June 2017 – At Last… New in at CRAVE Guitars

posted in: News, Observations, Opinion | 0

Finally, the much-heralded and eagerly(!)-awaited relocation (see March 2017 article → click to read) has taken place and the work really starts on making the new crib habitable first, and then liveable in. This has to be completed before CRAVE Guitars can be properly resurrected, so it is still some way off before ‘normality’ returns.

 

More importantly within this context, CRAVE Guitars’ ‘collection’ of vintage instruments is in temporary storage until I can create safe, secure and environmentally appropriate musical equipment space. Providing them all with a home will take both time and significant funds. In the meantime, the availability of vintage instruments, effects and amps to hand is limited, as only 4 made the initial expedition. Eek!

 

The recent thinning out of the guitar herd means that CRAVE Guitars is now substantially smaller (by about 15%) than before the move. In addition, a load of studio gear, modern amps and a plethora of modern, far eastern effects pedals, have now found new homes.

 

The advantage of marginal rationalisation is that CRAVE Guitars’ operating model has become better focused. For instance, after the cull, the only instruments and amps remaining are American-made, of which only two that are newer than 1989 (mainly for reference comparisons). In comparison, vintage effects are a bit more diverse. While the most modern was in 1988, the pedals come from America, Japan and Europe. Stomp boxes are, and always have been, a justifiable exception to the ‘made in USA’ rule simply because they are so integrated into our musical culture.

 

Another advantage of the pre-relocation clear out is that it released some limited funds for reinvestment. A modest injection of cash enabled the acquisition of a few interesting vintage bits and pieces, including:

 

Guitars:

 

1977 Gibson L6-S Deluxe
1970s Ovation Breadwinner 1251

 

Amp:

1979 Fender Musicmaster Bass

 

Effect Pedals:

 

1981 BOSS PH-1r Phaser
1981 Ibanez CS-505 Chorus
1985 BOSS TW-1 T Wah
1978 Ibanez PT-909 Phase Tone
1976 Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer
1978 MXR Envelope Filter

 

Features and galleries on all these items can be found on the web site, so I won’t repeat the content here. Both of the ‘new’ guitars, the amp and two of the pedals were made in the USA, with the remainder of the effects coming from Japan. I think that they are all great additions to the CRAVE Guitars fold.

 

While keeping the core spotlight on Gibson and Fender guitars, the diversification into other brands is intended to broaden interest and appeal, recognising that there is more to musical heritage than the mainstream. Economics also plays a part, with vintage values rapidly increasing for the big brand’s desirable models. There are some fascinating cool and rare vintage instruments to explore.

 

It seems opportune to make no apology for the emphasis on 1970s and 1980s gear. Primarily, it was during these decades when my youthful obsession with music and, specifically, guitars began and probably peaked. Those new or second-hand guitars of that period are now becoming sought-after collectables, so I have a soft spot for them.

 

There are plenty of well-moneyed collectors scavenging 1950’s and 1960’s vintage pieces, hiking up the prices to ridiculous levels (again) while at the same time vociferously criticising some very credible 1970’s equipment in the process. The result is that many of us ordinary, enthusiastic mortals are increasingly becoming excluded (again) from instruments made in the ‘golden years’ by greedy investors and speculators.

 

I agree that there was some poor quality manufacturing from large conglomerates in the 1970s and 1980s, often caused by commercial pressures, manufacturing techniques and essential cost-cutting. However, progress needed to be made, especially in the face of far eastern competition. We shouldn’t forget that, during and the 1970s in particular, a swathe of innovation and experimentation took place that enabled the brands to sustain and rejuvenate. These strategic business factors are often overlooked or downplayed. The thing about innovation is that only some of it becomes successful, whenever it takes place. Let’s be honest, there has been plenty of dire output at other times too.  We do need to take care that we don’t fall into the trap that old is automatically good. So… my point is that the situation isn’t clear cut and, with careful selection, there is some really fine stuff out there, whatever the period.

