Me & Junior: the struggle continues
The Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 5.29.2020
Welcome friends, to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, that thing I do where I produce an annotated, illustrated recap of the week in Dr Frank, so that the items therein may be found in future, should I ever want to do that. I do it mainly for myself, but as always feel free to read along. It functions as a sort of newsletter, I suppose, or would function that way if anyone were actually to read it.
The update on my still slightly troubled and misbehaving old 1957 Les Paul Junior is the first item directly below.
Read on, reader, if such there be.
ME & JUNIOR
— Revisiting the on-going Les Paul Jr. restoration project. The picture (inset left) was taken four years ago when the work was first done after a whole lot of neglect.
And yes, that is the Revenge Is Sweet… album cover sweater, which I (obviously) still have; I still have the hand, too. (It’s effectively a hat rack at the moment.)
Anyway, in case you don’t know, what we’re talking about is a genuine 1957 Les Paul Junior that I bought ca. 1991, from a guy who told me its previous owner had been Johnny Guitar Watson. It cost $600, which was an outrageous amount to spend on a guitar in those days for one such as I, but, well I really, really wanted it. Most of the guitar on Our Bodies Our Selves, …and the Women Who Love Them, and Love Is Dead was done with it, and it has a vibrant, shimmering, biting quality that you can really hear in stark relief especially on …and the Women Who Love Them I think. It was also a feedback machine — which you can also hear in those recordings — difficult to control at the best of times.
It often would pick up radio signals, resulting in the guy saying “I just hate everybody, I want to kill everybody, too” and laughing at the beginning of “I Feel Love” on OBOS. (That was just fortuitously timed: Kevin said “rolling” and the CB radio guy broke in to say that just as the song was starting. No editing: that’s the guitar track as is. He also said other quite nasty stuff, some of which may well be subliminally in the mix here and there. Recording magic.)
It was my main guitar from 1992 through 1997 when I acquired my first Epiphone Coronet, the one I still play now, mostly.
By that time the Les Paul Jr. was really in bad shape, not even playable, the bridge posts having leaned all the way to the pickup, a common problem, I was to learn, with these guitars, and not so easy to fix in this case because one of them had been epoxied in at some point and it really took some doing to remove and reseat it. I just put it away and didn’t touch it for another twenty years, when I finally had a guy look at it and try to fix it.
Here’s the write-up I did at the time on my blog. Since then, I’ve taken it out for a spin a few times in the live show setting and while it is certainly much better now in that it is playable and more or less tuneable, I have reluctantly concluded that it is still not reliable enough, as it stands, to use regularly in this capacity. It can be tuned and played, but it’s still a bit tricky, and it always feels slightly on the edge of going out of tune even at its best. There’s always something on the verge of being not right even when it’s basically sort of almost right. I lived that way for a good many years, but I can’t live that way now.
Also the bridge, which is a wrap-around replacement for the standard bar type with adjustable bits (theoretically) necessary for proper intonation, sits so close to the pickup that it’s pretty much impossible to restring without removing the whole thing from the posts, which obviously messes up any previously-done set-up and only adds to the problem. I dread to think of what would happen if I broke an E or B string on stage, though thankfully it didn’t happen at any of the handful of shows I tried it out in. My trusty Coronet, with its Badass bridge, is rock solid, and there’s really no choice in the matter. It’s not so pretty maybe but it by God gets results. Look:
(I wish I could use one of those with this guitar but there’s not nearly enough room for it.)
Of course, the tone is great. Beyond great. It’s wild, more beast than guitar, really. If I ever get a chance to record again for real, it’ll sound great in the mix, and I’m using it. Tuning between takes is no big deal, unlike tuning before each and every song in a set.
All this means is, the struggle continues. I’ve heard that Tone Pros posts can make a big difference, and maybe that’s the next thing to try. (I’ve also heard that chapstick or graphite on the nut can work wonders — this was Jimmy Page’s secret, so I’m told; when I tried it though it just made a mess and didn’t seem to fix anything.)
Despite everything, I still love this guitar and in the moments when it behaves itself it’s a joy to play. And the tone is out of this world. But it turns out, after all that work, it still needs work. We’ll see what happens.
— …and the Women Who Love Them re-issue test pressing update: a nice testimonial from Justin Perkins, who ordered the orginal CD ep twenty-six years ago from Lookout, and has now remastered the vinyl 12" 45 RPM re-issue.
It sounds great. And that turntable looks fantastic.
— Mtx forever, still a thing:
Still working through that second pressing, that is.
RUNNING ON MTX
— Update on the case of the unlabeled tape: and the update is that, two years later, it’s still unidentified.
This is in fact but one of many un- or ill-labeled tapes of course. About which you can read in “Tape Hunt Notes Part 1”. The only update there is that we did use the alternate (but really original) mix of “Book of Revelation” for Mtx forever.
— Tomorrow is a harsh… companion: just some twitter silliness from an evidently wokified AP Stylebook. The Dr Frank stylebook has a clear position on euphemisms: they’re almost always a bad idea, but also frequently hilarious. Use the words you like, the better to express your meaning, rather than in expectation of a pat on the head from an authoritarian twitter account.
— Jeff Rosenstock has a new album and did one of those things where you give a publication a listicle of songs, for Brooklyn Vegan in this case. There’s a nice “shout out” to the MTX and the song “Love Is Dead” is on the list. (We established that “shout out” does indeed mean what I thought it did.) Cheers, Jeff!
— Short Music for Short People: speaking of Brooklyn Vegan we’re generally not hip (or hep) enough to warrant mention from them, but this must be a slow week because there wound up being two such this week, including this post which capsule-reviews each of the 101 songs on the Fat Wreck Chords comp of short songs. Their take on “Told You Once” is fair:
Here it is, btw:
— Joel’s Birthday card: just a birthday card I gave to MTX bass player Joel shortly after he joined up… April 1995…
Posting this confused some people, who wondered why I had this card in my possession after I had (so I claim) given it to him. Something just didn’t add up. So allow me to explain the timeline:
A. I give Joel this card;
B. time passes;
C. Joel finds it in a box of stuff and takes a picture of it;
D. Joel posts this picture on the internet;
E. I notice Joel’s post and copy the photo;
F. I post the copy of the photo;
G. the internet becomes confused.
— Odin: this week’s song for Odin was “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”, live in Italy, November, 1997.
The “minor secrets” write-up is here, featuring a good bit about how Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You became Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You despite all my best and worst efforts. The Songs for Odin playlist is here.
— … and your Friday morning “Alternative Is Here to Stay!”
DR FRANK ON TAP
— Speaking of RISASAY, I linked to my retrospective essay on Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You in the “The Weather Is Here…” Odin write-up, and quite a few people seem to have clicked over to it. Thanks for that — I wasn’t sure anyone did that anymore. In fact, I put a great deal of thought and effort into the summation, and it’s still just as valid as ever, so in case anyone missed it or would like to review it, here it is again: My Stupid Revenge.
Punk rock was 20-ish years old, the Love Is Dead iteration of “pop punk” was something like the current Zeitgeist-y fad, but compositionally, my head was all the way back in the 1930s…
Well, I mean, what could go wrong? Quite a lot as it turns out, but it kind of went wrong in the right way nevertheless, more or less.
— This… is G. K. Chesterton: sometimes I post pictures of my cat.
OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
— New from my old bandmate Jon von, “Don’t Bury Your Dead” by Human Toys:
— Not safe for work if you still have a job and work for prudes: just a nice, blurry girl…
— and plus:
And that’ll about wrap it up for the Weakly Reader this week. But for those of you who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s… Baphomet:
See you next week.