MUSiC: Can, Live, Soest, 1970

I wound up watching this this evening, prior to breaking out the ‘new’ Can CD that arrived from Amazon today, namely Live In Stuttgart, 1975.

I watched several other shorter live Can videos as well. It seems more such material is coming online. My last Can-fest, some years ago now, involved a lot of searching online, and didn’t turn up some of these newer finds.

Two particularly groovy videos are Vitamin C, with Damo, and Moonshake, the latter sadly sans Suzuki, but still terrific.

Karussell für die Jugend indeed!

This concert was the longest that I watched. And I’ll confess I skipped through a few segments. I will watch the whole thing at some point. But in truth I just wanted to ‘prep’ myself for listening to the newly arrived Stuttgart recordings.

Track one at Soest is not a promising or auspicious beginning, to be perfectly honest. The guitar and bass DIY d out of tune. And it comes over as a somewhat punky Malcolm Mooney era type leftover.

But, to my delight and astonishment, this was immediately followed by Oh Yeah, which is stupendously groovy. Riding along on a signature Jaki Leibezeit groove, this one both motorik and jazzy simultaneously, the rest of the band provide haunting sonic sculptures, and Dani’s singing brings the Can jamming into a song type focus. Sublime!

Interestingly, the initially baffled audience is gradually won over by the earnest intensity of the performance. Despite Can sporting the togs and hairstyles of their contemporary hipster crew, and, to a degree, the young audience, they play with a fairly self-contained unaffected manner. Only Suzuki, in his semi-shamanic frontman role, getting a bit wilder at times.

Shamanic loonbag Damo Suzuki, in full effect!

Holger Czukay is great to watch. Holding his bass at an unusual slanted angle, and clearly totally into the music. His head-nodding ‘in the zone’ mien perfectly encapsulates, for me, what this group and their music are all about.

At some point in the set the band get the audience clapping, and from that point on the vibe in the room – at least as conveyed visually – has thawed from cold incomprehension to warm admiration, and a good deal of fairly abandoned enjoyment. Some guys are kind of ‘freak-dancing’, and even some of the chicks are digging it.

Towards the end of the set they play another of my Suzuki era faves, Paperhouse. I’m not sure, but I think this might be one of the old Can concerts that’s part of a current wave of live Can reissues. In which case, I look forward to listening to and watching it again. Next time I won’t be pressing fast-forward!

Jaki Leibezeit grooves like a mother!

MiSC/HEALTH & WELLBEiNG: Doin’ Nuttin’…

It’s day four of doing, as far as poss’, absolutely nothing. It’s really quite hard. After the first day or two the psychological aspect starts to come to bear more forcefully.

Yesterday I tried reading our boiler manual, to both learn to operate it better, and deal with the potential onset of boredom. Such things are, in my experience, nine times out ten, appallingly written. Slogging through them isn’t conducive to peace of mind!

That was yesterday. Today, after sleeping a much better nights sleep than I’ve grown accustomed too of late, I’ve subsequently slept solidly through the morning, as well. Exhaustion is a commonplace for me. Partly a consequence of immune-system malfunction and the meds I take to combat that.

Am I sleeping too much?

When I’m in more ‘normal’ mode, such daytime sleeping would wreck my night-time rhythms! But sometimes, like now, I can sleep almost round the clock, and still – at present at least – sleep at night.

Other stuff comes in and out of the overall picture, as well. Such as intense headaches. Are they migraines? I’m not sure. Possibly. For some reason my brain never retains certain info, no matter how many times it is inputted! I’ve looked up the definition of migraine many times!

I have co-codamol on hand for when these get really bad. Just took some now.

My snooker re-play orgy on YouTube continues. I find watching snooker much more effective than these dedicated sleep things you encounter, with wind and rain sounds, and suchlike (as nice as they may be). With snooker I can either enjoy focussing on it, or let it waft me into unconsciousness.

‘Whispering’ Ted Lowe, formerly the ‘voice of snooker’.