 

Furthermore, and being a tad heretical, if it wasn’t for those major corporations rescuing and then keeping the failing brands going through lean years, they might have been lost to us altogether. Had they totally disappeared, we wouldn’t have the modern classics being made now by companies that care about the heritage. It is too easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticise the ‘70s and ‘80s without a thought for the practical. Wait a few years, see what happens and you decide whether my appraisal has some merit. It will be interesting to see what the long-term effect will be as a result of the exemplary output produced by the ‘boutique boom’ of the current decade.

 

Picking and choosing can lead to some fine vintage instruments being acquired at reasonable prices, if only because the avaricious vultures haven’t looked to make a big profit from them yet. Inevitably, it will happen and then, almost overnight, what these ‘experts’ call uncool now will suddenly become cool in order for them to make a buck. In the meantime, CRAVE Guitars is hopefully redressing the balance a bit and bringing some common sense to the debate. It is for these reasons that CRAVE Guitars is actively celebrating these guitars, amps and effects and stewarding as much as I can for future generations to enjoy.

 

Right… rant over (for now), so time to change the subject. While the ramifications of the relocation are working through, I am trying to keep CRAVE Guitars’ going as best as I can.

 

The CRAVE Guitars web site has been spruced-up. While on the surface, it doesn’t look very different, about a quarter of the site has been updated in one way or another. There is so much that I want to do with it. Hopefully, the opportunity will arise to improve it over coming months.

 

CRAVE Guitars Website
CRAVE Guitars

 

I am trying to sustain CRAVE Guitars social media output, as it is one area where one can’t take one’s eye off the ball. The platform is notoriously fickle and inactivity leads to being forgotten very quickly. During June 2017, CRAVE Guitars surpassed 2,000 Twitter followers (@CRAVE_Guitars). It took 2½ years of ceaseless hard work and over 11,000 Tweets to get there. I doubt that there is any tangible value other than global exposure for the brand (it is more a reputation than a business). One can only hope the investment in time and effort will be worth it in the end.

 

CRAVE Guitars – 2,000 Twitter Followers

 

Since the last article, Glastonbury Festival 2017 has come and gone. For the second year running, attendance wasn’t possible for family health reasons. It was very frustrating being relegated to an armchair/TV viewer. Nevertheless, this year’s festival which, even though I wasn’t there, got substantial CRAVE Guitars social media coverage. I have to say that the absence of the traditional festival quagmire was galling – mud-free Glastos are a rare thing and it would have been nice to experience a dry one. Even worse, there is no Glastonbury Festival in 2018, as it’s a fallow year to allow the dairy farm to recover. Furthermore, it isn’t clear whether the next one in 2019 will be held at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK. The farm is its spiritual, historical and, to me, only home. I hope that this year does not turn out be the last ever ‘real’ Glasto. If it moves away, it risks becoming just another bland event amongst a plethora of other generic music gatherings. I watch with interest and a touch of trepidation.

 

Glastonbury Festival 2017
Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury Festival

 

To compensate (a little) for missing Glastonbury, I’m looking forward to the local Looe music festival taking place at the end of September, almost on the doorstep. The Jesus And Mary Chain, Lulu and Happy Mondays are headlining. Interesting variety for a small regional event held towards the end of the festival season.

 

Looe Music Festival
Looe Music Festival
Looe Music Festival

 

Note to self: Time to unpack and get back into plinking my planks. Until next time…

 

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Share it.

March 2017 – A Time of Change

posted in: News, Observations | 0

Welcome to Spring 2017, guitar aficionados. If there is anyone out there keeping tabs on what’s going on at CRAVE Guitars and wondering about the lack of recent vintage purchases, here’s a quick (and short-ish) update.

 

I have mentioned previously about a necessary life-changing relocation and the fact that this has (hopefully only temporarily) curtailed my mission to bring you more Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric Guitars. You may have noticed that there has been a dearth of ‘new in’ articles and a consequent increase in ‘pretentious monologues’ (or as I prefer to call them, well-researched, in-depth, objective investigations) about guitar-related matters. This shift in emphasis was a conscious decision and directly related to the necessary change in circumstances.

