Monday, 31 August 2020

Bulls Head Bob - Sep 2020. BEAT group days in Birmingham. Electrify your Acoustic Guitar

 Watcha you Brummies, 

Another month bites the dust and what a month it was!! Hot as anything followed by the lightning storms that filled the heavens for a couple of days.  Followed by more storms and fierce wind.  I've had fierce wind more than a few times mind you and recommend a bowl of  stewed plums for a couple of days...... The live gig situation is terrible and the forecast doesn't look too good either,  nonetheless we need to keep our spirit alive and what better way than a touch of reminiscing back to the early 60's when there was live music in the form of pop groups in every pub in the City of "Brummagem by the Cole". What a fantastic era.

As some of you will know, we lost the great Chuck Botfield, lead guitarist and founder member of The Rockin Berries on the last day of June.  Due to a commitment I only had time to make a passing comment so please read the article by John Woodhouse at Brumbeat.Net by clicking HHERE.   Chuck was a lovely guy and inspired a whole generation of Brummy guitarists including me.  As a passionate learner I would go and see him occasionally and take my little pocket note book to jot down things I could work on or chord runs and things.  He played Chuck Berry songs just like his hero!!  He had fire in his belly in those days. 

As can plainly be identified The Rockin Berries were formed at the height of Chuck Berry mania when BRUMBEAT was at its zenith for Beat Groups and in Birmingham, Chuck Botfield was one of its leaders. 


Johnny B Goode was the first thing we all had learned and the Chuck Berry rhythm suited the guitar like no other for Rock music, pulsating staccato half notes stabbing away over, four to the bar, bass runs in line with a four on the floor bass drum  BEAT music.  It opened the flood gates for groups to take any song and "Berrify it" by playing it faster and adding the rhythm.   A famous example would be "My Bonnie"  by Tony Sheridan and The Beatles.   The singer would be equipped with marracas and tambourine as extra percussion for those Bo Diddley moments!  With the arrival of the guitar solo the hi-hats would be opened to crash away, increasing the madness and during the "Screaming Times" the girls would go crazy, the whole band encouraged by the response would be elevated to greater heights and I, for one, would be dripping with sweat, head down, really really, playing my heart out.   

All those hours of constant practice were paying off and the excitement generated by the music filled me like nothing else could, I hadn't even heard of adrenalin but I was swimming in it and the group were always so enthusiastic it almost took your breath away.  There were stages we, the first wave of electric guitar groups, wanted to achieve, first paid gig, getting suits, getting a van and then getting it covered with lipstick messages from the fans then more gigs supporting bigger bands, getting a fan base, being top of the bill,  improving all the time, better equipment, getting a record contract and then being "Screamed at" and.....getting pulled off stage by eager females.   We had seen other bands like the Stones and Beatles etc being mobbed by hordes of teenage girls and wanted to experience the thrill of it all....adoration!!    

It was a crazy, exciting time for groups and although I'm glad I experienced the thrill of live performances from basic Rock, through the psychedelic phase and up until the end of that wonderful decade the BEAT phase was by far the most enjoyable.  

Through it all, the Chuck Berry riff, intros and solos appeared in differing forms and have done ever since although, these days, it lacks the excitement and emotion of having been through its creation and played it first 

Electrify your Acoustic.

I have a Tanglewood Electro acoustic which I have owned for 22 years, it has a beautiful warm tone and anyone who plays it loves it.  Its pre-installed Fishman pre-amp passed away peacefully recently and no amount of battery changing, swearing at or tapping it with a screwdriver would revive it.    I contacted Tanglewood asking if there was any replacement available, sadly no, not for old guitars.  I love the guitar and use it with a Marshall acoustic amp.  Now, I live in a remote neck of the woods so, owing to this lock down malarkey,  the normal supplier wasn't available so I looked on Ebay to see what I could do to "solucion-ize the problem" and saw a Fishman that was about the same dimensions as the one that needed changing.

I purchased a Fishman Presys blend Preamp, I was impressed by it having a microphone inside the guitar body as well as the normal bridge piezo pick-up strip which you can blend together to get a greater range of sensitivity and tone.   

