East of NORMAL

Oh, for the love of Moloch!

Whenever I submit this column, I get one of three responses from my editor, Moloch: 1) “That’s great. Thanks, Tommy!” 2) “That’s great, Tommy, but what if we put in a comma on line 17?” 3) “What the fuck? Do you expect us to print this shit?” Okay, maybe No. 3 is not usually that strongly worded, but the point is the same: Get your ass back to the drawing board and bring us something we can print, because this ain’t it.
     The first column I submitted for this issue was all about one of my favorite topics: amplifiers — specifically, guitar amplifiers. I figured that such a topic wouldn’t be criminally esoteric, given how this is Music City and all, but it fell with a thump in Moloch’s office. The reason being nonmusicians wouldn’t know what the hell I’m going on about. Looking at it now, I concede that devoting an entire paragraph on how power tube distortion is preferable to preamp tube distortion would maybe fly over the heads of civilians and drummers. Not to mention how I went into detail regarding the fallacy of combining a speaker rated at 100 watts with a 40-watt amp. I fought for the idea that gear nerds are people, too, but apparently, they aren’t. Not in this magazine anyway.
     I tried to rewrite it to no avail. The column was already perfect, even funny. I’d written a great column about a topic near-and-dear to my heart. There was not a word misplaced. The comparison between a Fender Twin Reverb and a Mesa Boogie Mark III was spot on. It couldn’t be dumbed down. I tried, but it wasn’t possible.
     So here I am, in bed, which is where I do most of my writing. I understand that Woody Allen also writes in bed — when he’s not schtuping stepchildren, of course — and this is where I get most of my ideas. Few, if any of them, have anything to do with being in bed. I drink my coffee, put Oasis on my stereo, and write. I suppose I could write about … my bedroom. Why not? My only alternative is a detailed treatise on guitar amps.
     It’s not a big bedroom, but it’s not cramped, really. We have more clothes than closet space, so various articles of apparel are often hanging from the bedposts. There’s a flat-screen TV on the dresser in front of me. On that same dresser is the cable box, a DVD player, a mason jar full of quarters, nickels and dimes, a coffee cup full of pennies, a plastic cup full of pencils and pens (about 25 percent of which work), two lint rollers (for some reason, you’d think one would do), a picture of Beth on our wedding day, a candle, and a little wooden trinket box. If that sounds crowded for the top of a dresser, that’s because it is. Oh, and there’s a mirror on the wall above it. I can’t see myself in the mirror from my angle, and this is a good thing. A glance in the mirror of what I look like in bed would take my concentration off the writing and leave me wondering what I’m doing with my life.
     Next to me is my nightstand, which groans under its weight. Sitting on it is an alarm clock, a table lamp, a 4-inch-high collection of papers of various vintage, two or three CDs, three Time magazines, and four thick books. From top to bottom, these are: a bio of Leonardo da Vinci; one of Elvis Costello; one of Benjamin Franklin; and a complete collection of the poems of Arthur Rimbaud. The latter is also the smallest, leaving the others teetering above. I wish I had a better command of poetry, the volume on my nightstand testifying to that, but I think I like the idea of poetry more so than the poems themselves. I guess I’m just not as smart as the people who enjoy that sort of thing. Oh, and there’s a coffee cup on the nightstand, too. There always is.
     Well, there you have it. I’m drained. I can carry no further this Seinfeld column-about-nothing. Perhaps you’d like to hear me riff on how vintage amps work better on a lower voltage than what is offered by modern wall current, and how you can buy an attenuator to deal with that. Or perhaps you’d like to learn that you can lower the risk of blown fuses by swapping out the tube rectifier for a solid-state one. It might even boost your wattage! Who doesn’t love that? Perhaps we could compare and contrast 6V6 tubes with EL84s. That’ll kill an hour. What do you think, Moloch?
 
Editor’s note: Moloch prefers KT66 tubes in his Marshalls and preamp tube distortion, although he admits there’s nothing like an early Vox AC30 running on 220-volts. The best concert he ever saw was Queen at the Municipal Auditorium at which Brian May ran nine AC30s at 220-volts through a custom, Pete Cornish-built, step-up transformer the size of a refridgerator.