 

Change is inevitable, positive change needs to be driven. As John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) wisely stated, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. The time is fast approaching when it all happens, at long last. The whole process seems to have taken forever – over 12 months already. By mid-summer, the main move will have occurred (fingers crossed).

 

 

In the meantime, I am taking some heart breaking decisions and, to me at least, making some painful sacrifices. To be precise, that means selling guitar stuff. If you suffer the guitarist’s common malady of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (a.k.a. G.A.S.), you’ll understand exactly what I mean. I have accumulated quite a lot of musical equipment over the years and it’s time to be ruthless and rational about what a remodelled CRAVE Guitars actually needs, as well as to concentrate on what it will focus.

 

 

So… Why do it? Good question for a self-confessed gearhead. There are basically three factors involved here. The first is that permanent, full-time gainful employment has ceased for now, to become a full-time carer and to concentrate on the relocation. Whether this can be categorised as ‘early retirement’ or not is irrelevant – the fact is that there currently aren’t any sources of income to fund vintage guitar, amp or effect purchases. The second is that the cost of adapting a clunky, structurally unsound, damp (and very modest) old property in a poorly accessible location costs WAY more and takes WAY longer than envisaged. It has taken every last penny of available cash and it hasn’t even happened yet. The third is that the lifestyle change demands a much simpler way of living, away from the self‑seeking, avaricious intensity of the South East of England. I am not underestimating the cultural adaptation that will be required to all the above; it will be difficult and it has to be done. A positive mental attitude is most definitely needed.

 

So… what exactly does the sacrifice entail, you may ask? Well, at the moment, the vintage guitars, amps and effects are as safe as they can be. However, most of everything else sadly has to go. This means releasing CRAVE’s more modern guitars, non-American guitars, amps, studio gear, effects, accessories, etc. The home studio gear has largely gone and the modern effect pedals are all on their way. At the time of writing, quite a few items have departed for pastures new and there are still a few more bits and pieces to go, so the hurt continues for a while. If you are interested, keep an eye on the ‘For Sale’ section of the web site – all pre-owned items are auctioned on eBay UK and, because they have to go, there are some bargains to be had. http://www.craveguitars.co.uk/home/for-sale/

 

 

Sadly, four guitars have already gone (ouch!) and a fifth is likely to go imminently. Amongst those already re‑homed are the sunburst 1999 Fender Stratocaster American Standard and the cherry 1999 Gibson SG Standard. These are superb pro instruments and I’m very sad to see them go after many years of companionship but, as ‘they’ say, needs must. If you’ve looked at CRAVE Guitars’ website home page, these two have been front and centre for a long time, even though the guitars themselves are still a few years off vintage status – time for a new photo! Just for a change, I’m looking to use  CRAVE’s vintage 1962 Gretsch and 1964 Silvertone by Danelectro (see below).

 

Old home page image

New home page image

 

I may try to hang onto a couple of modern guitars as reference instruments but the rest are either on their way or will be shortly. Most of the electronics don’t have such an emotional connection as the guitars but it is still very sad to see such a lot of good quality gear disappearing out of the door at relatively low values. I genuinely hope that the new owners are happy with their purchases.

 

If I have to excise any of the vintage gear due to circumstances, it will be immensely regrettable. That isn’t to say that I won’t sell some vintage items but the proceeds therefrom can, I hope, be reinvested in ‘new’ vintage equipment. CRAVE Guitars has to continue developing, otherwise it just becomes another stagnant private ‘collection’, the idea of which doesn’t excite or motivate me (in fact it’s one of my bugbears). I need to keep the faith and plough on, otherwise I won’t have anything to write about here!

 

 

One thing that struck me is the harsh economic reality of life. Costs of things one has to pay out for end up being far higher than one expects and the residual worth of things previously paid out for is far less than one thinks it should be. It may be stating the bleedin’ obvious that, as avid consumers, the level of depreciation between acquisition and disposal is severe but the recent experience has brought it into stark focus. Let’s just say that the cash flow sits firmly in the ‘outgoing’ column, not the ‘incoming’ one.

