westone-81rainbow_v1-7

81 Westone Rainbow I · a little piece of guitar history

Once upon a time in high school, I had long hair. I didn’t have a lot of ambition, no real goals to speak of or dreams worth sharing; I was a pretty average, simple kinda kid. All I really wanted was to be a guitar-wielding demi-god in a band. Nothing major. Jimmy Page, Kurt Cobain, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Nick Cave, Ed Kuepper… I wanted to be that. Or pretty much anyone from Radiohead, REM, Guns’n’Roses, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Toad The Wet Sprocket… you get the idea. My tastes were a mess varied in a very pre-cultured way. So for a kid with no real ambition, I had a lot of ambition. Problem was: I didn’t know a single thing about playing guitar. I just hung out with musicians and thought “that’s what I want”. I recall a Sunday afternoon way back in early 1990-something listening to Richard Kingsmill (Triple J) play Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy in its entirety – and that was a life changing moment. I couldn’t rest until I learned No Quarter and Over The Hills & Far Away. So I had to find a guitar.

I’ll jump forward a few years here, during which I befriended people based on their guitar collection rather than the quality of their soul. In fact , if any of their relatives owned a guitar, that was adequate. One such friend had an older brother (Hi Susan! Hi Andrew!) who owned a lovely guitar, but had moved onto bass. Or drums. Or glockenspiel… I really don’t recall details, other than that he had this beautiful guitar in the corner that looked just like a 1959 Gibson ES-335. I had to have it. I knew nothing about it (and little more than that about playing it) but I was completely smitten. If my memory serves, he wasn’t all that interested in anything with 6 strings at this stage and had picked up the French Horn. He sold that guitar to me for about $100 and thus was born my passion for guitar.

“Being a musician is akin to a fool’s game. It involves utter faith in yourself; and it’s a game of exploring, documenting and ultimately exposing every personal weakness & vulnerability, every mistake and heartache – and trying to look wonderful while doing it.”

I’ll jump forward a few more years here. For years I played in a band that saw little success in any definable financial sense (other than beer and travel expenses) and certainly no lasting commercial identity. This guitar lived its life largely in an open C6 tuning, used purely to play Led Zeppelin‘s Bron-Yr-Aur to open our set each night. That’s it – that was the extent to which I used this beautiful instrument, and I can only redeem that by saying I think I did the song proud. At least I hope I did! I take my hat off to people like Jack Carty, Simon & Melinda from The Falls, Heather Fay, Ryan Van Sickle – being a musician is akin to a fool’s game. It involves utter faith in yourself; and it’s a game of exploring, documenting and ultimately exposing every personal weakness & vulnerability, every mistake and heartache – and trying to look wonderful while doing it. The road to success is long, painful and lonely. I couldn’t walk it with the band I was in, and only now years later do I find the heart and desire to even think about trying it again. And it’s all thanks to this guitar:)

Matsumoku '81 Westone Rainbow I · Canadian Ash

The actual ’81 ‘Rainbow I’ seen in the Westone catalog. Varnished Canadian Ash top. Serial: 104842

So: the guitar Andrew sold me is a little piece of history. Matsumoku Industries made exceptionally fine ‘affordable’ guitars in Japan before their parent company, “Singer” (famous for sewing machines), encountered hardship. The name Westone is famous among guitar enthusiasts for the very finest craftsmanship at a price musicians could afford. To this day, their earlier instruments are highly prized and eagerly sought after by those that know their quality. They are a very passionate bunch – and their forum members have been very helpful in my recent efforts to learn more about this lovely instrument .

The Rainbow has quite a complex genealogy. There are three Rainbows (Rainbow I, II & III) and the first has three ‘versions’, each with unique identifying characteristics. I discovered not only was mine one of the first (being the earliest of forebears, the Rainbow I) – but that it was identifiable as the “version 1″ due to the shape of the F-holes, the brass nut and… wait. Here I was, pawing over the original 1981 Westone catalog (pictured below). The beautiful grain of that Canadian Ash top. More importantly, the very unique grain. It was eerily familiar. I examined it with excruciating care; each minute detail and nuance – and I began to get excited. Utterly disbelieving, but excited. The catalog instrument was the one sitting in the case beside me; there was no doubt in my mind. The actual very same instrument they photographed for the catalog. And after a few ‘expert’ eyes from the Westone Guitars forums had wandered over both images, there was little to no doubt remaining. It had to be that instrument used to photograph the catalog! How it came to be in a bedroom in Sydney, Australia is anyone’s guess. I have been in touch with Andrew and he recalls buying it from Turramurra music – beyond that, there’s no trail.

