Email Specials from September 2003

Tues 9/2/03


Most rock & roll songs are in 4/4. Which means that the snare is hitting on "2" and "4" and everyone is playing along with that. (That's also where the audience is clapping unless you're at a Country concert, where those white folk clap on "1" and "3"...)

But there is a lot of flexibility with that "2" and "4." We're only talking about milli-seconds here, but you can lay a little behind that beat, like on any Sam & Dave song ( e.g. "Soul Man") or you can push it a little and be on top of the beat (e.g. "I Saw Her Standing There".) Needless to say, if you go too far in either direction the song will drag, or feel rushed (e.g. a lot of amateur bands.)

The best Rock & Roll songs are the ones that are just on the front edge of that "2" and "4." It's not the kind of thing that your average audience member is even aware of, at least not consciously. When people say "I liked that band" or "I didn't..." they often can't exactly say why they did or didn't. It's just a feeling. Well, the "feeling" is in the "feel" of the beat.

What am I getting at with this? Well, last week I was in Liverpool and I saw a show at The Cavern featuring three bands that played there before, and during, the Beatles' Cavern days. (1961-1962) (Yep, you're right, these guys are all in their 60's now.) And I gotta tell ya, I was shocked. These bands were ROCKIN'! I know it's hard to believe. They all looked like (and probably are) grandfathers. But they were all jumpin' on that "2" and "4" and playing Rock & Roll the way it was meant to be played.

It was quite an interesting experience, for several reasons. First of all, The Cavern is really hot. It's hot like "Man these guys are good!" but it's also hot like, "This shirt was dry when I came in here..." It's small, it has a low ceiling, and it's crowded. It's at least 20 degrees warmer than outside. I honestly wondered if any of these guys were gonna fall over dead. Second of all, it gave me new insight into the general quality level of the bands The Beatles were competing with. If these guys are this good now, imagine how they must have put out 40 years ago, when they weren't worried about breaking a hip. And lastly, it made me wonder why, in 1961, one town had so many musicians who "understood" the concept of rockin'. They were all playing American Rock & Roll songs, but they seem to have intuitively kicked it up a notch. Maybe it was just the thousands of post-World War II British baby-boomer kids living in poverty with pent-up energy and nowhere to go...

Here are some pictures, then and now.

I know I'm just a child of the Rock & Roll era. That's why the overly processed "modern" stuff doesn't do much for me... If you watched the MTV Music Video Awards this week you saw that 90% of the stuff on there was some version of hip-hop. Sure, you can dance to it, but it's too mechanical. It's not "live." I like to feel my foot tappin' and my head noddin' and my soul sayin' "yeah!"


If you want to play on top of the beat, and make real Rock & Roll, you first have to know where the beat is. This week's email special is the Sabine ZipBeat 1000 Metronome.


By the way, thanks for the entries in the Pittsburgh Guitars' "T-Shirt" photo contest. The one in the grocery store is cool, it's nice to know folks shop while wearing their Pittsburgh Guitars shirt. And the teeny little baby wearing the shirt is so cute. If you haven't entered yet, send your photo via mail or email. The most interesting photo will win a FREE Martin "Little Martin" guitar. Since a couple of folks mentioned that they don't have a Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt yet, we're adding the T-shirt to this week's email special. These are priced below our cost... `cause we want YOU to be fashionably dressed!


See you soon,


PS: Here's a picture of the new "Little Martin" contest prize!

PPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Modey Lemon

Tues 9/6/03


As I mentioned last week, I just got back from Liverpool. On this trip I also had the chance to go to London and visit Abbey Road Studios. (The original name was "EMI Studios," since it's owned by EMI Records. The address is #3 Abbey Road. When The Beatles called their last album "Abbey Road" most of the world thought that was the name of the recording studio. Eventually, EMI gave up and renamed the studio "Abbey Road.")

I knew from photos that Abbey Road's Studio 2 (where The Beatles recorded 95% of their songs) was big, but I was still surprised. The room is 60 feet by 38 feet, and the ceiling is 24 feet high. That's almost four times the size of our store! The control room is on a different level, up a long flight of stairs. What struck me was how removed I felt from the control room. In modern studios you're usually not more than five feet away from a large window into the control room, and right on the other side is the mixing board with an engineer, staring at you. At Studio Two you have no sense of the tape machines and the producer and all of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I think the huge size actually made the recording process more comfortable. It would feel more like a band rehearsal... and way off in the distance somewhere someone would be turning some knobs.