 

Exacerbating the value gap are the fees that eBay and PayPal rake in just for letting people sell stuff online. While I recognise that businesses have to make money, it is clear that everyone except me is making shedloads of lucre at every step along the way!

 

 

The economic laws of supply and demand mean that, at least in business terms, straightforward ownership isn’t financially sensible or maintainable without adequate income. Such is the price of an inadequately controlled hobby over a long period of time. It isn’t all bad though. There are positives, of course; one good thing is that we guitarists can get a great deal of enjoyment from using our equipment during the course of ownership. Thankfully, guitars (and everything that goes with them) can be usefully employed and are far more than static assets representing an ‘investment’ to be protected.

 

While on the subject of economic value, one thing that I’ve learned with vintage guitars is how long it takes before prices bottom out and values start appreciating again (if ever). Many vintage pieces remain in the economic doldrums for a period before regaining a higher proportion of their original retail price. The vintage market is by no means perfect; it only takes a relatively small number of wealthy collectors to intervene in the finite market and to drive prices to stupid levels (don’t get me started!). There is truth in the old adage that ‘if you’ve got money you can make money’. The converse is equally true, and sadly depressing, as I’m finding out. Although it isn’t yet consistent, some post‑recession vintage prices are beginning to escalate rapidly again which, if the trend becomes more predictable, signals the start of another unsatisfactory ‘boom and bust’ inflationary cycle.

 

 

Being didactic, if CRAVE Guitars is ever going to become a going concern, the business model needs objective re‑appraisal to ensure it can be adequately sustained as a viable entity. As a closet socialist, it goes against the grain to think about buying and selling to make a ‘profit’. As I’ve mentioned before, I have been a enthusiastic consumer but not necessarily a canny buyer and certainly a reluctantly ineffective seller. My recent experience provides tangible evidence of what I suspected all along. The culture of trading in sufficient volume to make a living is a complete mystery to me and it will be a difficult lesson to learn for someone who is not naturally inclined to commerce. I can safely say that CRAVE Guitars will never earn enough to live on but that has never been the point of the venture. However, whatever happens, I will have to stop losing money hand over fist.

 

You may well know that, to me, vintage guitars are not just soulless products to be pedalled without any sort of emotional connection with what they represent. I think that, if I harden my attitude to what are, after all, fundamentally just bits of wood, metal and plastic, it would take away a great deal of the beguiling nature of the instruments and the almost mystical vibes they generate.As Richard Branson (1950-), founder of the Virgin empire observes, “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts”.

 

Guitars, generally, have become an obsession which goes way beyond the core vintage ‘collection’. if you have ever taken a sneaky peak at CRAVE’s Twitter feed, for instance, you’ll see what I mean. I don’t anticipate that the underlying preoccupation that drives CRAVE Guitars ending any time soon.

 

 

The proceeds from the sale of the non-vintage music gear will, I hope, contribute towards the monumental costs of change. While it is sad to think that my non-vintage gear is going to fund the change in circumstance, at least the ‘career’ change is for an ethically and morally good cause. The other advantage of thinning things out is that there is less that has to be moved and less that space will be needed to home it all in the future.

 

It will take some time before the vintage items can be safely and securely relocated and I am looking forward to the time when the ‘family’ is readily to hand again. I am also looking forward to redesigning and updating the web content accordingly. Then, maybe, the mission to seek out more ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars and bring them to your attention can be resumed. Bring it on – it can’t happen soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

 

As the likelihood of ‘new in’ articles remains a way off yet, next month may revert back to observational soliloquy, for which I apologise in advance. Until then… back to thinning out CRAVE’s non-vintage gear. Boohoo!

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Wealth is not an absolute. It is what you do with what you’ve got, while you’ve got it that matters. Use it wisely”

 

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Share it.