There is always a danger of forgeries on sale and indeed there were a deal of suppliers advertising the same preamp all at different prices starting at around £12.  Buying the most expensive doesn't guarantee you are getting the genuine article either,  so how much of a risk did I want to take?   

I went for £25 plus post thinking if it blows up I will have to suck it up and say I'll never do that again.   So, anyway within a week of paying it was at my door.  No luxury packaging, ziplock bag with Fishman tag inside a padded envelope.   The contents were all there minus the 9v battery.  

The build is good, everything clips together nicely, there are some pictorial fitting instructions but I found some better installation videos on Youtube.   Taking out the broken one was easy.  The refitting process was just a question of sanding the opening to accommodate the slightly wider Presys and from then on it went smoothly enough for someone who is used to doing fiddly things, it would have gone a lot smoother had I purchased a new set of strings to replace the ones I had removed!!    3 days later with new strings attached, I slipped in the battery, attached a guitar lead and turned it on, there was a bit of a squeal from my bedside mini Laney amp that sounded "mistake like" but was resolved by me tightening the newly installed Jack plug connection, then it came to life.   It sounded a whole lot better when I connected the guitar to the Marshall however I will have to get accustomed to regulating the balance between mic and piezo till I find the "sweet spot".

I would have to say that this system, whether a knock-off or not, does the job fine, of course I don't have another example to judge it by.    It is a comparatively easy job to do and well within the grasp of someone with a bit of common sense and pacience, so if you have an old acoustic that you would like to use in your stage act or for recording without taking the expensive route of buying a new electro acoustic guitar you may find this a much cheaper option.   A Stanley knife, a drill and drill bit, Phillip's head screw driver and some masking tape is all you need, plus of course the pre-amp.    It's the cheapest way to electrify your acoustic guitar for stage or recording use and you get the satisfaction of having done it yourself.    Good luck!!!!  I should add that you might want to think twice about doing this to some rare or expensive instrument!!!  


Please be careful out there, do wear a mask, do use sanitizer, we have to live with this awful virus so please try not to pass it on.  That aside, be as happy as you can and love the ones you're with.


Copyright: Bullsheadbob



Saturday, 1 August 2020


Hello Brummies, lockdown compatriots, Musos, Rockers and Rockettes,
you Loft Boys of Japan, psychedelic funksters and drifters. 

A special hello to my new freinds in Romania and the UAE!! Welcome.

1964, 15 years of age but looked 12, Hall Green, Birmingham.  Left school, worked for the CO-OP at Tysley and had my first Pint of Brown and Mild, I had a couple more and was as sick as a dog all the way home from Moseley.   

Later that same week, ........having listened to a Huddy Leadbetter LP we, our group, decided that we could do better than that and prepared ourselves to write our soon-to-be hit.  We sat around a dining table and looked at each other for a few minutes.  I, as the lead guitarist took the mantle and commenced a chugging blues rythmn with an added 7th every 4th beat.   The Bass player looked at me in a knowing manner and added a one note plod-a-long, the guaranteed escape route for the 4 stringers in the world.  Although the rhythm guitarist was there we left him to his own devices as he lived in his own space-time-continuum, never playing the same thing twice and spending more time cavorting around on the stage floor during gigs than actually adding a musical element " It's all about art man" he would be writhing about the base of the mic stand screaming at me when I was doing a solo.     So apart from him,  we were solid, in the groove, to use the music parlance of the 80's.    Kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk, we could have gone on forever, looking at each other that is! 

Now, if the whole band had pooled our lifes experiences there wouldn't have been enough to cover a Cream Cracker.   Being drunk and told off by your Mum, Truancy, Three fumbles, 12 love bites and being sick in someone's record player at a party hardly constituted a joint life of pain and suffering that we could translate in the form of a biting lyric.   I stared at the singer, waiting for him to put sense to all our experiences but even he, at the ripe old age of 16, with a grammar school education, hadn't been allowed to parties where there had been girls, "Unnecessary distractions from algebra"  his Mother said.   Three hours later he had written,  " I went down to the station"  ....we stopped right there, not even making it to the platform, because he had to go home for his Sunday dinner.  

We never talked about writing a song again because I think we all subconsciously agreed that it was a far too difficult thing to do and we maybe better off revisiting that particular scenario anew once one of us had had a shag at least!  We further discovered that nearly everybody had already been "Down to the Station", had "Woken Up this Mornin" and found "My Woman Done Gone".   

