Call of the Wild Amplifier

Some folks get into cars. A Ferrari or Jag passes by, and they’re transfixed. Others collect antique…well…anything. A relative of my collects salt shakers; I try not to judge. Sometimes it’s craftsmanship that draws us, other times it’s rarity or an investment.

But, most often, I suspect it’s mystique. An object psychologically resonates, whether you need it or not. (Usually, you don’t.) Still, you can’t look away. At various times in my life, I’ve felt the irresistible pull of a Canon F1 SLR, a professional workhorse of infinite flexibility and outstanding construction. When I lived in New York, where having wheels was a serious hassle, I spent a couple days of moral torment over a neighbor selling their black and gold Honda Hawk 450 before coming to my senses and realizing Manhattan was very possibly the worst place in the world for an overly cautious driver to ride a impressively light, fast motorcycle. Thus, I’m still using my corneas. And, for the longest time, I couldn’t pass an IBM Selectric typewriter without my mouth going dry; it was the most elegant of machines. I couldn’t probably pick one up for a pittance now, but, you know, now what’s a typewriter?

Then there’s guitar amplifiers.

Which is ridiculous because I have a very, very good amp that’s so stunningly clean and loud that I’ve never turned past five. As it’s very neutral in tone, it’s an ideal tool for applying effects boxes (another addictive gizmo…you start out thinking, well, it’d be nice to have a flexible delay unit, just for playing those U2 riffs, and the next thing you know, you’re eyeing the original Univibe Hendrix used playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock). But…ah. You innocently go to a music shop to try out said delay, and they say, yeah, man, pick any guitar off the rack and plug in to any of the amps…they’re all on. You bet they are. And you go, oh, right. Well, I play a Strat; so I guess I’ll grab this, uh, $5,000 Robert Cray signature model and I’ll plug it into…. Oh, look. They happen to have a Fender Vibro-King Custom 60W 3×10 Tube Combo. That’ll do.

Seriously: do not do this. Because that tone will hook you, shining, shimmering. And late that night, when you’re trying to fall asleep, you’ll hear those icy notes dripping like droplets off an icicle. And pretty soon, tone knobs will be dancing through your mind’s eye, and you’ll find yourself looking for a jar in the garage that’ll work for tossing in a couple bills, you know, now and again. Just in case.

Forget. Plug in the amp you have. Turn it up to…six. And listen to how utterly lousy you play. Whatever you do, don’t think of a blackface grill with the ultra retro cool Fender script logo. Anything but that. Anything….

Amp lust. It’s ugly.

Then again, if there’s anyone out there not using a vintage amp tucked in a closet….

No. That would be wrong. I know it. And you know it.

*sigh*

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

2 responses to “Call of the Wild Amplifier

  • Mead

    All right, SP….much as I love re-reading this post over and over, it's nice for a new one. You've developed an appetite for your post and now it must be sated.

  • splattworks

    Sorry, Mead. It's been busy at work, and I've been spending my other time typing up the new play, "Immaterial Matters"…which I just finished today, by the way. I did manage to play Talking Heads "Heaven" last night…can "Drugs" be far behind?And, of course, I pretty much negated this entire post by going out and buying a Vox AD30VT, which can more or less do anything.

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