1981 Westone Catalog

1981 Westone Catalog

I had left it stored it in Sydney for over 8 years, and it had travelled wonderfully considering the inherent risks. Having discovered the historical value of my guitar, I decided to use a professional to help me restore it properly. Apart from the missing scratch plate (which I recall removing in about 2002 – I still maintain it looks better without!) it was in exceptionally good condition, with all original parts. The wiring is still solid, the pots and jack still great. The neck is without doubt the most beautiful I have ever played; the action quite simply made for me. A huge thanks to Rob at Guitar World in Rockingham – you did a wonderful job! That dicky switch hasn’t missed a tick since I left the shop mate; fingers crossed!

Rob, Guitar World Rockingham

Rob, Guitar World Rockingham

Two questions I have been asked repeatedly: what is this guitar worth, and is it for sale? Well, it’s value is really an unknown. They were never “top end” guitars, and the price of the day back in 1981 was about £197 (source: 1981 catalog). I bought it for about AUD$150 in 1994 (Andrew – I know you paid about that for  it, but surely Turramurra had their pricing all wrong – unless it was second hand?). I’ve been offered AUD$1,000 for it, and I’m not even slightly interested. It could be worth $500, it could be worth $2000 – it all depends what someone is willing to pay. So, question the second: is it for sale? Absolutely not. I own an electric/acoustic Maton EM325 (c1998) and a c’95 Gibson Les Paul Standard. They are both exceptionally fine instruments, and arguably I am not worthy of either of them. What I do know is: this Westone Rainbow I is the match of either of them, with some to spare. It is a breath-taking instrument to play, and I wouldn’t part with it for any money.

Now I’m off to learn Bron-Yr-Aur again, and hopefully do this fine instrument a good turn. Enjoy the photographs; please leave comments/questions. But first, here’s some answers from the FAQ files:

  • I don’t know any more about Matsumoku than you can find here on wikipedia.
  • The best resource for information about Westone Guitars is westoneguitars.net – maintained by Barry Eames.
  • The value of your Westone is what you are willing to part with it for. I can’t advise you any further!

Enjoy the photos! The Catalog 1981 Westone Rainbow I (version 1). Name: “Spades”

Links:

http://www.westoneguitars.net/

Guitar World (Rockingham) – Facebook page

Jack Carty · The Falls · Heather Fay · Ryan Van Sickle

HighTea_6313

High Tea and Pirates

A High Tea Adventure

One of the little things Flea has been missing since she moved to Australia is a good “high tea”. A friend of hers in the “Old Country” had done a bit of research and bought us some vouchers to “Maddison Cottage“; a little venue in Perth where such a thing can be enjoyed… one gets the feeling they might be few and far between. We enjoyed getting a bit dressy & had a lovely drive out to Guildford on a lovely rainy day; the first genuinely wet day of the year. We enjoyed a few different teas, made more lovely by a ‘free pot refill’. I’ll admit I did arrive hoping to find a good steak burger on the menu (I was a little misguided as to what was on offer at a High Tea) – but none the less, we were fairly impressed with the morsels.

The setting was lovely, although it felt a little cramped. The tables were clean and well set; and everything was well presented. Sadly though, it was all let down by awful restroom facilities (and after two full pots of tea, you can be sure you’ll need them before you depart). I’m not talking “Trainspotting” awful – it wasn’t filthy. “Functioning” is, however,  about the only positive thing I can say about it. No more than a household loo, it is directly adjacent to their kitchen & one can clearly hear every dish and sniffle coming from the pantry. Which means; they can hear you. I enjoyed listening to staff talking about customers for a few moments before we left. I didn’t use the hand towel provided (on the restroom floor) and left, hand dripping, through a maze of kitchen supply boxes and various other flotsam.

A pleasant enough venue, just don’t look behind the scenes. A real shame! However, Flea looking absolutely stunning and we enjoyed the adventure:)

Piracy & eternal damnation

We’ve been enjoying  a smorgasbord of television programming; Season 4 of Game of Thrones having been the most anticipated. But wow, how good is Fargo (Billy Bob Thornton / Martin Freeman) so far?! We’re loving it:) What else?

