Their lies they consume you, they poison your heart
Back somewhere in the mid 90’s (not exactly sure which year anymore) I bought my first “real” guitar amp: a 40 watt Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Before that I had a couple of phenomenally crappy practice amps, including one creaky 10 watt solid state no-name craptone; covered in black indoor-outdoor carpet with knobs that all went up to “11”. I shit you not. Needless to say, it sounded awful.
The Fender was, and still is as I played it this afternoon, quite reasonable. Considering it and it’s descendants are only about $700, it’s a two channel, all-tube amp with spring reverb and a full effects loop, etc. It served me well and would continue to be a solid choice for many, many electric guitar players.
Guitar amps are kind of a fascinating area to me, however. The amp is a fundamental part of the sound the guitarist makes - kind of an equal partner with the guitar itself. Learning to find an amp that works and learning how to use it, becomes part of the guitarist’s exploration of sound, and possibly of finding one’s own sound.
The 90’s of course was the resurgence of the tube amplifier. Basically, tubes, when distorting (being asked to reproduce a sound wave greater than what they have the power to do) do pleasant things to the sound: emphasizing even harmonics, increasing sustain through effective compression and so forth. Solid state transistors to their version of this, but it sounds cold and harsh (odd harmonics emphasized, I think). In the 90’s cold (associated with 80’s sounds) were out, and mushy warm tuby sounds were in.
Tube amp trivia: pretty much all modern tube amp circuit designs are derivative from the Fender Bassman. The Marshall amp, in fact, is a copy of the circuit, but using British instead of American parts. So where a Fender amp would have 6L6 power tubes, the British substituted EL34’s. One sounds like Neil Young, the other sounds like AC/DC. Got it?
The distinction I’ve become particularly interested in in the last 5 years or so is something called Class A. Essentially a different amplification technique, Class A amps, including Hiwatts (think of the Who) and VOX (Beatles, Stones, U2 etc) sound really nice to me, and consequently I have definitely moved away from the American sound of the Fender and towards this particular subset of the British sound. To that end I’m probably in the market for a VOX AC15, and am going to try and unload the Fender Deluxe. It was a good little amp though.
It struck me recently that I’m not waiting for my close-up anymore.
There is no more preparation needed. No more long period of dues paying. No more excuses that I can throw out: “oh I could pursue my dreams if only X were true”. X is true. All of the preconditions to accomplishment in my life have already been fulfilled. It’s time to man the fuck up.
Fascinatingly, this makes me simultaneously afraid of both success and failure. Part of me wants to run screaming, to find some other reason that can act as a barrier to the uncomfortable truth that it is simply up to me now to succeed. There is no one else to blame.
I know what I need to do. I don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. I just have to put in the work, and be brave enough to make it happen.