A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
"Ask Martin" Q&As -
I have very recently won an eBay auction for an Epiphone Thunderbird for my 13 year old son (well...at least he's a basserist.....they're nearly drummers!) . £155......quite the bargain I think. It had to be seeing as my pocket wouldn't stretch to a Gibson and my son had his heart set on a Thunderbird. So my question is: As a Thunderbird exponant, have you played the Epiphone version and what was your take on it if you have?
Yes, I did briefly own an Epiphone TBird, I took it to the end of the garden where I demolished it with a large axe - it helped facillitate fire lighting during the subsequent winter. On a more serious note I did actually like it from the standpoint of what a great value for money package it is - how do they knock 'em out so cheaply, it really did feel quite like the real thing with less sustain through virtue of the kneck fixing and a couple of other things which were not quite the same - density of wood, pick-up gain, etc.
One of my best friends (Dennis Taylor from Arthur Brown's band) has a son, Simon, who I have become very friendly with also - he loved the instrument so I let him have it and he got it set up with the bottom four strings of a 5 string set as I suggested, to get down, man! I just kept on going back to my old faithfull 60s TBird which is battered and gnarled, shot full of holes, not unlike myself, but when I get hold of that instrument by the scruff of the kneck, I just know we were always meant to be together. I clean it after every gig with a pair of my old boxer shorts - thats how I get that sexy sound !
Whatever works for you,
Good luck to your lad,
Martin (27 March 2007)
First Light - Can you add anything regarding the unearthing and release of this hidden gem? Did you and the others know about it's imminent release?
The sessions for this album were done at Advision late at night with a friend of ours Phil Dunne (who also got Steve and myself our first flat in London at Chalk Farm). Eddie Offard also engineered on some songs. We were hoping to sell this recording straight to a record company for release but as things turned out, Derek Lawrence became involved and helped put together a very respectable deal with MCA/Universal in the USA (with the aid of this recording) which gave us funds enough to go into De Lane Lea in Kingsway and record with Derek producing the album released as our first.
First Light is fairly short (about 37 - 38 mins I think), it does not contain a recording of "Phoenix", but there are a couple of other tracks on there, one being an instrumental tune which I seem to remember we used as a warm-up to get our fingers working on cold winter days. The other is a song that Andy sings which hints at material we developed later on. The album sounds generally full of gusto and youthfullness, (choir-boy vocals almost). I was using a home made bass guitar which I bought for £5, so you can imagine that we were not very sophisticated in terms of the sound. We were still learning our trade, and any recording experience was a plus at this point. It really is not my job to be reviewing the music but I'm sure some of you will find it interesting and others will understand why we re-recorded the album with Derek. The artwork consists mainly of pics taken around that time on a photo shoot up at the top of Hamstead with Miles Copeland's Mastiff dog as pretty much a member of the band. The thing that is remarkable is that an acetate from this session survived all these years. They are normally good for a couple of dozen plays before they start to wear and sound bad - very soft plastic. This one I would guess had not been played too much, unless someone did a brilliant restoration job on it, so the quality, for an acetate is really quite good. Well there you go, a bit pre testicularitum droppus, but amusing !
Martin (27 March 2007)
I was wondering if you ever used a large acoustic standup bass on any recordings or just mess around with one? One would think you'd get a great tone but would be limited on what you could do speed wise with the long fretboard.
Andy in the Big Easy
I've got a mate who plays Double Bass - it really is a whole different instrument, so, no, I have not made wonderful progress with this beastie. I've always said that playing a TBird was like making love to a woman, where other basses were like making love to a girl. Double Bass would therefore be like making love to a sacred cow, artificial insemnation (spelling??). I mean I have been a bull in a chinashop on occassion but never got near that one. I have fondled many a fretboard, its true, and speedwise, done some of that too, but thats not that wise or Wisefield - brings a whole new meaning: a green pasture full of cows to which a randy bull has gained entry
Later, Martin (23 March 2007)
I read somewhere on the forum gossip to the effect that you attended Asia's reunion show recently. If this is true and bearing in mind their bass player/vocalist once replaced you in WA, I wondered what your opinions on John Wetton are. There seem to be similarities - you are both bassist/vocalsts, both of you sing with a passionate delivery and you both write great songs, often with introspective and often very personal lyric content. Do you think he would have fitted in with WA?
