Saturday, 1 March 2014


Watcha Maties,

Well what a sad tale......I actually started out not having one at all!! and only after a full year of wishing and praying did I manage to get one and even then it was very tiny and didn't do much.   I showed it to my Mum, she said it very nice and sufficient for my needs and if I had a bigger one, the neighbours wouldn't like it.    

I imagine that in using the title of this blog I may have opened the flood gates from the world of 'Amazing Penile Enlargement' Spammers but I am of course referring to guitar amplifiers and I got my first one from the Radio Supplies Company shop (RSC),
in Birmingham City Centre, it was the first shop on the right just inside the Great Western Arcade and next door to the Kardomah coffee house.   It was a shop that sold electrical spares and things for geeky radio hams.   It was cheaper than, for instance, the very pretty Selmer Little Giant but had more output and also had a tremolo effect built in.  
I think it was rated at 8 watts but can't be sure, I can't find much literature or photos of these amps at all.   I seem to remember it costing around 8 or 9 pounds.

I had that amp for years and years and it ended up being used as an extension speaker for the radio in one of my bands Ford Transit. I had foolishly taken a razor blade to the speaker cone so it would distort but of course all I did was wreck it.   Our roadie bunged some non descript speaker in it and lashed it onto the vans ribs. It could even be this actual amplifier, as the speaker has been changed and an entry point for a twin flex cable has been drilled in the bottom of the cabinet. Wouldn't it be strange if this was my first amp? 

The speaker certainly isn't original, RSC used Fane speakers.
It is incredibly difficult to find out any information about RSC amplifiers but
there is a link between them and the next Amplifier I used, the Linear Conchord which came as a 30 watt and 50 watt model and was a stripped down thing that came in a cage.   It was indeed a powerful amp for its day and they were very popular with bands at the time.  It did mean however that you had to source some kind of speaker cabinet which, I assure you was no easy thing then.  I got someone to make me one but really can't remember a thing about it or even who it was who made it for me.  
Caged Tiger

The one small niggle about Linear Amps was that they used co-axial inputs, the same as a TV aerial plug, not the standard quarter inch jack plug that was fitted to all guitar leads
It was enormously popular because of it's cheap price and featured in the majority of early 60's groups equipment.  Of course all of these were valve driven.  I recall seeing loads of these caged amps in second hand shops once better amplifiers started becoming available.

Although the Linears were a great little workhorse they lacked something......appeal.  Everyone wanted a VOX AC30 or a Selmer Twin,
I opted for the latter.

A Selmer 'Bluey', a great amp which I loved and treated shamefully, it really did the job and looked a lot better than the Linear for sure.

From hereon I got recruited into a much bigger band and we were supplied our amplification by Park from Jones and Crossland.  
I had the luxury of a mountain of speakers and 2 x 100watt amp heads to deafen people with, but mostly myself.   Along came the modern PA systems with a mixing desk and these big stacks started to become redundant and today's modern tech has developed small to medium sized combo amps belting out over 100 watts from one speaker. 

We now seem to have gone full circle and everyone is producing tiny little valve amps again, or is it just that the amplifier producers are upping the hype to convince you that you need one?   I suspect a lot of the latter, or it may be that the live music scene has been so decimated that more guitarists are just bedroom players and want a nice sound at home from a small amp.

HEARTBREAK BOULEVARD The job of being a musician is a hard life, scarred with disappointments and broken promises so a lot of folk are more than happy to sit at home, enjoying owning some nice kit, instead of putting themselves through the mill.  There is no substitute though for 'giving it some' at a live gig with a good crowd and although it's true to say that gigging has become harder and harder, you learn a lot more about playing during one live performance than you ever will in a month of 'noodling about' on the guitar to backing tracks. 

I have a harmonica player who sometimes features in the Bulls Head Bob Boogie Band and his current amplifier is rated at a quarter of one watt!!
It almost fits in his pocket....He goes on about it all the soddin' time. 

Here are a selection of the many new small models now flooding the shops. Cages are Back!!!!





