Monday, February 18, 2008

The Pink Floyd sound, circa 1979

I bought my first house in 1979, to celebrate the end of the KISS Dynasty tour, and my getting a real job. I lived in that house for over 16 years through several changes of career, acquisition of a wife, creation of a kid, and all manner of ups and downs.

When I got divorced and moved, I left many things behind, thinking I’d go back and get them one day. My ex-wife remained in the house; she’s still there now. Time passed and “one day” never came for all the other stuff I left behind. This weekend, thanks to Cubby, it arrived. I found myself unexpectedly cleaning up the basement and I found these gems from my past:






You are looking at the two amps that were the heart of Pink Floyd’s concert sound system in the late 1970s. When the Floyd was not on tour (which was most of the time) the sound equipment was rented out by their in-house sound company, Brittania Row Audio. I was the American side's engineer back in those days.

The Quad 303 was a very clean 40-watt amplifier, small by today’s standards but average back then. The quads drove the Gauss radial horns, with one Quad to each horn. A typical system might use 16-24 on each side of the stage. These Quads were very smooth, clean amps for horn use.

The Pink Floyd Mk III’s were brutes, real workhorses. They were based upon highly modified Phase Linear 700s. I fitted beefier power supplies, more rugged output stages, and internal limiting which upped the power 50% over their civilian counterparts while retaining the sweet sound. I made over several truckloads of these beasts in Britro’s Long Island City workshop. These Mk IIIs had a peak power of about 500 watts per channel, and they were racked four channels to a case, making them some of the most powerful PA amps in existence in the late 1970s. We used these amps to drive our low and midrange cone speakers.

These amps, with the Gauss speakers, my crossovers and limiters, and Midas consoles, made a sweet sounding system that could do anything - we could do Black Sabbath one night and Melissa Manchester the next without missing a beat. Even today, they’d do a fine job in most any venue in the world. I can still remember the feeling, standing backstage, watching the LED meters on those amps as the band played. I could feel my system run, standing back there in the dark, and I always knew just how much it could take. We never had breakdowns when I was there. I may not have played an instrument, but I knew how to make my sound system sing.

Back in the 70s most of the big English bands toured this equipment. When we brought the system to America it spent a number of years doing all kinds of music from heavy metal to new wave to blues, jazz and even disco.

It’s nice to rediscover them again, after almost 30 years in the basement. I think there's more stuff down there, hidden and awaiting rediscovery. I'll go look tomorrow.

18 comments:

Polly Kahl said...

This is SO fun! Can't wait to hear what other treasures you unearth! These would make great prizes for future blog contests, hint hint.

Trilogy said...

OOh that must have bee fun to find. Now, if you find a 1955 Stratocaster down there, I'll give you $50 for it. Color not imporant.

John Elder Robison said...

Trilogy, I never did much work on Strats. Les Pauls and Teles were what I used for the KISS effects guitars.

I built some bass guitar electronics, too. Harvey Brooks (Blood Sweat Tears and others) and John Regan (Peter Frampton) come to mind, but I don't have their basses laying around.

Shash said...

I really wish you would come to Orlando, my son and I are DYING to meet you!

The fact that you worked with KISS as well as Pink Floyd just ratcheted up the cool quotient. :)

Looking forward to reading about any other cool treasures you may unearth!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Thank God for the people backstage at every creative performance.


P.S. "Acquistion of a wife?"

You romantic dog!

Woof!

The Anti-Wife said...

I'm in awe! I was rock concerting during that era and probably experienced many of these sound systems. I always sat as far from the speakers as possible because of the ringing ears for days syndrome.

Lisa said...

Holy cow! That's some serious rock and roll history there!

ChristineEldin said...

Wow! Do you have mixed feelings about going through stuff from your past? It used to make me sad, but not anymore.

John Elder Robison said...

Christine, there are certainly sad things in my past, but my time in music was a good time.

Kanani said...

Wow. Isn't that fun? Sort of like me going into a closet and sorting through a 20 year collection of scarves. Well, no, they weren't Pink Floyd but they brought back good memories.

Kim Stagliano said...

COOLER THAN COOL!!!! I'm dragging my husband over here to look at this post. And trilogy, remember, John's guitars blew up! LOL! (By design, of course, by design.)

Chumplet said...

I can't wait to see more. We bought my parents' house and there's stuff under the stairs I'm afraid to find.

John Elder Robison said...

Chumplet, you just never know what you'll find in an old house. Just don't reach your hands anywhere you can't see. And always keep a machete and flashlight handy

Chumplet said...

And wear steel-toed boots.

AccessNewbie said...

"Acquisition of wife" - perhaps that is why you are divorced now, because you viewed your wife as property. In another post you write about property and grievances of long-ago property loss. Have you ever considered that most women experience in puberty a loss of the property of their own bodies, as people seek to acquire them as girlfriends and wives.

John Elder Robison said...

AccessNewbie, I don not think I got divorced because I viewed my wife as property.

And I think it's safe to say,just as wife acquisition is a goal for millions of males, husband acquisition is a goal of countless females.

I don't really see a difference, either way.

I don't see a female's loss in puberty any different from my own. What about the females who may have wanted to acquire me? How is that any different?

AccessNewbie said...

For one thing, it is very similar Given that, if it was a "loss" for you to be viewed as property to be acquired, then why would that be justification for inflicting the same upon someone else? I'd personally like to come to an understanding of what has been damaging to me and choose not to do the same to others.

On the other hand, there is a significant difference in male and female conceptions of marriage. Recently in this culture females have been actively taught that in marriage they will sexually serve their husbands, not the other way around. I don't mean to imply that gender rules about sexuality aren't damaging to the whole spectrum of gender. But rather, there is a significant difference in being acquired to be "master" and being "acquired" to serve.

John Elder Robison said...

All I can really say, Access, is that you and I seem to interpret that phrase two different ways.

Uttering the statement, "Acquiring a wife" does not make the wife property or exploited in my mind.

And it's safe to say my wife does not see herself that way either.