October 2016 – The South of England Guitar Show 2016

posted in: Event, News, Observations, Opinion | 0

Here’s a change of tack for CRAVE Guitars this month and not something I would normally pontificate about. Yes, there is still some pretentious waffling, so October 2016’s article is not a complete volte face on my part. Before I get going, though, a wee bit of background in 3 points…

 

  1. My adult working life started in the music industry many, many years ago with very well-known UK south coast musical importer and distributor, which is still in business (and present at the titular event). The only point in mentioning this is that I’ve seen the world of guitar business from both sides of the tracks for a long time.
  2. I have also been to many trade shows over the years and, like many, they become pretty ‘so what’ after a while, especially those where the big manufacturers predictably roll out their shiny new stock and their professional sellers push to move product to eager consumers (or dealers). This is a necessity in any sector and is just par-for-the-course in the world of music trade. The only point in mentioning this is that, over several decades, I’ve become jaded and the anticipatory excitement of pretty new toys at these gatherings has long-since faded. As a result, I haven’t been to a sales/exhibition event for a very long time.
  3. I have also shifted away from new guitars, amps, pedals, etc. and refocused on older and vintage stuff. This passion for vintage guitars ‘n’ things germinated because I hung on to some nearly-new gear back in the day and it has now, inevitably and rather obviously, became old. New equipment rapidly lost its superficial gleam and, like me, the relic patina gained through years of continual use began to shine through in a very different way. The only point in mentioning this is that what I’m looking for now is very different to what appealed to me as a naïve teenager, when new=good, old=bad.

 

Beyond the cyclical round of big trade shows, I became aware of some regional shows also taking place in the calendar, clearly run by enthusiasts passionate about the subject matter, rather than sterile accountants obsessed with maximising the contribution to the bottom line. These ‘boutique’ events looked much more alluring to me because they encapsulated the desire for guitar music, rather than the drive for mere cash profit. To my chagrin, though, most of these provincial events took place around the north of England. Now, I have nothing against the north other than my own innate laziness to travel and the demands of a full working/family life, so these events came and went without me.

 

I have, though, campaigned for a while on social media to bring guitar shows down south. Let’s face it, the urbanised south east is where a lot of the country’s filthy lucre is stashed away, so the vacuum down here was a bit perplexing. This may be because of the prohibitive costs of putting something on anywhere near London, especially during recessionary times.

 

My ‘prayers’ were to be answered. Roll forward to October 2016. Peter and Gail from Northern Guitar Shows (notice the name) thankfully saw an opportunity to address the issue and hosted the South Of England Guitar Show at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey this year. Even better, they put me on the guest list – so a big “thank you” to them. Now there was an additional incentive to get out of bed and haul my lazy fat arse over the county boundary and go see what was on offer.

 

South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016

Northern Guitar Shows

 

My jaundiced and sceptical view of the music instrument industry (colloquially known as M.I.) has been reinforced by my recent experiences of arrogant vintage and new guitar retailers in both London and the south east. Restoring a little faith, the South Of England Guitar Show was very busy with ordinary folks keen to partake and it looked to be a major success. It also turned out to be an enjoyable experience for a weary, road-worn music veteran. All credit to Northern Guitar Shows for taking the risk with us fickle softy southerners.

 

Yes, there were the usual trade exhibitors, which one accepts, but none of the corporate big boys – no Gibson, Fender, Marshall, etc. For some, that may have been a disappointment, to me it was a blessing. To many stallholders, exhibitors and performers, it was probably run-of-the-mill and part of the annual trade circuit. Again, to me, it was refreshingly ‘intimate’ and, mostly, friendly. There were, of course, the usual dickheads who come out of the woodwork to frequent these things and make their presence known but, like bad weather, one just has to put up with them.

 

I was pleasantly surprised at the diverse range of smaller companies making the effort to extract my (sadly hard-earned, rather than ill-gotten) currency. Of note were some up-and-coming guitar makers presenting their wares, including among many others, Palm Bay Guitars, Stone Wolf Guitars and Flaxwood Guitars, all of whom make very pretty and practical musical instruments.

