Starting Out in the Late Sixties

Pete 60'sI started my musical career playing classical violin before migrating to guitar in the late sixties. We were skint, so my equipment and instruments were begged, borrowed and self-built. I learned from electronics magazines, school physics, library patent applications and then built or adapted hardware around me to make noises. I became an electronics and materials scavenger and have never really stopped since.

My first guitar was an horrendous Spanish-style acoustic with Red Dragon strings and a warped neck. The action was 1 cm at the octave and it was unplayable beyond the seventh fret. I bought it for ‘30 bob’ and I was robbed. Still, I learned all of my original riffs and chords on it and developed an impressive set of calluses. Later I got hold of a mate’s Hofner semi-acoustic for a couple of days. It was so easy to play even though it had flat-wound strings. So, I built an electric with hand wound pickups (many thanks to Practical Electronics). It had a nice neck but no truss rod so it wasn’t particularly stable, but it made a good noise through a swiftly adapted valve radio used as an amplifier. (That was good enough for Billy Gibbons on ‘Whistle Test’ a few years later).The Broadway

 Next I got hold of a cheap pre-built guitar body and adapted it by fitting Humbuckers, Grovers, and a minuscule action. It had coil taps, phase switches, multi-select EQ’s and ‘violin-able’ master volume control. That instrument became my prime guitar for a number of years and I learned an enormous amount about solid guitar luthiery on the way. I built my first valve amplifier with mainly reclaimed components. I used ECC83’s and KT88’s (very basic circuitry)  and it was just enough to give me 100W at a push. I stuck that through home-made 1x15 and 2x12 cabs. It made a heart-warming noise until it ultimately self-destructed from road (ab)use.

Pig'n'aif - click on picture to returnMy long-term friend Steve Atkinson, with whom I developed my interest in harmony guitar work, had the first piece of kit I used to record my material. It was an Akia 4000DS with Sound-on-Sound recording so we could build full orchestrations of numbers. Now there was no looking back. I got together with a number of local musos during this period but never managed to get a complete band out gigging for most of the obvious reasons; lack of cash for gear and transport, lack of musos to play the various instruments, lack of commonality in capability and the general diversity of musical direction at the time. I formed Pig’n’aif at this time as an ongoing project/band.

At the time I started out learning to play I was listening to people like Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Peter Green, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull and Wishbone Ash. When I heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra my blues-based world fell apart and my view of guitar music required reappraising. In a perverse way, I was inspired to greater efforts to match the increased expectations laid down by John McLaughlin and his colleagues and I think I have produced a remarkable number of excellent products and collaborations on the way as a result, (although I will never reach the dizzy heights of John McL’s technique).


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