There is a truth and that is you have to write a hundred crappy songs before you learn to discern what it good and what is poo.   However, you have to start somewhere and writing a basic melody for you to put your words to is as good a way to start as any other, anyone can do it, its guaranteed to work so you have halved the difficulty straight away and you dont need to know how to write music notation!! 

An exercise book with lined pages, a blue pen and a red one. 

1.   Write down the numbers 1 to 5 horizontally on a page of lined paper with a blue pen.  
These numbers represent the five BLACK notes of a piano keyboard starting from the left as Number 1 through to 5 as the last black key on the right, in the group of 3.  Only the black keys are played.

2.  Now, with the red pen, write on the next line down, a selection of the numbers 1 to 5, in any order, even repeating some of them.   Let's say you chose to write down 12 numbers as below but it could be any amount or back to front.  These numbers are totally random I assure you.


We now need to decide if the tune is going to be slow or fast and set our tempo speed.  
Congratulations you have just written your first tune.  That's it.........and you havent played a note

If you have a keyboard of any type available, but preferably with a metronome, start from the middle of the keyboard using the 5 black keys only, play the first four numbers of your own random choice, one note for each beat in this case 1 4 3 5.    It's just four notes but will be a short melody, try repeating this four note group for the next four beats the next four notes of your random number selection, 2 2 1 3 to have an eight note melody. 

If you have written words already you can apply this same formula to the verses, words and syllables.  Using syllables as note changes as well as the words if you wish "Re-mem-ber" for example.

Use tricks to form melodies.   John Lennons melody for  the opening lines of "I am the walrus"
Is made up of two notes, in fact the two notes he heard from a police siren passing by....Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah = I am/ he as/ you are /he as...etc   and remember too that you can use one note for several words

Other melodies have been formed using Morse code. The music for the popular comedy show "Some Mothers Do Ave Em" was written by converting the individual letters of the title into Morse code so S = dot dot dot, O = dash dash dash, M = dash E = dot and so on.  All these groups of dots and dashes can then be manipulated into our 5 black note conversion melody maker above.

This is really nothing new and was a trick of the trade in the great songwriting days of the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley here in the UK but is something you may not have come across before to aid you to achieve your wishes to write a song.  This is straw for you to build bricks with.   I would love to be the claimant of this method but learned this trick through chatting with the great Alex Wharton one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll (The Most Brothers, creative element of the musical "Oliver", film star and producer of "Go Now" to name just a few of the million things he has been involved with, so if like me, you find this useful he's the guy to thank.   

It is interesting to note that during world war 2, musicians were used for code and cypher breaking work at Bletchley Park and for the Battle of Midway because we work in mysterious ways with 5 number groups which is the way codes are generally transmitted.

I first saw Peter Green at the Carlton Club, Erdington after he stepped into the breach with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers after EC had split the scene to form Cream.  I wasn't impressed one bit, I listened to Mayalls LP 'A Hard Road' with P Green and wasn't impressed and it wasn't because of any wrongdoing on his part either.  There are moments in Rock History that cant be bettered, the moments that encapsulate a feeling of greatness and that moment had occurred with The Bluesbreakers Beano LP with Eric at his thundering best, every note in every solo was the right one, there was more effort on Mayalls part too.   It was predictable that any sort of follow up to that would be incredibly hard to judge either as an LP or especially as the new featured guitarist in the J Mayall group.    
Within the year Peter Green left Mayall and with Mick Fleetwood persuaded John McVie, a staunch Mayall bassist to join with them and call themselves Fleetwood Mac after Mick and John's surnames respectively.   Released from Mayalls business-like grip on his musicians was like a blessing and now Peter Green bloomed with a hard rocking blues band aided on slide guitar by Jeremy Spencer.   Although he and Spencer "Went down to the Station" in the bands formative months, Green developed his own melodic approach to his song writing and wrote the first of his 'world beating' songs "Black Magic Woman", it was, his 'moment', his awakening of blues in another form, his songs were now the perfect platform to display his unique guitar style and sound which was mature and oozed emotion.   If I had written Black Magic Woman I would have been happy for the rest of my life, this song though was just the first of his incredible catalogue including The Green Manalishi, Man of the World and Oh Well.   Every single one of those songs is a genuine world classic, two rockers and the beautifully written Man of the World with its soul touching lyrics, guitar fills and a solo that didnt just come along, he dug every note of that from his very being, superb!!
"I need your love so bad" which, although not written by him (Little Willie John 1955) contains some of his finest "touch" guitar work ever but even above that his vocal interpretation was incredible and one that ranks with the highest of any blues singer in my humble opinion.

