As musicians we have all dreamed of fame and fortune. The ultimate goal was getting signed by a major record label. My dream began when I was ten years old standing in front of the mirror playing air guitar to Kiss and Rush.
As I grew I became more and more fascinated with the music business. In this edition of The History Of Gear we take a look at the ever changing face of the record industry.
The first recording device was the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison in 1887. Edison first demonstrated his device by saying, “Mary had a little lamb,” and then playing it back.
During the 1890s the earliest commercial phonographs were priced well out of the range of the average consumer. Therefore, coin operated phonograph parlors began springing up in most major cities. Interstingly, this is where the “pop” song began. In order to appeal to the masses, early coin operated recordings were basic songs or commedies meant reach a broad audience. This early formula of songs containing a catchy chorus or “hook,” is still an industry standard today.
The earliest record labels such as Columbia, Victor, and Edison didn’t sign artists to multi album deals. That would come later. They originally traveled the country recording unknown artists and groups. Many of these artists found some fame as they became popular in the coin op parlors. This is much like the current state of the music industry where an unknown artist can suddenly go viral on YouTube. However, because of poor record keeping, many of the earliest artists never even knew how popular their music had become and only ever recieved the small payment they were given for the initial recording.
Due to the phonograph evolving into the record player and their lowering prices, coin op parlors became a thing of the past. By the 1920s nearly every household owned a record player signifying the first big boom of the record industry. Record sales rose from 4million per year in 1900, to a staggering 30 million by 1910.
Record sales continiued to rise rise throughout the 19020s reaching an apex of 100 million in 1927. As the old saying goes though, what goes up must come down. As a result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the resulting depression, record sales plummeted.
The recording industry consists of two separate entities, a record company, and a publisher. The record company record company records and markets the artist. The publisher is responsible for ensuring the songwriter and composers receive compensation when their composition is used commercially. Much of the time the however, record labels handle the publishing as well.
As the popularity of records rose in in the early 1900s only the biggest stars received royalties. This all changed in 1909 however, when the U.S. Congress passed the first copywrlight laws, forcing record companies to pay royalties to all songwriters.
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At the heart of thousands of speaker cabinets, dare I say, at the heart of Rock N Roll itself, is the Celestion speaker. Since the earliest days of rock music, to this very day, millions of ears have heard thousands of guitars pushed through the mighty, and enduring Celestion speaker. Let’s take a look at where it all began.
The story of Celestion begins in the 1920s at the dawn of the amplified signal. As we learned in last weeks article, the rise of Big Band or Swing music, created a need for amplification. Amidst the large bands of the day, vocals, and certain other instruments, were being drowned out. The first Public Adress Systems used horn type speakers, that had a very narrow frequency range, which gave vocalists and guitarists a very nasally sound.
In 1924, Cyril French began a small loudspeaker company located in the western part of London England. He began the business to aid Eric Mackintosh with the development of the center cone loudspeaker, that endures to this day.
This speaker was revolutionary. With the patented, free vibrating edge, the speaker was able to move and vibrate. This was necessary to allow the center cone, or diaphragm, to move air back and forth, thus creating sound waves. When mounted in a wooden enclosure, a full range of frequencies was finally achieved. Therfore in 1925 the very first Celestion speaker was introduced to the world.
The first Celestion speakers were found in gramophones. However, as the years passed the need for amplification grew, and Celestions could be found in everything from radios and TVs, to P.A.s and navel ships.
During the 1940s World War II was raging on, and like many companies of the time, Celstion manufactured products for the war effort. It was during this time that they developed the 12” speaker with an Alnico magnet. What is an Alnico magnet you ask? Alnico is actually an acronym that stands for aluminum, nickel, and cobalt. These are of course the elements used in their manufacturing.
After the war, and after further development, the 12” Alnico speaker, became the Celestion G12.
The 1950s and 60s brought us the Cold War, and The Vietnam War. The result of these conflicts was anxiety, tension, and outrage. All of these ingredients combined to create a new style of music called Rock N Roll.
