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Feelers On The Dealers


Article from International Musician & Recording World, October 1985

More scurrilous sea-salt stuff as Billy Punter docks in Portsmouth

Give them a buzz...

Telecomms might have chosen a better name — the very morning I had to go and cheerfully peruse their stock I was still wincing from a big red bill that had plopped smugly onto the mat.

The sight of the Telecomms name in letters three feet tall above their shopfront wasn't the ideal palliative, either. But like the true professional I am (or would be if I got paid) I swallowed my objections and marched bravely into check out their stock, interrogate their assistants, to boldly go where... you know the sort of thing.

The first surprise when I arrived (and therein hangs a tale... beware if you're approaching the shop from out of town, because it is a couple of miles from Portsmouth's centre, a reasonable bus ride) was a window full of disco devices.

Yes, I know what most musicians think of discos... but I'll skip the 20 minute rant about cheap labour/taking our jobs away/playing horrible records/getting the best gigs and so on and on. But if you devote more than three brain cells to the idea, you'll find that it's a very sensible area for a music shop to move into.

For instance, when both musicians and disco-doers share the same technology in terms of amps and speakers, it makes sense to have a repair service that covers both ends of the spectrum. Likewise, the expertise that a salesman can bring to bear on amps could easily be applied to disco consoles. And there's a gap in the usual music shop's sphere — namely lighting — that is almost invariably catered for by the disco devotees' shops.

So having established that it's a good idea, I'll proceed to gloss skimpily over that section in just saying that it's well-stocked and their service facilities are available to all and sundry...

In terms of musical gear, they're also well-stocked and they also have readily available service engineers. But as this is the bit we're interested in I'll go into a little more detail.

Most of the makes that you'd want to purchase are there — Marshall, Trace Elliot, Tokai, Ibanez, Roland, Korg, Tascam — you know the sort of thing. And they're enclosed in a shop which is a comfortable middle size, neither too small to get everything in or a vast superstore in which you could wander for hours without sighting an assistant on the horizon.

The day I popped in it was fairly bustling; someone was pestering the service engineer about the fuses continually blowing in the back of their PA amp and someone else was waiting to do much the same thing about the problems of an elderly Sound City; a couple of long-raincoated doom-mongers were trying out the 'Despondency II' preset on a Casio synth; and an insurance salesman type had wandered in, whipped off his light grey Crimplene jacket, loosened his beige kipper tie and assumed his alter ego as The Phantom Bass Slapper.

But wait... there was one thing missing. Where was that characteristic sound of the music shop, that distinctive noise that is both inescapable and unlistenable — in short, where was the awful Rock guitarist? Where was the bloke with the nine-humbuckered flying 'P' guitar, the four-octave whammy bar and the three distortion pedals? There wasn't one. So in the interests of keeping the British musical gear industry afloat I realised it would have to be me. On with the white cowboy boots, the tight jeans and the vertical shirt collar and up to the counter...

The man who appeared at the other side of the aforementioned counter gave me an amused but tolerant smile and immediately asked me if he could help — no hanging around whistling here. I decided I'd try the ultimate HM device, the Boss Distortion/Feedbacker pedal, a small but deadly thing which gives a raunch of the dirtiest kind along with a double-push control on the pedal which brings in ear-melting feedback instantly. So, given a guitar (and asked what best duplicated my own — good thinking — I was plugged into a combo and let loose.

Here, however, there was a problem. The man didn't really know much about how the effect worked, and he even neglected to tell me about the second-trigger feedback function. If I'd not already had a chance to play with one before, I might have gone away merely thinking that it was an ordinary, albeit classy, distortion. Smacked botties for that one.

But the price he quoted was excellent — a long way below the recommended retail, a deal which he explained as being an effect of their bulk-buying technique. And he did know what he was talking about on some of the other gear; the Vibrato pedal which also has a second-touch effect was explained competently enough.

So you pays your money (or you gets out your cheque book) and you take your choice. The prices were good, the service was quick, but it all so nearly fell apart in the second half, Brian, when their inexperiences started to show. Although realistically it would be impossible for every assistant to know the ins and outs of every bit of gear it was an unfortunate blot on their escutcheon whatever that is.

But if you know what you want and how it works give them a call. It may be your only chance to use the phone and get a smaller bill from Telecomms.

TELECOMMS (Contact Details)

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Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Oct 1985

Donated by: Mike Gorman, Neill Jongman

Scanned by: Mike Gorman



Feature by Billy Punter

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