Baby it’s the Guitar Dude

1971: Ovation instruments of New Hartford CT releases “the Guitar Dude,” a 100-watt 2×15 guitar amp.

1972: Bread, the band that virtually invented lite-rock, releases the album and single ‘Guitar Man,’ one of the most melancholy songs ever written about the life of a rock musician, right there with Superstar and Turn The Page

Who draws the crowd and plays so loud
Baby it’s the guitar man
Who’s gonna steal the show
You know, baby, it’s the guitar man

He can make you love
He can make you cry
He will bring you down
Then he’ll get you high
Somethin’ keeps him goin’
Miles and miles a day
To find another place to play

Night after night who treats you right
Baby, it’s the guitar man
Who’s on the radio
You go listen to the guitar man

Then he comes to town
And you see his face
And you think you might
Like to take his place
Somethin’ keeps him driftin’
Miles and miles away
Searchin’ for the songs to play

Then you listen to the music
And you sing along
You want to get the meaning
Out of each and every song
Then you find yourself a message
And some words to call your own
And take them home

He can make you love
He can get you high
He will bring you down
Then he’ll make you cry
Somethin’ keeps him movin’
But no one seems to know
What it is that makes him go

Then the lights begin to flicker
And the sound is getting dim
The voice begins to falter
And the crowds are getting thin
But he never seems to notice
He’s just got to find
Another place to play

Either way
Got to play
Either way
Got to play

Boxxes of Foxx(es)

Above: a scan of the 1974 fOXX catalog: we see the O.D. Machine, the Loud Machine, the Fuzz & Wa & Volume, the Down Machine, the Clean Machine, etc…

“Fuzz so thick it grew a coat.”  There’s no rule that mandates that effect pedals need to be built into painted metal boxes.   Just as Kustom rallied against the tolex-hegemony with their Naugahyde-plush guitar amplifiers, fOXX was a Chatsworth, California based company that burst onto the rock scene in 1971 with a range of guitar-effects pedals that were covered in furry, fuzzy material.  Shit, man, it’s a fuzz pedal, let’s cover that fukker with fuzz! There are certainly a number of secondary interpretations as well but… you can figure that out on yr own time.

Besides the iconic fOXX pedals, fOXX also sold amplifiers.  Let’s see… if you have a company named fOXX and you want to sell some amps…  What other famous amp rhymes with fOXX?

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fOXX amps were, apparently, real Vox AC30s with a new badge attached.  Read the whole story here.

Don’t forget yr fOXX-brand coiled-cable.  I really hope these weren’t furry too…stale beer sticks to ordinary rubber cables well enough; imagine its attraction to furry cables.


Above: The fOXX Wa Machine, Fuzz and Wa, and Power Machine.  The Power Machine is one of a largely lost category of guitar effects that were intended to be inserted directly into the instrument rather than interface with a cable.  Other notable examples of this slightly awkward form-factor include the Electro Harmonix LPB-1 and the entire Dan Armstrong ‘Sound Modifiers’ line

The fOXX Octave Fuzz, available in five plush varieties.

fOXX is back (?), although I can’t find any indication that it’s actually the same folks responsible.  Visit their website here.  The reissue Tone Machine is available as a kit for $109 or ready-made for $149.

Also… you might enjoy a visit to this great fOXX Tone-Machine tribute site.

Heil in the Seventies

From Wikipedia:

Bob Heil (October 5, 1940) is…most well known for creating the template for modern rock sound systems. He founded the company Heil Sound in 1966,which went on to create unique touring sound systems for bands such as The Grateful Dead and The Who.  He invented the Heil Talk Box in 1973, which was frequently used by musicians such as Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and Richie Sambora, and is still in use today.”

Bob Heil is a great American inventor.  I’ve written about him before on this site; click here for an example.  Here’s a quick look at some of Heil’s products from the mid 1970s.  If anyone out there is still using any of these pieces, drop us a line and let us know…

The Heil HM88 Stereo Mixer

The Heil HM1000 Stereo mixer with optional plug-in phaser.  Wow can you image.  What would the modern equivalent of this functionality be?  Built-in AutoTune?

The Heil HM1200 console with +/- 22DB equalization.  Good lord.

The Heil Talkbox, the first of its kind.  The bio-mechanical translation of a vocoder: pitch and formant information are supplied as distinct elements and a unique hybrid results.

The Seventies

For the next two weeks at PS dot com: we’ll be taking an extended journey through the 1970s.  I was born in 1976, and according to a lot of very smart people, the early impressions that we experience become deeply imprinted on our minds.

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As far as audio culture, sartorial style, musical taste, etc: which of these impressions formed my Hero paradigm?  Which became sublimated to create my Shadow self?  My Anima?  How might these concepts be present as projections in my conscious life?

