Willy Moon, I Wanna Be Your Man
Short. Stylish. Funky. Great guitar. His new album is 28 minutes long. That’s the way to do it.
Buying Cords from Eric Clapton
Well, not actually from Eric. Going to the wonderful Cordings on Piccadilly to peruse the trousers only to discover that EC liked the shop so much, he bought it. Shops that you feel will be forbidding and aloof usually turn out to be the opposite. Davidoffs’ cigar store on Jermyn Street and uber liquor-emporium Hedonism in Mayfair spring to mind—great, knowledgeable staff and no pressure…
The Art of Listening to Records
I listened to two great stereo systems this week, Alex’s and George’s. The same day we’d been in Cordings Alex put, by total coincidence, Eric Clapton’s “The Core” from Slowhand on his Technics deck… After listening to George’s – driven by a Garrard deck set in concrete – it seemed like Taj Mahal and the Pointer Sisters were actually in the room as we listened to “Sweet Home Chicago,” a great performance which I had forgotten all about. I always appreciate amazing stereos when I hear them, and am in awe of the lengths people go to – steam cleaning records, adding AC/DC converters, setting decks in concrete and the like. (see below for George’s response!)
Then I saw this on London Jazz Collector’s blog: “I read something recently on the subject of record and hi-fi reviews which struck a chord. It was this. No-one really knows what anyone else hears. Thinking about it, it’s true. I only really know what I hear, and sometimes I’m not even sure of that. Sometimes I am only remembering what I thought about what I heard, which is not the same thing. I am remembering an opinion, not a sound. Every now and then I put on a record I haven’t played for a while, but remember thinking at the time was one of the best pressings I had ever heard, only to find it rather ordinary. It hasn’t changed, I have. Or the system has. Or something I am not aware of has. Worse, I recently upgraded a copy of a record I can remember really liking. Only to find, on playing, I no longer like it at all…”
Actually, worse is my admission that my favourite place of all to listen to music is one that any self-respecting audiophile absolutely scorns: the car.
Spring arrives, time for Calypso
As if to prove my point, no sooner has the sun come out (after what seems like an eternity) when “Lorraine” by Explainer bursts into life on the iPhone as I’m driving around town. Truly, one of the great intros: a bouncing bass, a chattering guitar, tss-tss hi-hat and The Explainer shouting: “Taxi! Taxi! Airport Kennedy!” And it sounds fantastic in the car…
Rock ’n’ Roll. Phew!
My friend Pal Hansen had this to say about photographing people whose work you know: “Sometimes you get that commission to photograph someone whose work you admire and whom you think is genuinely interesting. Many times, you walk away disappointed and with a distaste for whatever you did admire them for in the first place.”* It’s a little like that with most rock biographies, I find. And, my God, books written by musicians are seriously depressing, no? I’ve barely recovered from the ghastly sleazefest that was Warren Zevon’s I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead when I pick up Dallas Taylor’s Prisoner of Woodstock. Taylor, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young’s drummer in the late sixties, is a favourite of mine, but this terrible tale of abuse, insecurity, drugs, surgery and ego was almost too awful to read.
* Pal then went on to say: “However, once in a while, someone who comes across as truly talented and nice is actually just that. One of my favourite actors, Forest Whitaker, is as nice as they come.”
Just to set the record straight, so to speak, my turntable is a 50-year-old Garrard 301 from the days of British precision engineering. It is set into a plinth made of layers of lead sheet and MDF bolted together. The whole is supported on a slate slab which in turn is floated on 2 layers of air-filled BMX inner tubes for complete isolation from vibration. (The turntable in the Dobell’s exhibition was also a Garrard but made 25 years later when the company had been sold to new owners who took it downmarket).
The converter you refer to is a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) which is usually incorporated into CD players. Digital players only produce a series of signals which are either “on” or “off”, expressed as 1 or 0. They produce these at very high speeds, and the DAC decodes them and turns them into waveforms which amplifiers understand. At these ultra high speeds accuracy can be a problem. The more accurate the decoding, the better the music will sound. Mine is built for much higher levels of accurate conversion than are usually available from mass-market CD players.
AC/DC conversion is converting the current from the mains (in the UK 230V AC) to the voltages and type of electricity that will power audio circuits (typically DC, like from a battery, and in valve equipment circuits ranging from 3V DC to 500V DC).