There’s a lot of near complete silence, the occasional clack of the balls and the ref’s numerical interjections. And, in the good old fashioned British snooker on TV tradition, the commentary is mostly very spare and subdued. Ted Lowe is my favourite, his gentle whispering is so soothing!

MUSiC/MEDiA: Sonic Youth, From The Basement…

This promo pic captures Sonic Youth’s art-house rock energy!

This was an interesting watch. A trip down memory lane, and a blast from the past!

The date on the video, i.e. when it was posted to YouTube, is 2020. I was puzzled by the fact that altho’ Lee Renaldo is greying, Thurston and Kim look pretty much as they did back in the ‘80s. Nuts!? But… aha! That explains things; this was actually recorded back in 2007!

The lineup is the ‘classic’ quartet, plus a guy called Mark Ibold, who became an essential fifth member in the years before they split in 2011. So that’s Steve Shelley, drums, Kim Gordon, bass/vocs, Lee Ranaldo, guitar/vocs, Thurston Moore, guitar/vocs, and Ibold, doubling on bass!

The performance space is nice. Very old school rock club. Love that blood red carpet!

The setlist for this performance is three tracks from their album of the moment, Ripped, and The Sprawl and Hey Joni, from Daydream Nation. The last of these is one of my favourite numbers from what is probably also my most favourite of their albums.

The Daydream Nation pieces are easily the best. To my mind/ears. The overall performance is pretty good. Almost certainly best listened to, I assume, very loud. I was listening to this pretty quiet, lying abed around midnight! Not ideal. But it still came over pretty well.

I have to admit that there are some forms of music – anything from this to Beefheart or Slayer (but perhaps intense and weird music especially so?) – that seem inescapably the music of youth. And the idea of folk enjoying listening to, or even more strangely, performing such music, as they age, can seem a bit odd.

Ageing no-wave noise-rockers ageing pretty gracefully!

But maybe that’s totally spurious? I’ve seen Christian Zander and his Magma crew – several of whom are growing ever longer of tooth – doing their very weird very intense thing fairly recently, and thought it pretty compelling. Hmmm!?

Watching this reminded me how much I loved some of this sort of music once – particularly the Daydream Nation and earlier stuff (Evol and Sister); hadn’t heard any Rather Ripped stuff till I saw this! – and, to some extent, I still dig it. It also makes me think I’d like to hear more from their later catalogue. Perhaps especially when Jim O’Rourke joined? I like what he brought to Stereolab.

When this performance started, I was cringing a bit, at the very self-conscious and shoe-gazy vibe. But as it went on, the music re-captured my heart and mind. The Sprawl and Hey Joni in particular, because, as already attested to, Daydream Nation was a much loved and very familiar reference point for a former younger me.

A screenshot the setlist.

It looks like there are a number of From The Basement gigs on the YouTube archives. I’m now watching a Radiohead one. Not a band I’ve ever gotten into, to be honest. But their set is pretty cool. I like Thom Yorke’s total commitment to the music. But I sometimes find his fey delivery a bit much. But that’s for another post!

MiSC/HEALTH & WELLBEiNG: Enforced Rest

It’s surprising how hard it can be in modern life to really and truly do nothing. Even more tricky, perhaps, is ‘switching off’.

Teresa, my adorable wife, has insisted that I do nothing. I’m not allowed out of the house, even! The reason being a recurrent chest infection I’ve had three years on the trot, over winter.

X-Rays and antibiotics haven’t got to the bottom of it, and what with me having a constellation of ailments in the background, it can be hard – impossible so far, it seems – to know what’s going on. What is or are the root causes?

This is the agrometer we have.

My mum and uncle both mentioned humidity in the home. And it’s true that our heating has been an issue. We had a new boiler installed last year. So that’s not such an issue any more. But humidity may be.

I cracked out a digital Afro meter … er (predictive spelling, don’t you love it!?)), agrometer, we have. It said the humidity in our lounge was around 55% earlier today. It’s now crept up to 66-67%!? Apparently 70% and over is unhealthy, and really, over 60% should entail the deployment of a dehumidifier.