"Albatross", their only instrumental hit was nothing more than a stocking filler, for me.  Middle of the road slush.

In 1968 Fleetwwod Mac swelled their ranks by the addition of third guitarist Danny Kerwan because Green thought they could go further and also said he didn't want to be responsible for everything, this was a bit of a chink in his emotional make up.   At their height they did a gig in Berlin and upon arrival at the airport Peter and Danny got whisked off to a commune in a forest where they were given too much/took too much or were fed some hyper-LSD that had a devastating effect on them and Green came out of it a lot worse off than Kirwan.  His mind had been fried.

He left the band shortly after and made two dreadful LPs, I bought them both and played them once, it appeared that his time was up.   He lived in a small house and was getting robbed by a variety of ne'er do wells and could be seen wandering around Twickenham looking like a tramp, dreadfully unkempt, carrying around a couple of plastic bags with nicotine stained fingernails that had overgrown and were curled.   He had sold his Les Paul guitar to Gary Moore for a song.   

By a stroke of luck, a girl got the feeling the tramp was following her, then thought that she knew him and went and asked "Is that you Peter?"    She was the person who saved his life and got him some help and got him cleaned up.  After a lot of time and care by his friends and some persuasion he made a comeback with The Splinter Group including Cozy Powell.    Eric Clapton showed up for the gig too giving Peter some encouragement.  Whispering Bob Harris was the compere of the festival where the band were performing, he walked onto the stage and said   "How many years have we all waited for this moment??" the crowd were up for it.

Greeny took to the stage to the roars of the eager and opened with "I'm going Down", nice classic blues.  It was evident from the off that the great Peter Green was no longer available and we were left with just a bit of his echo.   Both his voice and guitar playing were weak,  nonetheless the crowd knew he was damaged goods and although they probably hoped for more, all got behind him in the knowledge of just how difficult it must have been for him to do that. 
A rush of love for him was overwhelming and it would be fair to say that that love has been undying by his many who knew him "back then".  

That initial concert was a long time ago and The band have been on the circuit a lot.
I think we have all lived in hope that maybe, just for a moment, we could have seen a true touch of his previous genius come sneaking through. His past greatness has been recorded for all to hear.  There is some marvellous footage of the original Fleetwood Mac on Youtube playing live in France and at The Playboy Mansion that pays testament to what a fantastic live band they were with their leader at the top of his game.
The Fleetwood Mac that emerged from that band are a completely different animal and although a bigger band on the world stage, have no relation to their brilliant, dynamic, beginings.   
We British have a knack of producing the worlds best guitarists but none of them had or have  the "touch" of Peter Green.

God Bless you Peter Green guitar hero and lovely man.

This may come as a bit of a shock but when Danny Kirwan joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968 he was still playing his Watkins Rapier 33.

Now I haven't played one since around 62 but it struck me that if Kirwan was making music that impressed P Green he must have sounded really good as there were no foot pedals available then.    Why then are people not using them for years and years?  Its a bit of a mystery, there must be thousand in attics and wardrobes all eager to be played.   Perhaps you should dust it off and put it through a Watkins Dominator.

I mean why would people buy shit Russian Jolana crap when there is a British guitar of some repute, just a wardrobe away? Just a thought.  Dont get fooled into paying too much on EBay though.   It ain't that good.

News has just come in of the passing of Rockin Berries lead guitarist Chuck Botfield.
He has been in my life as someone to look up to from when I was learning not to write songs.
My condolences go out to his family and friends

Summer is here and though people may have thought that COVID has stopped everything, it hasnt.   Life and fun is what you make for yourself.

Take Care my Friends
till next time


Copyright:  BullsHeadBob