This is just a small sample of what's available, without even going into the 'high end' Boutique Amplifier market, with the Valve Power Amp being the most potent with its 18 watts and the rest between 4 and 10 watts.  Very cute but do you NEED one?  These amps are very expensive, with the aesthetically beautiful creamy white VOX AC 4 being available in 2 models,
the standard AC4 retailing at a cool 233 pounds and the hand wired at a sizzling 598 pounds.   You will need to take out a mortgage to buy the  5 watt 'ec' Fender Vibro Champ which retails at the volcanic price of 875 pounds!!!   This is just crazy money.....So if you're not a pro or don't do a load of recording it's an awful lot of dosh to lay out.   

The 30 watt authentic, Linear Conchord Cage Amp pictured above was on ebay for 175 quid.  It's very similar design copy, the Valve Power amp, comes available as 'factory built' or in Kit form too, with the kit at 250 and the 'made' amp at 350 of your British Pounds.

I couldn't tell you anything about the sonic difference between any of them because I haven't tested any of these I have to say, I am simply doing a comparison of history repeating itself. Although I have seen plenty of amp tests on Youtube and viewed some of the amps in music shops.

I have seen 4x12 cabs going for silly prices these days, I mean who wants to lug those soddin' things about any more?  I was lucky enough to have a road manager to carry my large ones about for me so didn't really have to experience the back breaking task, although we did sympathetically muck in with him though when we did a 'triple gig' on one New Years Eve, even with my delicate and artistic fingers.  However, if you have a warehouse, you could buy a few of these speaker cabs and wait for the market to come around again

LANEY VC30 210
Being a dyed in the wool Brummie
Bob's LANEY VC30 210
I use the best amplifier to have come out of the Black Country, the beautifully built, impeccably styled and designed Laney VC30 210 
valve combo amp, it really is a cracker with beautiful clean deep tones and even though it is rated at 30 watts, it takes your head off when you want it to.   For larger venues you could add the Laney 12 inch Speaker extension cab to give the sound more depth. This is a really great amp and retails for just under 500 quid.  I know my place in life and I'm happy to have a good quality 'medium sizer', with plenty of balls!! 

Laney is also used by another Brummie, the ol' left hander Tony Iommi, doctor of music, except his is bigger and probably blacker!!!

Highly recommended.  

I certainly have no desire to own one of these new small valve amps but maybe you do? it's all horses for courses.   

I saw the featured RSC amplifier on an internet forum page dealing with electronics and have been told that it is going to be offered for sale very shortly so if anyone out there has a yearning to get some real vintage sounds drop me a line and I will put you in contact with the owner.  I'm not the type to want to buy it but it still does look like my old amp I have to say.   Maybe out of pure sentiment, Crazy Malc at the boozer might get it for me?, he's got some dosh......."Malc??" 

I'm not a great watcher of television, it's all full of homogenised crap and shallow tossers.  I did enter the living room though as Mrs Bob was watching  some re-runs of Pointless, the TV quiz that challenges people to come up with obscure answers to easy questions.  It was the Christmas celebrity edition.

You could have knocked me down with a feather as I saw Roy Wood being dumped out of the show on the first round by a green duck with someones hand up it's arse. Roy was as smart as I thought he always was but I believe the duck was a little under par and could have done so much better than it did. 

There's a real celebrity Rock n Roll line-up for you, Roy Wood, the Chuckle Brothers and a Green Duck. That's as wise a publicity move as The Move choosing to play the cabaret clubs all those years ago.

Roy has aledgedly demanded a re-appearance so they've teamed him up with Rick Wakeman or, as he was called in the NME once, Dick Wankman, for his next appearance.   I think it's due for broadcast sometime this month, I'm going to be glued to the set.   

Perhaps he did so badly by announcing that he's from Derbyshire where the phrase "Ay up, me Duck" may now have a different meaning for him.
Serves him right for abandoning his Brummie roots.

Look out for some very interesting and exciting news coming very soon from BRUMBEAT.Net, the historic home of Birmingham's Bands of the 60's.

On the Blog Next month, It's the annual pond-hopping pilgrimage to see how the 'Brummies Abroad' are faring........

Take Care

Copyright: Bullsheadbob