Yes, I was at the Shepherds Bush Asia show. Enjoyed the band immensely, they set a good example of what can be achieved by original band members being prepared to forgive and forget their past differences.
I met John back in the 70s on a festival we were both playing - got on very well with him. Yes - I do think that he could have done great things within WA, and I was very excited for them when I heard he was replacing me. Unfortunately he was probably a bit too strong in all departments at a point where they were wrestling to try and get control of a tricky situation of their own making. The words "shoot" and "foot" spring to mind. Didn't the boy done well though, and I understand that after the success and a difficult more recent period wrestling a demon, JW is now back in great shape. Well done John.
Cheers, Martin (23 Mar 2007)
I've been listening to Locked In a lot lately and I am really starting to appreciate it. It seems like none of the songs on that album are ever played live, anymore. I would suggest having a go at "Rest in Peace". It would sound great live, especially with your two guitarists, and I think that it's one of your best vocal performances.
We will try and find a way to perform this much heralded tune. Problem is that the tube (voice box device) with the guitar sound coming down it into yer mouth must surely be like giving ET a blow job and all you get for your troubles is your fillings blown out. Very expensive and probably painful. Ask Andy, I seem to remember he was not crazy mad on the device after a while. Right - Its bloody late and I should be resting in peace in me bed. So it'll have to wait till later
Thank you and goodnight,
Martin (9 Feb 2007)
I see from some of the home page pics you are wielding a tobacco Thunderbird. Is this a recent addition to your collection or a borrowed one?
Another question. What other basses (apart from the Gibbos and the Hamer) do you own? I currently have 3 fender P's, an Epi T-bird, a cheepo EB3 copy and my first bass, a Framus (too fragile to gig now). My Mrs says I have too many and i should get rid of some. Any excuses as to why I should just keep the lot?
Yes the sunburst T Bird is recent and I like it a lot but have not got it fine tuned right yet. Still a bit of work to do. I just keep going back to the white beaten up job which has become virtually a part of my body. I still have the Hamer with its skinny neck and metal flake finish but the coolest thing is the serial number 0001. I had a love affair with this instrument in the 70s but I'm over it now and I never use it. I really should sell the poor thing - will do it one of these days. I have two 60s Fender precisions which I used extensively for recording the many WA albums in the 70s - lovely instruments. I have a Rickenbacker which is old but in a bit of a mess - girls guitar. Got an old original Precision like Sting used to play - its a nice machine but also needs a new home with someone who will use the thing more. Thats it - Thunderbird rules - like making love to a woman, any other bass is like making love to a girl. Its possible to go beyond this and play an active bass, which I guess would constitute a slur on your sexuality. Take my outpourings with a pinch of salt - you can make music on anything, you just have to love your instrument and your music. Good luck,
Martin T Bird Turner (9 Feb 2007)
You've probably been asked this before, my apologies...
For Live playing is your Low E string constantly tuned to 'D' or do you use 2 basses with different tunings of Low E & D, or do you de-tune the E to D on a per song basis (Brave Man).
You 'D' Man
I started dropping the low E to D around the Argus album in 72, I was not aware of any one else using this at the time, but for me it worked great - I only had three notes to worry about instead of four. Also you can't remember what the notes are on the low string so you bump into all kinds of whacky licks as you bash away. I've been turning that low E up and down for so long I'm fine with it, although I do sometimes forget and start in the wrong key. Tricky.
But the show goes on,
Martin (9 Feb 2007)