Wednesday, 30 July 2014

R.I.P. Dick Wagner

I was sad to hear that guitar hero Dick Wagner died today aged 71 after battling ill health for a number of years. Everyone who dies after an illness is described as having battled ill health, but in Wagner's case it is no lazy cliché as he fought to overcome a stroke-induced paralysis of his left arm and relearnt how to play guitar. Fans of Kiss, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper will no doubt be aware of his contribution to some of those artists' finer moments. It was my love for Wagner's own band, The Frost, and their Through The Eyes Of Love album that lead me to discover that he had spent much of his career writing and playing on many of the records that I grew up on: Destroyer, School's Out, Peter Gabriel's solo debut and so on. Check out Wagner's official website and prepare to be amazed (yes, he really did play guitar on Aerosmith's Get Your Wings album!) Sometimes he was uncredited, all too often he remained unheralded. By all accounts he was a self-effacing, consummate professional. All I know is that he was a shit-hot guitar player who wrote some killer tunes! R.I.P.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Speakers keep falling into my lap. It's not as painful as it sounds: I just seem to have the knack of acquiring speakers for very little money. I need four pairs for the various amp / CD player / turntable combinations in use around the house, but if I cart home anything beyond that I get one of those looks from the trouble and strife. You know, one of those looks. The full-on Medusa treatment. At last count there were eight pairs of speakers doing a lousy job of going unnoticed in various parts of the Shelf-Stacker abode, and that doesn't take into account the pair of B&W's in the loft being kept for spare parts. At one point there were three pairs of speakers in the mancave alone. Wifey's comment that "it's starting to resemble Stonehenge in here" prompted a spot of rationalisation and reorganisation. A dust-gathering pair of Kef Concord MkIVs soon fell prey to eBay and a pair of mystery floorstanding speakers (anyone heard of Promenade Prom 3 speakers?) that Freecycled their way into my life, albeit briefly, have found a loving home with friends in Somerset. Incidentally, I'd love some info on the Promenades if anyone out there knows something, anything, about them.

 L-R: Celestion Ditton 44, Promenade Prom 3, B&W DM14

Promenade Prom 3 with Celestion UL8 behind

Celestion UL8s - underrated and affordable

It's tough getting rid of speakers as they all have something different to offer. Yes, they sometimes have glaring deficiences, but then so do I and, so far, I've not found myself left out for the bin men. The Kefs had a thuggish dependability and, like a death row killer reciting poetry, they could surprise you with their sensitivity. But sweet Jesus, they were ugly! A word of advice, if you want to stand any chance of getting your better half to tolerate yet another set of speakers, make sure they complement the decor. A recent early morning jaunt to a car boot sale yielded just three LPs - my wife's relief when I carried my modest spoils through the door without the aid of a forklift truck was palpable. Imagine her delight when she discovered a hefty pair of beaten up old Wharfedales (sporting a poorly executed, DIY paint job) deposited in the hallway. It's like all her Christmases had come at once.

Wharfedale Dovedale 3 with marriage-wrecking paint job

In these situations, speed is of the essence. You can't leave your treasures sitting around advertising your fecklessness. Your wife doesn't give a rat's arse that they are a three-way design with a 12" woofer, or even that they only cost a tenner (she'd happily pay someone twice that to take them away), no, she just wants ugly shit kept out of her house. Within two hours of bringing these strays home I had sanded the cabinets to remove the offending, scuffed, matte black emulsion paint and massaged them with bees wax to bring out their hidden beauty.

Transformation in progress

Actually, I beautified just one of them on that first day, partly because it was hot and filthy work, but mainly because I wanted the missus to see the contrast between the two speakers. I do recall an expression of surprise and words along the lines of "job well done!" What I don't recall is hearing her begging me to keep them, but I've bought myself a little time - time that I'm thoroughly enjoying! I'm listening to Roger Water's Radio K.A.O.S. LP as I write this, and it sounds so rich and involving through the Wharfedales. If you have the chance to buy a pair of Wharfedale Dovedale 3s, particularly for a ten pound note, and it's analogue warmth that you want, don't hesitate to snap them up.

Wharfedale Dovedale 3 - sanded, waxed and polished

Wife-friendly Wharfedales

Temporarily usurping the Celestion Ditton 44s in the mancave