Dumbkopf that I am I sold a rather flash humidifier and air-purifier we once had. How I wish we still had that! I think we may still have a small one laying around somewhere. Finding it is another thing altogether.

I love this guy’s videos, n’ stuff.

Anyway, I’m practically living on our sofa-bed, downstairs in the living room. And I’ve been watching mucho YouTube, inc. lots of Stavros Gakos (handplane making, and such like), Colin Furze (loud and loony: I particularly dig – see what I did there? – his bunker and underground tunnels; childhood dreams of my own!), and plenty o’ snooker!

Alcohol is out, by command of she who must be obeyed, and I’m not even reading, never mind making, repairing or doing something musical or arty. Under such sorghum-stenches it’s hard not go for the screens and social media. Indeed, impossible, I find!

Still, all in all, I think it’s the right thing. Keep the home warm and dry, totally relax and look after myself. Can’t be bad, right?

The last few things I was doing, friday, before ‘shutdown’, were: building shelves in the workshop, creating a neck/fretboard blank (in rosewood) for the Hofner Congress, and applying a wrap to an old tom, as part of converting it into a marching drum style snare.

The hardest thing is not continuing with these projects, as I feel compelled to keep such things bubbling over. Truth be told I snuck in a little bit of work on the snare, opening some holes for mounting the head tensioning hardware. That’s something I felt was such light work I could do it supine!

Mellie Xmas!

And a little writing of Xmas cards and the wrappage of some giftabubbles was also smuggled in. Oh! A quick glance at the agrometer reveals it is – or so it tells me – now down to 59% humidity. And up from 16°C to 18.9°C. I do hope this device is accurate. The room feels no different!

And back on the TV, on YouTube, Sonnie O’Rollivan just made a pig’s ear of a shot… ‘Oh dear!’ quoth Neal Foulds (or was it the other guy?). But, amazingly, and in a reversal of the previous frame – in which Ronnie bizarrely allowed Trump to win a frame by escaping a safety shot snooker with a pot – The Rocket repaid the compliment, albeit in an entirely different looking scenario. I do love snooker!

Well, time to get offa the devices. And settle in for some snooker induced ‘somnia’…

MUSiC/MEDiA: Anderson .Paak

Paak doin’ his thang: drumming and singing.

This guy has been around a while. But he’s only just snuck up on me recently. I think it’s about a year since I first encountered him, via the NPR Tiny Desk video on YouTube (below).

That video has racked up over 80 million views (and counting!). And I can see why. It’s truly and sublimely joyful. And off the back of it, I’m checking him out more.

This is the video that taught me to love AP.

As I type this I’m watching (for the first time) another NPR Paak performance with The Free Nationals. I’m not a massive fan of the modern hip-hop and rap scene, esp’ as far it’s such a big and obvious part of the contemporary dumbing down and ultra-capitalist commodification of music.

But, as Paak is coming at it from being a drummer, it might really change things. And if the whole hip-hop chip shop flip flop allows him and others – he’s now done the whole Silk Sonic thang with Bruno Mars (which I’m looking into as well) – to smuggle ‘real’ live organic music back in to the mainstream. So be Obi Wan Ben Kenobi it!

It’s interesting that Paak seems to be such a charismatic force of nature and culture in happy synthesis/balance, that he carries all before him, on a toothy pearly white tidal wave of sonic positivity. And drums – oh, and singing, rapping, dancing, music, producing (one could go on!) – are his ‘happy place’! How cool is that!?

Karen Carpenter, another fabulous singing drummer.

If only ‘the biz’ had let Karen Carpenter stay behind the drums. Perhaps she’d still be wowing us, alongside her goofy bro’? The biz is a cruel capitalist monster machine. A robot of death, selling the appearance of life, a thin mask over the rotting corpse of consumer culture.