  • The Killing (loving it!)
  • Boss
  • Not Going Out
  • Fargo (loving it!)

I’m a bookworm who’s read all off George R R Martin’s books before seeing the show; Flea is watching it first. We’re both enjoying season 4 thus far; Arya & The Hound being my favourite story line. it was sad to not see them this week! No spoilers on this page (because you never know, Flea just might read my blog) – but I want at least 10 minutes of them in every episode this season…

Oh – Sansa and Petyr Baelish – at last! This is one story line I’m excited about:) Obviously they’re going to skip Petyr’s homeland for the TV series which is a bit of a shame, but it should still be great!

"...the only thing he wanted was what I'd given him the night before."

“…the only thing he wanted was what I’d given him the night before.”

MAR04_01

Life Without a Cigarette

March 4th, 2013 – my first full day without a cigarette in as many years as I can remember. I can remember those first 3 or 4 weeks pretty clearly; I won’t lie, they weren’t easy. At times they were hell. And yet, somehow here I am a year later: happier, healthier, and I haven’t had a single ‘relapse’ cigarette. Not even a drag.

This isn’t a reformed smoker rant – I hate those people, too – it’s something that I truly hope just helps ONE person go through this crappy quitting thing. That would make me happy.

Before I tell you how I made it, I think first I’ll share with you who I was. I was the ultimate smoker. I’m sure every smoker says that, but I truly was. I believed I would die smoking. Quitting was way too hard – I had tried countless times – I enjoyed smoking so much, I had convinced myself dying from some crappy smoking-related illness was worth it. I had even started mentally preparing for it… I couldn’t convince myself I was “young” any more, but I could convince myself that I had had a pretty wonderful life, and it could end tomorrow and I’d be satisfied. I smoked a pack a day at my worst, and most of a pack any other day of the year. I smoked with coffee in the morning, and sometimes while I was making the first coffee. I smoked while I walked to the train station, and while I walked from central to work. I smoked another quick one before I started. I called morning tea “smoko” because that made it okay. I smoked several at lunch, and anything after knock-off was fair game. I smoked when I was busy, and I smoked to  kill boredom. I smoked to kill hunger, and later when I’d eaten, I’d smoke because I was too full. I smoked just before bed (but never IN bed) but occasionally got up through the night to have one. Some of that is shameful – but this is the honest me, and I know it’s plenty of other smokers, too.

MAR04_02

Smoking makes you a heinous butt-breath’d chemical dependent zombie.

I don’t even know what triggered my very sudden ‘attempt’ at quitting a year ago. I had already tried so many times… the ‘cutting down’ method (that never works) – patches, purging — blah blah blah. I did the right things, but I never once thought the right things. Then, in March 2013, with no great planning, preparation or fanfare, I said a few things to myself.

I am sick of paying for cigarettes. I am sick of putting money in the pockets of rich men who keep making this shit for me. I am sick of scratching around for a few spare dollars when things are tight, only to spend them on smokes. I am sick of feeling so utterly desperate for something that I know will kill me. I am so utterly tired of remembering how fit and healthy I used to be, yet knowing in my heart I’d struggle to sprint 100 meters. I love smoking – but I’m just so utterly sick of needing it, wanting it, knowing I’ll die for it. I’ve had enough.

There were no grand plans or schemes this time. No promises, no goals, no pressure. I was done and that was that. That doesn’t mean it was easy; it was hell. The cravings came… but they went, too. They came hard and fast, but they went away, too. They left me sweating and swearing and raving and desperate – then suddenly they were gone. Ebbs and flows – those first three or four weeks weren’t easy, but that’s all it was. 28 days, and my body was free. Now I had to get that shit out of my head.

Well, I can honestly say 365 days later: I’m still not 100% there. Every 4 or 5 weeks I get a bit of a pang. I’ll walk past someone smoking in the street and my nostrils flare & my fingers twitch . And the loveliest thing about that is – I don’t want one. I still love the idea of smoking and I still don’t hate the smell of it (people are telling me I will – and I still don’t believe them!) – but I don’t physically want one, and there’s no way in hell I’d put one in my mouth. Like an alcoholic – I’ll be a smoker until the day I die – I just won’t smoke.