It was during this time that the Celstion G12 finally found it’s way into the guitar amplifier. The first of which was the Vox AC30. The speaker is still referred to today as “Blue” do the painted blue chassis of the G12.
In 1962 the first Marshall amp was equipped with Celestion speakers. Since then, all Marshall cabs have been filled with Celestion goodness.
Throughout the years Celstion has introduced several different speakers to the market. However, in 1986 they released the G12 Vintage 30. Perhaps one of the most iconic speakers of the Celstion Line.
There are some interesting facts about the V30 to note. First of all, the rising cost of cobalt made the manufacturing of large Alnico magnets too expensive. Yet, at the time, there was a burgeoning interest in a return to a more vintage sounding speaker.
To develope the V30, Celestion employed a high tech instrument called a Laser Doppler Interferometry. What’s that you ask? I have no idea. However I do know it was used to analyze the behavior of the cone in the original “blue“ G12. The knowledge they gleaned from this study are, to this day, closely guarded trade secrets.
Another interesting fact about the G12 Vintage 30, is in the name itself. The “30” would indicate the speaker was rated at 30 watts. However, the speaker was actually rated at 60 watts. The name was merely a marketing ploy, meant to harken back to the speakers of yesteryear.
One of the the most interesting aspects of the V30, is that although it is meant to have a vintage tone, since it’s introduction, it has always been at the forefront of modern rock. Whether it be the Hair Bands of the 80s, the Grunge of the 90s, or the enduring Metal of today, the Vintage 30 has been at the heart of it all.
The list of artists who have used, and still use Celestion speakers is, well, almost all of them. However I will attempt to list some of the highlights.
One of the first major acts to play through Celestion speakers was The Beatles. Throughout the years there have been many many others such as Anegus Young, Slash, Steve Vai, Mark Tremonti, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Perry, Tony Iommi, and on, and on, and on...
Celestion speakers have absolutely dominated the market. In fact they once touted themselves as, "The very soul of music."
I challenge you to the think of five other speaker manufacturers. Heck! Try to name even three other speaker brands. However I’m sure all of us could name several brands of guitars, amps, and pedals.
So why have Celestion speakers been so dominating? Because they sound freaking fantastic!!
As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.
Contributed by: M. Sawyer
Where are guitar amps headed in the future? Straight down the tubes if you ask me. Pun intended. In this article we will take a hard look at the history of amps, the state of amps today, and my predictions of what amps might look like in the future.
The need for guitar amplification came about in the 20s and 30s due the rise in popularity of Big Band or Swing music. The bands of the time were becoming, well, really big. These bands were filled with naturally loud instruments such as the trumpet. Therefore, acoustic guitars were simply drowned out. Guitarists first attempted to use Public Address systems for amplification. Unfortunately, the early P. A. Systems used radio horns with a very limited frequency range. Cone type speakers, much like the ones we still use today, weren’t available until the mid 20s.
The first guitar amps were rather crude by today’s standards. They had a volume knob and that’s it. They didn’t even have on and off switches. You just plugged them in. Well, that’s only when AC current was available. Otherwise they had to use extremely heavy batteries to power the amps. I’m betting this is when guitarists started using roadies.
As the years passed there were several folks tinkering with modifying P.A. Systems and developing pickups. In the early thirties George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker started the Electro String Company. They first began developing pickups that were the framework upon which the pickups we use today were developed. In 1941 they also released what we call today, a combo amp.
Most amps of the 30s and 40s were unreliable and under powered. However, in the mid 40s this guy named Clarence Leonidas Fender began building combo amps.
By the 1950s amplifiers were louder and more reliable. That, along with the advent of the solid body electric guitar, forever changed the music industry. Those changes became most evident with the eruption of rock music. Suddenly there were stacks of Marshall amps and strung out musicians writing and performing music while high, or on acid trips. Darn those evil amps!
Now we can’t talk about the history of amps without at least briefly discussing the most evil of all inventions, the transistor. Up until the 1950s everything utilized one of God’s greatest creations, the vacuum tube. Everything from TVs to radios to the earliest computers, used vacuum tubes. The transistor however, changed history.