Speaking of photos of The Beatles at Abbey Road, I've seen a hundred pictures, and I don't ever recall seeing a guitar stand. Their guitars were always leaning on an amp, or balanced on a chair, or laying on top of the piano. If only they could have taken advantage of this week's email special!


See You Soon,


PS: The Beatles spent 10 minutes on August 8, 1969 taking the 'street crossing' picture. Today, 34 years later, people come from all over the world to risk their lives and stand in the middle of the busy Abbey Road to mimic the cover of the album. Here's the address of the Abbey Road WebCam.

PPS: Hundreds of other famous records have also been recorded at Abbey Road, including Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon."

PPPS: Thanks again to the folks who've entered our contest for a FREE Martin "Little Martin" guitar!! There's still time to send in a picture of you in your Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt. The most interesting photo will win the Guitar!! (It can be an interesting place, interesting activity, anything... as long as we're amused!) Deadline for entry: Sept 15th.

PPPPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Adam Evil & The Outside Royalty

PPPPPS: Here's me at Abbey Road.

Saturday 9/13/03


We've always been big NRBQ fans. (Go to see them!) A few years ago their long time guitar player, Big Al Anderson, left the band to move to Nashville and play with Carlene Carter. Carlene Carter is the daughter of June Carter, and her Step-Dad is Johnny Cash. So you can imagine how upset we were when Johnny died this morning!

In honor of Johnny Cash, this week's special is an extra 10% off any black guitar in the store! New, used, electric, long as it's black!


See You soon,


PS: There's still time to get your Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt photo in. The deadline is early next week. The most interesting photo we receive of someone wearing a Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt will win a FREE Martin "Little Martin" guitar. (I previously randomly picked Sept 15th as the cutoff date, but since that's Monday, we're extending the entry time until next Friday, Sept 19th...)

PPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Mike On Guitar


Saturday 9/20/03


Yesterday we received a bunch of new guitars, including three new Fenders... the new, less-expensive Jaguar, the new, less-expensive Jazzmaster, and the wacky new "Splatter" Strat. (Yes, it really looks like that thing you make at Kennywood, where you put a piece of paper on a rotating palette and drip paint onto it and it splats out in different directions. And that's actually how they make THIS guitar, except they're doing it in Mexico, instead of at Kennywood...)

As I looked at the wall, wondering how to get more guitars into this finite space, I decided to finally go for it... the space above the door. Velvet Elvis is gonna have to come down and we're gonna start hanging guitars up there.

So last night at Midnight I figured I'd go over to the new Super Giant Wal-Mart and buy some paint, to paint that extra piece of slat-wall I just happen to have in my garage. (The Super Wal-Mart, by the way, is BIG... as can be evidenced by the fact that you can buy a loaf of bread, the new Cher CD and a gallon of Flat White Latex Paint in the same building...)

As I drove down Route 51, I couldn't help but notice that it was windy. Quite windy. Like there was some sort of storm coming. Have you heard anything about that?

"Man, it sure is windy!" I said to myself. And that reminded me of the song "Windy" by The Association. And, like you, whenever I think of The Association I end up thinking about The New Christy Minstrels... After all, the lead singer on "Windy" (as well as The Associations' other big hit "Never My Love") was Larry Ramos. And before The Association Larry sang in a folk group called The New Christy Minstrels. Although I'm a firm believer in drums and electric guitars, I always enjoy hearing the New Christy Minstrels' tune "Green, Green." And the lead vocalist on "Green Green" was Barry McGuire, who a year later, quit the New Christy Minstrels and had a #1 solo hit with "Eve Of Destruction."

That of course, reminded me that when Barry was recording his follow-up album he enlisted the help of some friends, a folk quartet called The Mamas & Papas. Barry planned to record a song written by "Papa" John Phillips, but as they were layering the backup vocals, Barry was so impressed that he suggested they release the song themselves. So they took Barry's voice off and had "Papa" Denny Doherty sing lead, and the recording, "California Dreamin'," became their first hit, and led to years of success and excessive drug use.