A year later and a few days shy of my thirty-seventh birthday – I am so damn proud of this achievement; because I alone know how hard the battle was for me. Now I’m running every morning, and I’m out in the ocean at least a few times a week. I’ve saved every dollar I would have spent smoking in a separate account, and let me tell you, it is absolutely vile how quickly that money adds up. I went to London and back on that money. I met the love of my life, and now she lives with me here in Australia, and with a little luck, I’ll live to have her beside me when I’m 102.

Quitting is shit – it’s among the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – but it’s not impossible.

If it helps, visit/call QuitNow in Australia 13 78 48 – personally, I ended up discovering that I had to do it by myself, for myself. All the support & encouragement in the world didn’t help until I realised how much I wanted it out of me for myself. All I want to say to you (or someone you know) is – it is possible, you can do it – I know this, because I made it.

So: go on, try again to get that shit out of your life. I’d say “don’t give up” – but I really want you to.

If you want to talk about it with me, or ask me for tips or how you can help a friend – leave a comment and I’d love to know I’ve reached someone, somewhere!

Dr. Kevin Donnelly

Sexuality – the Great Uneducated lead the way

Dr. Kevin Donnelly

Dr. Kevin Donnelly

Journalist Gareth Hutchens wrote an article published today titled: “Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne’s reviewer“. It explores a book written in 2004 by Dr. Kevin Donnelly (and commissioned by Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre¹) where Dr. Donnelly penned:

“The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be ‘positive in its approach’ and that school curricula should ‘enhance understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’. Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS.”

The article explores what seems to be his fundamental belief that ‘only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex’. As I write this, I recall the first thing I read this morning was news of the passing of  Phillip Seymour Hoffman; that news shocked me. (I’ve become belatedly aware of his fight with addiction, but his image as a hard-working actor prevailed). However, not anywhere near as shocked as I was to read this article. It is utterly appalling me that someone so charged with shaping the education of our country’s next generation could propagate such  complete and contemptible ignorance.

I understand that some members of society struggle to accept people who identify as LGBT. It can be uncomfortable & challenging to accept things we don’t understand; things that initially seem so far removed from our own personal realm of experience. I felt much the same way studying History; many elements of our past beggar belief, some more than others. However, I have the fortune to have been raised by people who have taught me the difference between enduring a new concept, and encompassing it in who I am. Yes, I did grow up knowing people who didn’t share my ideas of gender and sexuality, and knowing them was my chance to begin understanding differences in preferences, attitudes & perception on many levels.

Of course, not everyone grows up with the same influences, educators and opportunities to experience what is human uniqueness. I have always been acutely aware & grateful of the opportunities given me. So, where some miss out on such opportunities, here it falls to community leaders & educators of all kinds to assist in our understanding of our society. I feel very strongly that these leaders & educators have a responsibility to teach openly, honestly, and factually. When it isn’t over-complicated, it isn’t difficult. When my 8 year old daughter asked me recently what ‘gay & lesbian’ meant, I asked her how she felt about a particular boy she had mentioned (at length) recently. Her smile was enormous, infectious; she looked dreamily over my head and told me she thought he was pretty awesome. I asked her to imagine that she felt that way about a girl. What did she think of that, I asked?

“Ah, well I can’t imagine feeling that way about a girl.” She replied. Fair enough.

“Well, some girls do. And some boys feel that way about boys. That’s all there is to it, it’s not complicated.”

“When I grow up, do you think I will like girls?” was her long considered reply.

“I have no idea – but I will love you and be proud of you”.

And that was it. She completely accepted the premise. Her understanding of relationships and human sexuality will obviously grow, but the simple premise that we don’t choose who we love was immediately obvious to her. And that was completely okay in her books! I’ve rarely been more proud; it’s a big concept for a young mind to start taking in.

So – why is this so ‘complicated’? Why aren’t educators comfortable with using simple, clear language like this? It’s complicated in our big grown-up society because, quite frankly, historically we’ve completely fucked up the social conversation, and are still doing so today. I won’t even touch what religion is doing to the issue. Shame culture, ‘fixing’ gays – it’s appalling that such a fundamental piece of human psyche – what attracts us to each other – could or should be considered ‘adjustable’.