But I digress. So… Anderson Paak? Hmmm… there’s the undeniable authenticity of a colourful and troubled back story. But alongside this there are aspects of modern pop trash culture – and I’ve got to be careful here, as I might be going ‘full Partridge’ – the cuss-words, the whole ‘money, niggaz, bitches’ thing, that do trouble me.

I kind of want to say that none of that really touches a deep nerve. But that’d be disingenuous. Of course it does. However much it annoys me in how it connects Paak to a lot of pop culture I really loathe, the ‘other side of the coin’, if you will, is not the hipster vibin’ with us, but the wounded little boy, channelling his damage and pain into a joyful affirmation of life through music.

And not just any music, either. But music that flows from the same deep wells of Afro-American (we’ll get back to this vexed issue later) soul, funk and R’n’B. And here I am, whitey in The Fens. It’s strange, and I’m not entirely sure why – or am I? Isn’t it just ‘the truth’? Authenticity? – but this tradition has always been one of several that just connects with my ‘soul’, like a dentist hitting an un-anaesthetised nerve.

Just ordered this off Amazon…

So, having touched very superficially and tanned-genitally on the musical river that flows from front porches of the Deep South via N’Awleanz dives to the litter-strewn city hoodz, where Caddy fins bespoke the Jaws of crime, to Herbie at Carnegie, or even Beyoncé and Bruno Mars… (again I digress!), where does Paak fit in?

In that last verbal flight, where history and myth meet collide-oscopically, in that matrix, embedded in all that, one can’t deny the ‘black America’ angle. But I want to counter that with the spirit of The Free Nationals; like Santana’s band, breaking out so joyfully at Woodstock… there’s a nice multi-culti angle.

And if the jazz tradition can happily embrace the angry yet all encompassing Miles, or the studiously geeky Mr Magoo Kung-fu mastery of Joe Morello… well. ‘Nuff said!

Do big shades…
… maketh the music or the man?

Anyway, this post goes around the houses just to talk about both Paak, the musical and other cultures that he emerges from, and my own troubled relation with all this, basically because I’m very happy to have found the man and his music.

Like everyone from Louis Cole and Vulfpeck, to, I dunno, King Gizzard and co, or Glasper, and ultra musos like Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave, the mere existence, never mind success, of Paak helps maintain my fragile belief in hope for humanity.

At this juncture Paak and The Free Nationals and co are tearing up the stage, doing a concert for the Grammy awards (I’m still groovin’ on YouTube). And the joyful energy is great. Starting the set with slick, sleek hyper-produced pop product style rap, contemporary pop karaoke style, the music builds to a Dionysian climax of gospel chops, and explodes out of the restrictive context of head nodding laptop wielding MCs and producers, into a world of real organic live music.

Paak behind his kit. His happy place. ‘Don’t I make it look easy. Don’t I make it look good.’, he sings on Come Down, one of the best tracks on Malibu (which I’ve just ordered!). ‘What could be more special than Andy behind the kit?’ beams Bruno Mars in their Silk Sonic promo interview. That interview (below) is worth watching, for its bizarre but compelling mixture of hipster gloss and truthful authenticity. What strange times we live in!

Ebro Darden interviews Paak and Mars, on their Silk Sonic collab’.

MUSiC/WORKSHOP: Hofner Congress neck fix, Pt 3.

Am I getting back on track? Dare I hope so!?

After routing off c. 4mm, sanding.

My quest for a set of four screws (the originals removed and, it appears, lost!) to re-attach the base-plate of my Titan router ended in compromise. I found a set of four screws whose pitch wasn’t identical, but that fitted, albeit possibly damaging/reconfiguring the threads. Still, it allowed me to use the damned thing!

My neck support jig, and methods of clamping the neck, proved something of an issue. How clamp the neck so it won’t move and yet access it all for uniform depth routing? In the end this proved nigh on impossible. I did my best, and routed to a depth of c. 4mm, removing all the gouges and tear out.

Looks pretty flat. I’m happy, I think.