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Perhaps a scan through the RocknRoll audio-culture of the 1970s will shed some light on these hidden operations.  Join us for what promises to be an interesting journey…

PAiA : Synth DIY circa late 70’s

From the pages of various musician’ mags of the late 70s: The Collected Works of the PAiA Electronics marketing department.  PAiA is, and has been for decades, the standard-bearer for good-quality kits for musical instruments and musical accessories.  I am not aware of any other company that spanned the original DIY electronics era with the modern ‘circuit bending/group DIY ing/ craft-boutique-audio etc’ eras.  They are still very much alive+ kicking and I’m glad for it.   When I was in school I built a PAiA theremax theremin  – it cost $175 complete at the time and went together with no issues in 6 hours – i used it on a ton of recordings, both as an audio source and as a dual-control-voltage generator for dramatic filter-frequency cut off in live performances (this was the Electroclash era, after all).  Anyway.  The other weekend a fellow was selling a decent-looking but untested PAiA 4700 modular synthesizer system from the mid 1970s.  He was asking $800, seemed ready to take $500, and eventually got his $500 on eBay from an eager Swede via eBay. Let’s take a look back on what else this venerable company was offering in that era…

The PAiA Drum Percussion Synthesizer circa 1979 – seems to be like an 808 minus the sequencer

The PAiA GNOME micro-synth c. 1981

The PAiA programmable drum set c. 1979

The PAiA Proteus Synthesizer circa 1981

If you ever come across old used PAiA gear: remember: most were user-built, and usually by people with little or no experience in electronics assembly.  So caveat emptor.

Concept 1 Delta Guitar Amplifer circa 1974

I stumbled across a 40yo advert for a guitar amplifier that I had never heard of: the 300-watt Concept 1 Delta, of which only /as few as 10 or as many as 100/ were ever sold.  In attempting to research it, I came across one of the most obnoxious GearS____ (sorry I can’t bring myself to type that word) posts that I have ever read.  Check it out if you want to become irritated.  This pretty much sums up my feelings about the worst elements of online culture.  Good god.  The gentlemanly figure involved here (and designer of the intriguing Delta) is Harvey Gerst, who owns this joint (and what a saint he must be, with those crazy low-fixed-price production packages for local bands) and wrote a few of the early Byrds’ songs.

Is anyone aware of a blog that tracks the most obnoxious, moronic, or otherwise awful GearS____ threads?

DOD Effects Pedals Circa 1980

DOD.  The effects pedal brand that spanned the (original) MXR and BOSS eras, never having quite the cachet of either, but keepin’ on keepin’ on well into the 21st.   They are solid products – I have owned many and nary a complaint.  However… I would love to know what ever happened to their graphic design.  Check out these circa ’80 adverts.  Fantastic, clean-looking things, soon to devolve into a swirling mass of ill-advised colors and garrish type-treatments.   Perhaps focus-group tested to appeal to a younger consumer?  Anyone out there ever do art direction for pro audio gear?  Drop us a line and weigh in…

The Introduction Of The 4-Track

1979.  Teac/TASCAM introduces the 144 Porta-Studio, the first four-track integrated tape machine/mixer.  The first 4-track.  A truly revolutionary product for many reasons, and the first of a product category that would have a profound effect on musical and audio aesthetics of the next 30 years.  The two-page spread above is the advert that introduced this product to the public.

For all its importance, the 4-track was actually the lesser of two novel cassette-based products introduced by Japanese companies in 1979 which would have a profound global cultural impact.  The other one?  Click here if you haven’t guessed yet.

For an earlier discussion of the 144 and its legacy, click on this link


When Hi Fi was a hobby, not an industry

Download a four-page article from High Fidelity, 1966, on the subject of ‘early hi-fi’:

DOWNLOAD: High_Fidelity-6604-How_It_All_Began

Thanks to TF for sending us this piece.  The article provides an interesting perspective on the changes in state-of-the-art sound reproduction between the years 1950 and 1966.  The main themes worth noting: early hi-fi required more craft-work on the part of the consumer (fabricating cabinets, etc), had worse ergonomics, and of course: it was mono.

Ibanez Guitars of the early 1980s part 1

When I was learning to play the guitar in suburban CT in the late 80s, the name Ibanez was pretty much synonymous with ‘guitar.’  Every shop sold Ibanez guitars, and most kids owned them.  My brother and I had imported Fenders, which were considered old-fashioned at the time (this was pre-Cobain).  I still have (and use) my $380 1990 ’52 Telecaster reissue.  I can’t imagine that I would have kept a 1990 Ibanez RG for all this time.

Big Cats (Tigers)/Tiger-stripped maple tops, git it?   Before Ibanez introduced the RG and S lines, they had a large run of transitional models that bridged the gap between the ‘Lawsuit’ -era Gibson copies that first allowed them to gain traction in the US market and the ‘super-strat-shredder’ things that sold so vigorously in the late 80s.   The AR series was their Les Paul-type instrument, and I believe that some variety of AR has remained in production since 1979 or so.  Just a few years ago I picked up a 1980 Ibanez AR50 (very similar to the object depicted above, minus the flame maple top, inlay, and binding) for …$80?  at the flea market.  Fantastic guitar.  Within a few weeks I bought a circa 1975 Ibanez Rickenbacker-copy bass…  for $65.  Yesterday, at the same flea market, I found another circa ’75 Ibanez Rick bass, poured out of the back of a box truck along with old shirts, patio furniture, and chipped crockery.  “Five Hundred Dollars,” said the truck-owner.  “It’s a lawsuit model.”  The cat is clearly out of the bag.

The Ibanez AS series, their 335-type instrument.

Ibanez guitar effects circa 1981.  Still highly-coveted units.  We have an AD80 analog delay at Gold Coast Recorders and it gets used on a great number of productions.  It’s unusual in that it uses two 9V batteries rather than one.  I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison with our similar-era Boss DM-2 delay pedal but maybe soon…

More early Ibanez coverage to come soon to PS dot com…  If yr into this sort of thing, I highly recommend this book: “Ibanez The Untold Story”... which seems to be out of print…  but well worth seeking out.

Check out some previous early Ibanez Guitar coverage on PS dot com:

Ibanez Guitars 1975

Ibanez Guitars 1977


information and ideas about audio history