Admittedly, the transistor did help improve several products such as TVs, and radios making them more practical and less expensive. Transistors are more reliable and are more efficient than the tubes they replaced. However, the transistor is also responsible for the Solid State Amp. A tubeless monstrosity with no soul.
Perhaps the greatest evil to ever infiltrate the gear market was the digital amp modeler. We went from warm glowing tubes to cold lifeless microchips.
The first prominent digital modeler to burst onto the market was the Line 6 Pod, released in 1998. The Pod offered 16 amp models with cabs, and 16 glistening digital effects.
The amp modeler offered a practical and inexpensive way for the guitarist to have access to a wide array of amplifiers and effects all in one small package. However, in my opinion they lack the warmth and dynamics of the genuine article. In spite of this, Line 6 opened a huge market that has continued to grow by leaps and bounds.
Today there are several different types of amps available to the consumer. Thank God there are still tube amps! There are also other options such as modelers, which includes computer plugins, solid state, preamps, and hybrids of all of the above.
One of the the more interesting recent developments is the bedroom amp. You see in years past most weddings, bars, and clubs had live music, performed by real human beings. Those days are virtually gone now.
However, with every loss there is a new beginning. Guitarists have now found a new outlet for expression and income. It’s called YouTube. The problem is that guitarists no longer needed 100 watt Marshall’s. Enter the bedroom amp which gives players the ability to play and practice quietly at home, without getting tickets for violating the noise ordinance in their neighborhood.
In the last decade the rise of modeling amps has begun to soar. Companies have continued to develop the technology. In fact many of today’s artists such as Metallica are using modelers for touring. However, 99% of them still use all tube amps in the studio. For now.
There are many who say that tube amps will one day be obsolete. Is this true? Will amp modelers rule?
I don’t know. All I can do is speculate what the future might hold. If tube amps truly do become obsolete, I hope it’s long after I leave this tubeless world.
During my research I discovered a few things about the tube industry. First, in recent times there has been an increase in the use of products with vacuum tubes. This is due to two things. One, since the introduction of lower wattage amps for home use, sales have increased. Second, there has been an upsurge of interest by audiophiles in tube amps designed for listening to music. A stereo on steroids if you will.
Finally, I learned that vacuum tubes are more durable for long term use in outer space than any other product of its type, such as transistors, and computer chips. In fact, a tiny version of the vacuum tube, developed by NASA, is currently being used in the computers on the International Space Station.
So then here‘s the question, will any of this matter? Will there be tube amps in the future? To my utter dismay, I believe the answer is no.
Digital amps are the future. The tightening regulations on the manufacturing of tubes along with the slow decrease in sales, among other things, will bring about the demise of the tube amp, and the rise of the digital amp.
I say digital amp rather than modeling amp because I also believe that eventually, modelers will also become obsolete. You see as time passes and tube amps go by the wayside, new generations of guitarists wont even know what a tube amp sounded like. Nor will they care. Therefore, why would they desire an amp that models ancient tube amps they don’t care about anyway.
I believe manufacturers will eventually begin to create new digital devices with new tones based on the ever evolving music industry.
As some of you may know, I am a tube amp devotee. To my ear amp modelers do not sound nearly as good, nor do they feel like a real tube amp. For those of you that might ask if I’ve ever used modelers, the answer is yes. In fact, I used to play exclusively through modelers. I still own an ElevenRack to this day. However I only use it as a bass preamp.
The truth is, this was a very difficult article for me to write. The thought of the demise of the tube amp saddens me deeply. I believe that something truly amazing will be lost.
I suppose its it’s the way of things though. Throughout our history much that was precious has been lost to time. The good news is however, that there is always something new on the horizon.
As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.
Contributed by: M. Sawyer
If you have any thoughts about this article, or have predictions of your own you’d like to share, please let us know by clicking the box below.
In recent times, the list of modern day guitar hero’s seems to be dwindling. Whether or not this is true, is up for debate. However, when I think of modern day guitar heroes, one name always rises to the top of my list. That name is Phil X.