When routing with the jig supporting either side of the base-plate failed to produce the cleanly uniform surface I’d hoped for, I set up a flat sanding surface. As per the pictures. Hopefully this has some over the issues? It certainly looks nice n’ flat now.

Interesting neck ‘archaeology’!

All this work has revealed some interesting neck construction: the neck itself appears to be to piece, with a slightly odd kilter spline running, slightly wonkily, roughly down the lateral centre. This three part construction then joins to the heel, with a two-faceted joint. I’m the pic above one can see the junctions of these four parts. Note also a large-ish hole. what was this for? Fretboard positioning, perhaps?

Two more holes. One filled, the other not.

At the headstock end of the neck are two more similarly sized hole. One is empty, the other filled with a wooden dowel. I used a knife – an ‘x-acto’ blade, as our American cousins might have it – to mark the top end of the neck, where the nut will sit.

Finally removed the tuning pegs.

I took the tuning pegs off. To facilitate the sanding of the neck. Due to the amount of material removed from the neck the sanding process has flattened a small area ‘biting’ into headstock territory. How this might affect the rebuild of the headstock – reattaching the plastic plate, etc . – remains to be seen.

Heel area details…

In the photo above, a number I originally read as 1968 might actually be, read the other way up, 3961! What I took to be an eight can be seen at another point on the underside of where the neck projects over the arch top, below.

Some of this four digit number has disappeared, the neck length being shortened somewhat at this end by the removal of so much depth at a point where the neck tapered to a pretty thin area. But it’s pretty clear that the first digit is a 3, not an 8!

Thanks to Steve for drawing my attention to this!

Next I need to build back the list material somehow. Then I’ll need to rout out a channel for a truss rod. And for this I’ll need to establish neck length, or how long a truss rod (and fret-board) I need.

Got a busy drum-teaching day today. So I’ll either do this tonight, or over the weekend. Need to order the truss rod from Stew-Mac, State-side, so the sooner that’s done, the sooner I can progress this whole neck repair.

MUSiC/MEDiA: Phil Lynott, Song For While I’m Away, 2021

This is great! A decent documentary about the late great Phil Lynott. I’m always flabbergasted when I’m reminded that he died aged just 36. A truly tragic waste.

But let’s not dwell on the morbid darker side. Even more stunning is the fact that in such a relatively short life he and his musical partners in crime left us such a rich legacy.

From the eponymous debut of 1971, through to swan song Thunder and Lightning, 1983, Thin Lizzy’s discography is littered with fantastic music. And Lynott’s solo albums are worth having as well.

As a child my first musical ‘crush’ was for Status Quo. But the first band I got properly into, such that I started buying their albums, was Thin Lizzy.

Lynott and Downey, a dream team.

Rather ironically, but entirely predictably, it was hearing Whiskey In The Jar, on a cassette compilation loaned me by a friend / thanks Heidi – that started the lifelong love affair.

The irony being, as conveyed in this doc’ (and elsewhere), that Whisky was an accidental and unintentional hit. A bit of a joke in the studio – rockin’ up a trad’ ‘Oirish’ folk song, for a laugh – that wound up catapulting the band into the spotlight.

The next phase en route to stardom didn’t come easily. Eric Bell, one of the original core trio, left, disillusioned with the miming pop culture and struggling with his own daemons.

Lizzy then reinvented themselves, adding their famed twin guitars to the permanent duo of Lynott on bass, vocals and chief songwriting duties, and superb drummer Brian Downey. Lynott and Downey had met at school, and played together in several bands prior to the advent of Lizzy.

Probably my favourite Lizzy album?
Ah… those were the daze!

For me this next era, Lynott, Downey and guitarists Scott Gotham and Brian Robertson, is the ‘golden age’ of the band. Between 1974-1977 they released five albums, all of which – Nightlife, Fighting, Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox and Bad Reputation are solid gold classics, in my view.

But as alluded to above, after the flash in the pan ‘one-hit wonder’ aberrant success of Whiskey In The Jar, they were in danger of sinking without trace. But luckily for them, and all of us, The Boys Are Back In Town, and the album that spawned that second hit, Jailbreak, cemented their success.

