This month, I turned my attention to overhauling one of my old Mesa Triple Rectifiers. Although I don’t myself use the thing that often, it’s a good amp, and quite sturdy – this is one of the heads that I recorded and toured on Astro-Creep: 2000 with, so, daily use in the 1990s, multiple poundings on the loading docks of the world, and semi-regular service since then, all without a tune-up. The thing about a Mesa Boogie is that it sounds like a Mesa Boogie, pretty much no matter what you do. Love it or hate it, it’s the sound of modern rock – which you want, sometimes ( do you? Periodically, in the studio, we do ). On the other hand, the excellent rectifier cabinet makes almost any amp you put through it sound like itself, but better – and, although it’s loaded with relatively low-wattage speakers, it can take a massive, day-in-day-out high-volume beating.
I took the head apart, got all the grime off of it ( it cleaned up pretty nicely, although the transformers are a little rusty ), checked all the solder points, tightened everything up. The tubes ( 3x 5U4, 6x 6L6 – or you can use EL34’s, but I got the notion somewhere, at some point, that 6L6s are ‘better’ for hi-gain sounds – and 5x 12AX7 ) were pretty cooked, so I set about getting new ones – which turned out to require some thought.
Christ, that’s a lot of tubes. They’re pretty, though.
As I remember it, the idea behind these amps was that there you wouldn’t have to bias them – in fact, there is no internal bias adjustment .. you would just buy sets of Mesa Boogie-brand tubes that were the pre-selected correct values to fit your amp and install them yourself. Good enough – back in the day, ‘bias’ was a voodoo word I didn’t know the meaning of, and taking your amp in for service was expensive and somewhat akin to having a child in the hospital. Thing is, Mesa apparently doesn’t offer these sets anymore, and there’s hardly any places selling matched sextets of power tubes of any brand — which seems odd, since every other band I see has a Double or Triple Rec. I even, God help me, went to Guitar Center. Everybody hates GC, but the one in New Orleans is like some new circle of hell, staffed by dead-eyed suburban emo boys who have no idea what you’re talking about, ever. Me : ” So, this sad little assortment of dog-eared-box Mesa tubes is all you’ve got? Do you sell matched 6L6’s? ” — emo boy : ( blank expression … trying to think of a lie … failing ).
This probably wouldn’t be a problem if I was in Hollywood or NYC, but I live in the ass-end underside of America and, clearly, I would have to turn to the internet. I asked 2 different techs about it and they both said the same thing : buy decent tubes, turn the amp on, and watch it in the dark for a while. If it looks like it’s not going to catch fire, go ahead and play through it. Okaaayyyyyy, I thought — I got Russian-made EH 5U4’s, EH ‘yellow logo’ 12AX7’s, and I found a matched set of Winged C 6L6’s ( also Russian ) on eBay. Given the popularity of these amps ( this is the old 2-channel version, but the 3-channel model uses the same complement of tubes ), I’m surprised you can’t just get the whole set at Guitar Center or one of those mail-order places .. but, anyway, a little under 300 bucks ( ≥ gasp ≤ ) later, the amp sounds great. I love the smell of ink burning off of new tubes.
Something else : kindly, guitar players are tinkerers. Unkindly, they’re tweakers .. I admit to being both. I tested the Mesa with a speaker cabinet I built from garbage.
A couple of years ago, a guy I was recording came by with an old ( early-mid 1950s ) Philco Phonorama speaker cabinet ( for a radio or a console phonograph or a TV, I have no idea ) – he was like, ” Here, I found this in the trash, you should have it “, and he was right — I took one look at it and decided that I had to make it live again ( dig that metal handle! ).
I threw out the water-damaged paper tweeter that was inside, replaced the rotting grillcloth with nicer fabric from an old radio, and installed a Jensen vintage reissue 10″ speaker. There was a volume control on top of the enclosure, and I replaced that with an input jack I made from a Les Paul jack-plate. I haven’t gotten around to making a back for the thing yet, so when I record with it I just put it on the floor, facing up at the ceiling. It’s got a very, very weird, nasal sound that isn’t very useful except maybe as a special effect, but it can add something cool to a ‘normal’ signal when mixed in correctly.
” The Winkies caught the attention of former Roxy Music musician Brian Eno while he finishing his debut solo album Here Come the Warm Jets. Eno took the Winkies as his backing band in February 1974, on his first and only solo tour. The outing ended after five shows, after Eno was rushed to the hospital suffering from a collapsed lung. The only recorded material from Eno and the Winkies is four songs on a BBC radio session taped for John Peel in March 1974. “
01. Eno & The Winkies : Baby’s On Fire
02. Eno & The Winkies : Totalled
03. Eno & The Winkies : The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
04. Eno & The Winkies : Fever