Anytime I've ever seen pictures or video of The Mamas & Papas John Phillips is playing a 12-string. Which brings to mind the OTHER new guitars that arrived yesterday: Hofner electric acoustic 12-strings. They're featured on this week's special!


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Michelle Malone

PPS: We're sifting through the entries in Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt Contest. Thanks for all of the pictures! We'll announce the winner next week!

PPPS: Hey, I've decided to start my own TV show. I don't have much of a plan yet, but I might call it: "Pittsburgh Guitars Presents- Carl's TV Show" I figure we'll have some bands, some interviews, talk about guitars and the meaning of life... you know... that kind of thing. If you'd be interested in being involved, either behind the scenes, or as a fascinating guest, let me know.

PPPPS: Hey again.... Saturday November 1st. "Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XI"
Do you do any good versions of a dead rock star? We're starting to put the show together.

PPPPPS: Speaking of wind and The New Christy Minstrels, if you get a chance see "A Mighty Wind," Christopher Guest's mocumentary about 60's folk groups. (It's the same guys from "Spinal Tap.") (Not to mention "Best In Show") (And "Waiting For Guffman")

Saturday 9/27/03


TiVo is a digital hard-drive video recorder. Sort of like a higher-quality, smarter VCR. And I say "smarter" because after you use it for a while it starts recording things on it's own... TV shows that it thinks you might like. A year and a half ago my TiVo recorded a British comedy called "Coupling." And it apparently knows me well, because I really liked it. I programmed BBC America into TiVo and watched every episode.

So you can imagine my curiosity last night when, like most of the country, I tuned in for the season debuts of NBC's Thursday night shows. The folks at NBC apparently have TiVo, too... they bought the rights to do a U.S. version of "Coupling." I knew they planned to re-cast the show with Americans (sadly losing the beauty of the British accents that make everything sound more innocent), but I was surprised to see that they re-did the first British episode almost word for word. (Of course they changed some terminology... In England: "mobile" / here: "cell-phone"... England: "pants" / here: "underwear"... England: "crappy TV Show" / here: "Whoopi")

Since I knew the British episode well, it was very interesting to see the US version. It was like a TV "cover song." Same words and melody, but a different band... It got me thinking of other "cover" tunes... and how some "covers" are more successful than the originals. The first one that came to mind was "Piece Of My Heart." The original by Erma Franklin (Aretha's sister) is a wonderful recording, but Janis Joplin's was a bigger hit. The Young Rascals are still getting airplay today with their cover of The Olympics "Good Lovin'." And Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" was cool, but not as successful as Jimi Hendrix's version. It makes you wonder why some bands are so against doing "covers."

In honor of "covers" this week's email special is the Fender Deluxe Acoustic Gig Bag. If you don't have a cover for your guitar, or if you need something lighter and easier to carry than your hardshell, grab one of these. They have lots of padding, two handles and two shoulder straps.


See You Soon,


PS: Hey, let's have a FREE Gig Bag drawing! A lot of "covers" are big hits, even though they're note-for-note remakes of the original. Send in a list of your top three favorite cover hits. Extra credit if at first you didn't know they were covers. Extra extra credit if you can also name three TV show "covers" besides "Coupling." Next week we'll randomly pick a winner from all of the entries. The winner will get a free Fender Deluxe Acoustic Gig Bag!

PPS: Speaking of winners, we have a winner from our Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt photo contest: Jeff Bell! Unfortunately we can't show you all of Jeff's photo, but it WAS the most "interesting"!! Here's part of it.

PPPS: Here's Steve K., the runner-up. (My personal favorite) (Yes, this picture is from Pittsburgh... somewhere between the river and the new stadium!) Steve will receive six sets of Martin Strings:

PPPPS: Here is a sampling of other T-Shirt folk.

PPPPPS: Sometimes the original records are fairly obscure... For example, I got a kick out of Smash Mouth's 2002 hit "Can't Get Enough Of You Baby" because I think I'm one of the forty-seven people who bought the original by "? And The Mysterians" (It was their follow-up to "96 Tears.")

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