Townshend drive, and it’s anywhere between here and it’s beautiful cleans that it excels.

It’s also worth nothing the strangeness of using the master volume which is here located below the neck pickup. It’s a position I’m not used to at all, but it feels very natural. This feeling extends to most aspects of the instrument, it’s extremely well made. It’s my understanding that all Duo Jets are now made in Japan or Korea, and this Japanese model is extremely comfortable. The neck is very similar to a Fender standard ‘C’, not particularly fat, but not uncomfortably thin, and the fit and finish is perfect. There’s no fretting out, no sharp edges on the frets and fretboard, and tuning holds pretty well with the Bigsby, at least as long as you don’t go too mad with it. There’s a little more meat in your hand at the high end, so it’s arguably not so good for quick playing up there as something with a more accessible heel like almost any Fender or Gibson option.

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The only problem I have in dealing with this guitar is the treble loss with the volume roll-off. It makes it hard for me to control the gain with my volume, because you lose clarity as you reach the cleaner sound you want. But if you prefer to change your dirt balance by tweaking or switching your pedals or amp, you won’t have a problem with this. And it’s probably quite easily fixed with a simple mod to the volume control.

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So, to sum up. I’m blown away by this guitar. It handles any sound I’ve heard anyone else get with these pickups easily, and even does a passable imitation of the Filtertrons with the tone rolled off a little. It achieves everything I thought it would, while remaining far more versatile than I gave it credit for in the beginning. As long as you aren’t trying to do heavy distortion, this guitar has a beautiful, eloquent voice. For the foreseeable future, it’s not going anywhere.

(And if you enjoyed the photos in this article, follow my instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thomaswilliamsmusic/ for more of the same, as well as sound and video of this guitar)

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Poem: “Speak to Me”

We don’t have as many voices

As it seems we did before

We are diluted by time

Our attention by apathy and the promise of instant gratification

 

We neglect the ocean

To play in closer, calmer streams

 

It’s easier to view the writing on the wall

Through a borrowed lens

It’s easier to be told than to think

But so rarely are we told to think

 

It’s a hard idea to sell

Far better to sell earphones, army toys, kaleidoscopes, and white noise

 

Distraction sells itself

The promise of freedom

Release at the price of your soul

A glass cage

 

Epidemic prejudices go untreated and unnoticed

Power in numbers

The seeking out of like minds

Honest strangers go unheard over the chorus of yes men and sycophants

 

But the calm of ignorance is favoured by natural selection

When reality is subjective

To see the world becomes a choice

 

So

These words go unread

These pages remain unturned

 

We don’t have as many voices

as it seems we did before

But your voice is loud enough

To reach a great many more

Than I, for one, could hope for

 

You speak for us

And what’s more

You speak to us

Roger Waters’ Black Fender Stratocaster

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During the “Us and Them” Tour, Roger has been playing what appears to be a vintage Fender Stratocaster on a few tracks. There isn’t much information online, but it’s clearly a well-worn instrument, which if it’s a genuine Fender, suggests either a custom shop model or a real vintage instrument. There doesn’t seem to be a CS logo in pictures, so my bet would be on the latter.

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The small headstock and Transition logo suggest a 60’s instrument, earlier than the large headstock came in (very late ’65). To my knowledge, Fender don’t produce anything like this guitar at the moment.

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“Smile”

In a world where being a consumer

Is more important than being a thinker

 

Where a smile sells

And a heart sits on the shelf

 

When appearance is everything

Changing one’s mind becomes an admission of something unsavoury

The shame of having not known everything before

 

One must protect one’s own perfection

One must retain imperfection to hide from it

 

We devolve to prove we are not animals

We sink continents to keep ourselves afloat

 

We elect to stick to our guns

Even when they are pointed back at us

 

Smile

We Look To The Stars

It wasn’t always like this.

There used to be more.

Sometime far from the beginning, creation, seemingly too curious to be satisfied with mere existence, begat self-conception.

The same lifeless stardust, the same burning energy of infinity coalesced into the white-hot presence of life itself. And for a while, everything moved in the wake of our significance.

But, forever true to form, things change.

Whether by decree or by some unconscious turning of the tides of minds, substance seemed to fall from favour. Insatiable hunger became the impetus for instant gratification, to the detriment of all else. A waste of time. A waste of life.

And, as greed and ignorance formed an enviable bond, there was a moment felt around the world. The passing of something.

We shun empathy, unwilling to entertain the concept of equal ground at the expense of the possibility of being the victor. We find it’s hard to listen when we’ve got so much to preach.

After all this time, still we allow ourselves to be overtaken by the mad desire to beat the rest at the human race.

So now, tired of what we’ve made for ourselves here, we turn from introspection to escapism.

Every civilisation in history has turned to the stars in longing.

But whereas we used to look for meaning, now we yearn for release from the prison we built ourselves, trying to make a home.

Still we dream our dreams like boys as we look out to stars on the outer reaches of observable space. Blessed, as we are, with reflections of their past lives. Long gone now, but preserved for us by the lethargy of light within the context of forever.

And as we look upon those stars, we see ourselves. Long since dead by our own hands. Preserved for time being as the amusement of a universe made conscious. An ironic embodiment of self-awareness.

And we still cry at night, instead of making any change at all.