Robertson left (can’t recall if quit or was fired?) during the Bad Reputation period. And from that point on their was a continuing cast of changing characters on second guitar, from former occasional band mate Gary Moore, via Snowy White, to bouffant haired shredder, John Sykes.

Lizzy’s 71 debut. What a cool cover!
I really love their early Eric Bell era stuff.

Some post classic quartet albums, like Black Rose and Chinatown, are still great, featuring some sublime tracks, such as Sarah (#2!), Dancing In The Moonlight and (?). But Renegade and Thunder And Lightning, which might for other lesser bands be high water marks, aren’t Lizzy’s greatest.

So, this post has morphed from a review of the biopic into a brief overview of Lizzy, from one fan’s perspective! It also makes me realise I’d like to re-listen to the whole Lizzy/Lynott catalogue, and post reviews of all the albums. Like I’ve already done with Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and one or two others.

But to return to the core subject… it’s nice to see and hear Phil Lynott being so fondly remembered, and recognised for the great musical talent he had. As music biopics go, this is good. Very good.

I especially liked that they aimed more at his ‘sensitive side’, and not the dumb rocker thing, which has occasionally blighted other Lizzy/Lynott related media. Emer Reynolds, the lady who made this film, has said herself: ‘I was interested in something a bit more nuanced, that would focus on the poet, the songwriter, the man behind the image.’ *

Oi troid really hard to foind da photo on the left of this image, as a stand-alone…

To conclude: Phil, not believing in a spirit world, I realise you can’t hear this, but no matter… I’m Still In Love With You!

* I forget now where I found this quote; some online Irish newspaper article, Oi t’ink?

Here’s another fab pic of Lynott from the very early days. Love it! Just wish I could locate a better quality version.

MUSiC: Time, Louis Cole, 2018

I bought my copy of Louis’ Time on CD at his 2019 solo gig, at Heaven, London. Like Louis I was flying’ solo! Anyway, loved the gig, and listened to the CD on my drive home. Driving out of London, after midnight, with Weird Part Of The Night playing!? Fantastic.

Cole’s music is an interestingly eclectic mix: there are trashy keys sounds: brash, almost rasping, sometimes evoking the disposable riffs of electronic dance music. Thankfully there’s also a nice big dose of raw funk. But it’s also unashamedly pop. Albeit a weirdly maverick kind of pop. And as well as the high energy brash-trash edginess, there’s the balladry, with cloud-banks of soft pillowy ‘pad’ type keys parts.

For me it all adds up to a heady and compelling mix. The album itself kicking off with the anthem to small hours freedoms, In The Weird Part Of The Night. This very upbeat track is followed by the midtempo funk of When You’re Ugly, a kind of sibling loner/loser anthem, pairing very nicely with the opener.

Everytime and Last Time You Went Away are another pair, but this time of spookily sparse synth/vocal ballads. And split up by an intervening quartet of more varied content. From the brief soundscape of More Love Less Hate (which he uses as backing at gigs to a pretty beatnik spoken recitative piece), to his collaboration with Thundercat, Tunnels In The Air.

The last named above is my least favourite track. The midtempo stuttering hip hop vibe of Phone is much better. And Real Life, with guest Brad Mehldau tickling the ivories, one of the albums several more excitable hi-energy numbers, is also much stronger. Freaky Times and Trying Not To Die also partake of the spirit of youthful zestiness that characterises much of the album. The latter, like Real Life, benefitting from a virtuosic jazz piano solo, this time from guest artist Stu Hamm.

Amidst these tracks we also find the wonderfully titled After The Load Is Blown, a soulful downtempo ballad. But Cole has saved the very best till last. Just as the album opens with two of the strongest numbers, so it ends on two of the best: the absolutely sublime Things, and the haunting ultra mellow closer, Night. Louis played both at the more recent big band gig I saw, also placing them in close proximity within the set. And I was transported to a blissful place, high up in the aether.