South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016

 

I was also pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of vintage instruments for sale including some VERY nice, but expensive, pieces – too many to mention here. The mix of new and vintage was something that has clearly come about since the last time I trudged around exhibition halls – thinking about it, there probably wasn’t a mainstream ‘vintage’ market way back then, at least not in the way there is now.

South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016

 

There was also decent live music on offer and a host of fringe stuff to maintain broader interest. Of note was The John Verity Band – to those that remember, he was in the band Argent and is a very good blues/rock guitarist. Also worth a listen was industry veteran Phil Harris commentating provocatively about the obsession with vintage authenticity by suggesting that reproductions can not only be as good as the originals but in many cases better. It was refreshing to hear someone who has profited considerably from the vagaries of the vintage market arguing to the contrary in very pragmatic terms. He is quite a nifty guitarist too. The objectionable high-net worth collector market aberration is something that I have also tried to articulate in my blogs but, heh, who listens to me?

 

South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016

 

Not only did I wander the aisles academically looking for a variety of desirable bits and pieces, I actually shelled out some dosh on a selected vintage item. I had made the effort to be there and so had the sellers, so I wasn’t about to leave empty‑handed. Was I tempted by the usual array of vintage Strats, Teles, Les Pauls, ES‑335s, et al, all going for what I still think is silly money? Hell yes, of course I was – don’t be ridiculous! Even though the art of haggling is still accepted at these events, the prime guitars were all (sadly) way out of my price range, especially during my current period of enforced purchasing abstinence.

 

So, you may ask, what did I come back with? My eye had been caught by a very modest and reasonably priced cute little guitar… a 1964-ish black sparkle Silvertone 1449 complete from Terry’s Guitars. Terry is selling much of his guitar collection and this baby was up for sale. For those who may not know, Silvertone guitars were made by Danelectro in the ‘60s for the American Sears & Roebuck department stores and were sold as a set with their ‘amp-in-case’ as an ‘all-in-one’ solution for beginners. The Silvertone is pure Danelectro, complete with twin ‘lipstick’ pickups and vinyl tape body edging. The 1449’s sweet 5-watt valve amp features a tremolo circuit and 8” speaker, all of which is cleverly integrated into the slim (and heavy) guitar case. While not the first or last, as an offering to the mass market, it was a genius idea from half a century ago and a move that proved very successful for Sears and Danelectro.

South of England Guitar Show 2016
South of England Guitar Show 2016

 

The guitar was very competitively priced because the headstock has a crack in it which, while relatively common, had been poorly ‘repaired’ (with screws – yikes!). This will need professionally seeing to and I feel a trip to see Dave at Eternal Guitars coming on. However, the guitar was otherwise very clean and all-original, and the ‘amp-in-case’ was working (albeit with a new Weber speaker to replace the original). In fact, the valve amp sounds VERY good for what was originally a budget practice amp. So, 52 years after it was made, this particular Silvertone has found a new home at CRAVE Guitars. One wonders where it might be in another 52 years’ time. Who knows?

 

I was interested in this particular guitar because I have been looking for a vintage Danelectro for ages; CRAVE has a 2008 Chinese-built Dano ’63 which is a modern interpretation of the 1449 (but no case), so this seemed an ideal match. The Silvertone also fits with CRAVE Guitars’ core ethos – Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric guitars (that’s what the acronym CRAVE stands for after all) – and the meek little hybrid ticked all 5 essential criteria. After a short haggle, Terry let me have it for  a reasonable price, including the step-down transformer for the amp’s 110V power supply, which all works perfectly. Thanks Terry. What a cool guy! Striking a great vintage deal was the icing on the cake for a Sunday out with a difference.

1964 Silvertone 1449 Amp in Case
1964 Silvertone 1449 Amp in Case

So, kudos to all concerned. The good news is that the South of England Guitar Show will return to Surrey on 29th October 2017. My advice? Why not give it a go if you like the idea. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “Age does not stop a guitarist, death does.”

 

© 2016 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

 ← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Share it.