Most appalling of all is that an intellectual leader in our community can’t read the histories & do that math on this himself. I utterly defend your right to believe what you want when sitting under your own Hills Hoist, but any community that continues to discriminate out in the street is completely unsustainable, and this starts with education, and that starts with people like you, Dr. Donnelly. Your suggestion that ‘only a heterosexual may teach our children about sex’ is insulting in the extreme to educators. For example – an educator doesn’t teach a child the deep and personal intricacies of playing a piano. They give the child the tools they need to play, and leave the passion and the connection to emerge & flourish itself. Recognising & encouraging that passion, of course, is the mark of a good teacher – and if any teacher discouraged my daughter from loving piano in a certain way because of their own preferences… well, would you stand for that, Dr. Donnelly?

Sure – it’s a rather simple little allegory… but why over complicate it.

¹ Source: Gareth Hutchens, WAToday.com.au article

Ol' Neptune Barnett

Shameful Shark Cull in Western Australia

All hail Colin “Neptune” Barnett

“WA Premier Colin Barnett has said he is “pleased” to see the controversial catch-and-kill order policy begin after the first shark was killed on Sunday morning.”
» ‘WA’s baited drumlines kill first shark on Australia Day

As a keen diver, kayaker, swimmer & proud sandgroper, I am acutely aware of the inherent dangers of ocean sport. It is an environment I have enormous respect for, and am constantly learning about. I have had a couple of close encounters with sharks, one of them very sobering. I have absolute compassion for those who have lost someone to a shark in recent years – it is a terrible  tragedy. I understand the desire to make ocean sport “safe”; no-one wants to experience grief & loss.

What I do not understand is this utterly senseless slaughter. Apart from the many humane & conservation objections, I’d really rather not have some fly-by-night demi-Neptune destroying a shark and bleeding it into the ocean I swim in. That attracts more sharks.

We choose to pursue adventure in the ocean; an environment that does not belong to us. As someone who regularly spends time in or on the ocean, I believe actively and constantly learning about ocean safety is my responsibility; to ensure my safety and that of those around me, and to conserve that environment.

It is not our right to actively destroy this natural threat. We have learnt to coexist with crocodiles, brown snakes, redbacks and box jellyfish; we are aware of the dangers and behave accordingly. We are Australian, with a global identity of resilience in an incredibly harsh environment. We are proud of our ability to exist here.

This shark cull is a hopelessly ignorant task and a shamefully un-Australian  endeavour. Stop playing Neptune, Mr. Barnett, and cease this stupidity.

Australia Day 2014

Australia Day and All The Things

This isn’t much of a photo really now I look at it, but if you’ve ever been to Point Peron in Western Australia on a warm day, this is heaven. This is the southern side of the peninsula, a little bay surrounded by a reef line. It is one of the most stunning places for a swim and a snorkel; the visibility is superb, the sand is clear, the water is deep, there are amazing fish to see, and it’s largely protected from the big surf when the weather chops up. Most importantly, it’s a place only the locals know about, because it’s a little off the beaten track. Perfect! Oh, and most importantly – this is where +Yoon-Mi Kim will be calling home very soon – she’s finished up her last day off work, done her celebrating (and is still sleeping it off) – and is making the enormous move from chilly London to glorious Perth early next month. It is a huge time for both of us, and we couldn’t be happier:) …and sorrier for all the poor sods stuck in the rather-more-than-cold UK!

…people like +Paul Stickland incidentally – who celebrates his Birthday today! Happy Birthday Paul! Not much of a segue, I know;) Happy Birthday anyway mate, from a place you’d most likely rather be! I hope we can catch up soon.

What else? Oh! Jack Carty is touring again & is in WA this week. In case you don’t know who he is, you’re rather behind the eight-ball because he’s so famous now that he’s got his own wiki page (true story!) – I think he’s doing Dunsborough first, then a gig in Perth on Tuesday. You can catch the info via www.JackCarty.com – he’s one of those Facebook people and you can catch the stuff & the things there. If you like message bombing people to get off facebook and explore Google+ go bomb him here: +Jack Carty and say I sent you.

And of course, Happy Australia Day to all the Aussies enjoying the glorious summer (that’s you Perth!) or the cloud and drizzle (that’s you, everyone else from what I hear!). I’m settling in to do some scribbling & enjoy the Triple J Hottest 100!