Whilst Time is not a totally consistently brilliant album, it’s still pretty astonishing. Especially as it’s essentially the work of one still very young man. And the best stuff is off the scale.

Tunnels is the only track I regularly skip, but several others – Things and Night in particular – I’ll often listen to repeatedly. They’re both mesmerising and highly compelling. At his more recent Earth gig (he’s played Heaven and Earth, I like that!) I bought a CD of his earlier Music CD album. I’ve yet to really give it a proper listen. Only the track A Little Bit More Time, from Time, sounds at all like the older stuff, which I’m yet to get to grips with.

But all in all, Time is 14 tracks from a very creative and interesting contemporary young artist. Cole’s work helps restore my faith in humanity, in our rather oppressively hyper-capitalist era of dumbed down to the max wallpaper ersatz muzak. In an age of karaoke opium for the masses, Louis Cole is refreshingly idiosyncratic.

Maybe not for everyone – my wife’s not keen, refusing to accompany me to either gig! – but, for me, essential. Hence five out of five.

MUSiC/WORKSHOP: Hofner Congress, neck fix, Pt 2. or Further Guitar Repair Misadventures, aka A Pain Of A Neck

The neck this evening.

Well, I had hoped to do this yesterday. But yesterday became today. Anyroad, I did get around to removing the rest of the fretboard. And, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, what a pig’s ear…

What the hell happened here!?

The surrounding pictures attest to the carnage: first, the fretboard wood simply refused to separate cleanly from the neck. Second, despite trying to use the chisel co-planar to the joint, it occasionally dug in and gouged out neck material. Third, the section which is ‘flying’ our above the arched top, that whole came away and took the substrate – aka the neck – with it. And fourth, in several places whole chunks of neck ‘flesh’ came away. It’s become a kind of leprous zombie type neck, shedding material hither and yon.

The green tape/arrow is where the scratch-plate locator pin-hole is/was.

One area where the latter occurred is around the locator pin-hole for the scratch plate. I can understand that that hole weakens wood around it. But why the chunks on the top of the neck?

I think what I’m going to have to do is take the entire neck down a tad, one way or another, whilst ensuring it remains both flat and ‘true’. Then I can add a laminate layer.I’m thinking a nice pale bear white wood, maple, perhaps?

The flying bridge section of the neck. More ‘flaying’ than flying.

Then I can rout out a channel and set the truss rod in place (adjustable end at the headstock), and finally fit a new 22-fret fingerboard.

Looking down the neck one sees some serious steps, where material has come away.
Held up to the light one can see all the chisel gouge marks.

MUSiC/WORKSHOP: Hofner Congress neck fix, Pt 1. Starting work …

Here she is, looking fine. Don’t want to trash her!

One of the scariest things on a project like my Hofner Congress is simply getting started. As long as I put it off, I have a nice looking if purely ornamental instrument. But for some reason I’ve been feeling compelled to dive in. And today I finally took the plunge.

I’d already removed the strings, the day I got it back home. But with plans to put a dual-action truss-Ros in the neck, and evidence of previous neck reset attempts, I figured I had to get started sooner or later. I decided sooner would be now.

Tiny screw on the back, going into the heel. Note gaps, both horizontal and vertical!
This much larger screw was buried under some weird filler material.

Rather amazingly, after removing the pick guard plate, and taking off a small screw on the back, or to be more precise the very ‘base’ of the heel, and another much larger one going through the heel into a neck support block in the body (I had to gouge out a load of filler), the neck itself came off surprisingly easily.

This neck joint came apart really easily.

This suggests to me that a neck reset was very definitely needed. I masked off and cleaned up all the surfaces inside the joint. I also discovered a year, 1968 (the year Teresa was born), written in pencil on the heel of the neck.

Removing the neck revealed this pencilled year.

This is very intriguing, as the guitar’s serial number, and the personal testimony of its previous owner, who bought it new ‘over sixty years ago’, date the guitar itself to 1958. That’s a full decade earlier. It could be that what I read a a ‘6’ is actually a 5. But it sure look more likes 6 than a five to my eyes.