Phil Theofilos Xenidis was born on March 10, 1966 In Toronto Canada. I think it’s apparent why Phil shortened his name to simply, Phil X. Phil X sounds way cooler, and is quite frankly, much easier to say. Phil’s musical journey began in 1982 at the budding age of only 16 years old. It was then he formed his band, Sidinex, which is Phil’s last name spelled backwards. Don’t worry, I didn’t catch it the first time either. Sidinex found early success opening for larger acts such as Nazareth and Thor. Phil X found greater success in 1991 when he toured with Aldo Nova. In 1993, he joined Triumph, one of my favorite bands. I didn’t know this fact until years later. Phil joined triumph because original member Rik Emmett left the band. At the time I was quite dismayed by Emmetts departure and stopped following Triumph. However, Phil did record one album with Triumph, which is definitely worth checking out. In 1997, Phil moved to Los Angeles where he embarked on a career as a session guitarist. Phil was doing such amazing work, that everyone he worked with referred him to someone else. Phil ended up working with several of the biggest names in the music industry. He became so saught after that his name could be found on public bathroom walls. “For a good time and an amazing guitarist call Phil X.”
In 2008 Phil began demonstrating vintage guitars for Fretted Americans YouTube channel. Phil’s popularity skyrocketed as the channel received millions of views. Fast forward to 2011 and the biggest break of Phil’s career. At this time Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi began to succumb to the years of substance abuse. Out of desperation, Jon Bon Jovi began to seek out a back up guitarist just in case Sambora became unable to perform. John Shanks, producer and guitarist for Bon Jovi had recently discovered Phil X on Fretted Americanas channel. One day Phil received a call from none other than Jon Bon Jovi. Needless to say Phil was floored. However, as a result of this call, Phil performed thirteen shows with Bon Jovi while Sambora was in rehab. Fast forward to 2013. Richie Sambora leaves Bon Jovi for good. Phil receives yet another call from Jon Bon Jovi. This call However leads to a permanent position as the lead guitarist of Bon Jovi.
Finally, I think it’s important to note, that for the purpose of brevity, much of Phil’s distinguished career has been omitted. However, I would like you to know about Phil’s own band called The Drills. They have two albums that are well worth checking out. Most interesting though, Phil has stated, that while he is extremely grateful for his position with Bon Jovi, he is most happy playing his own music with The Drills.
Over the long years as a session guitarist Phil has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Artists such as, Tommy Lee, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Levigne, Chris Cornell, Orianthi, and many more.
We don‘t actually listen to radios anymore, but if you were to turn one on, chances are you would hear some of the riffs and licks of Phil X.
Throughout the years Phil has had severa signature products. Most notably, he has had signature guitars with Yamaha and Framus.He also has some signature amps, such as the Evil Robot, which is made in the style of the 1959 Tonemaster Troubadour 214. He also teamed up with Friedman for the Phil X signature 100W amp head.
Phil also has an online store where sells his own line of amazing sounding pickups. Also availablet on his site are T-shirts, stickers, and the two CDs of Phil’s band The Drills.
For more information go to www.philxstore.com. And no we aren’t getting any kickbacks from Phil X. It’s just a friendly gesture from Know Your Gear. Not only that but you’ve got to check out The Drills. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.
What makes Phil X such a great guitarist? What is it that led him from humble beginnings, all the way to Bon Jovi? Phil X isn’t just a great guitarist. Phil has a magnetic personality with charisma for days. Most importantly though, he has not aloud his fame to change him, as so many before him have. Phil is just as friendly and approachable as he ever was. Phil X is a great guitarist, and a great man. To me, that’s what makes a true guitar hero.
Phil McKnight has featured Phil X twice on his YouTube channel. One is an interview with Phil X, and the other is Phil McKnight performing live with Phil X at Guitcon. Trust me this is a can‘t miss video. The links are below.
Phil X interview
Phil McKnight on stage with Phil X
As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.
Contributed by: M. Sawyer