Scraping crud off the joint makes the year, 1968, clearer, somewhat surprisingly.

Does this possibly mean this instrument got a neck reset or replacement when it was just ten years old? I’ll have to see if I’ve still got the previous owner’s contact details, and ask him.

There is further evidence, in addition to the pencilled 1968, such as the fact that the heel of the neck seemed to be about a millimetre or so shy of actually sitting flush, as can be seen in the pic about five images above. And on the back of the guitar, in the corresponding location, was a thick layer of dried goop. Glue, intended to fill the void?

I intend to fine tune this joint, and re-assemble and re-set it properly flush. This previous bodge will have added, along with the concave neck bend, to action issues.

Neck joint separated, surfaces cleaned. Looks okay!

Anyway, I felt the neck removal went surprisingly well. Much better and quicker and easier than I’d expected. I then removed nut, and decided I’d try and get the fretboard off as well. I kind of wish I hadn’t attempted the latter. This phase really didn’t go well. At all.

I’d seen numerous YouTubers using an iron, running it over the frets to soften the glue that holds the fretboard in place. I then tried to get a painter’s palette knife into the seam between neck and fretboard. However, there was no gap in this joint, anywhere.

I also removed this plastic headstock veneer.*

* The Hofner logo and three dots are formed by off white material that filled indentations on the back of the plastic headstock veneer. These remained attached to the headstock, whilst the plastic itself came off relatively easily.

But, like an idiot, I waded in to the fretboard removal anyway. And for my pains the finger-board began to separate from the neck, splitting in numerous places as it did so. Nor were things opening up neatly along the seam of the glue joint. Aaargh!

In the end I wound up using a sharp chisel, to simply hack away. I had hoped, as many YouTubers seem to manage, to pry the fretboard off intact, in one nice clean go. So I could reinstall it later. But I sir-ee, that simply wasn’t happening!

I finally stopped for the night, before going too far, and trashing the neck irretrievably. I’ll hopefully remove the rest of the fretboard tomorrow or Tuesday.

The wood on the fretboard looks and feels a bit like some timber I’ve got from old tables and chairs, which I was told is rosewood. It’s hard, fine grained, and brittle. It isn’t coming away along the junction with the neck. So however it was shaped and glued, it was shaped very well and glued down too good to allow easy removal!

Perhaps I needed to apply more heat, via the iron, or more steam? But I didn’t want to affect the overall neck and/or fretboard integrity with too much moisture. After a period of repeatedly using the iron on the frets, and a few of the latter simply falling out, I removed them all.

Fret removal, and abandoning any attempt to save the fretboard intact, made removing the neck – using the chisel – a lot easier. I only wish, quite apart from wishing it had come away easily and intact, that I’d taken measurements of fret positions before embarking on such a destructive course. But as I hadn’t intended to destroy the fretboard, I hadn’t deemed that necessary.

Aargh! Precisely the kind of butchery I desperately wanted to avoid.

Look at the mess I’m making! And sadly there’s lots of little bits, chips and scratches, getting caused to both neck and, alas, even the body, as I work. I’ve forced myself into the situation of having to either buy or fabricate my own fretboard now.

But given how easily the fret wire came out – I could literally remove it with my fingernails! – and the neck itself came away from the body, the neck itself and the joint were in bad shape anyway. And let’s not forget the major underlying reason for all this fiddling; the concave bowing of the neck, as it was when I bought the guitar.

How she looks now. Neck sans fretboard; messily applied choc’ spread!?

The neck as it was also had a zero fret, which, for some reason, I really dislike. So I may modify this guitar such that when I’m done, it not only has an adjustable truss-rod installed, but it also doesn’t have the zero-fret.

So I need to order a truss-rod, and either ditto for a new fretboard, or make my own from scratch. I’d rather buy one for now. So that fret spacing (and perhaps even fitting?) are already done.