“Honey Is That You ?!”

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There’s a great sequence in the wonderful Back to the Future film, where a young Marty McFly picks up a guitar, sits in with a smooth dance band of the day, and rips into a Chuck Berry riff – morphing the band into a Rock outfit in an instant, and setting the whole place alight. The delicious joke is that Chuck Berry hears this on the phone and learns this way of playing from Marty. It’s a very subtle piece of tongue-in-cheek filmic history-rewriting, and of course Chuck was in on the gag. It has a real truth embedded in it, too, because, as far as I know, nobody knows where or how Chuck got inspired to play like that. It’s as if he must have tuned in to an alien, or a voice from Above, or, like in this film, copped it from a time traveller from the future.

That’s how blindingly NEW Chuck Berry’s style was. Remember we’re coming out of an era where the guitar was only just starting to be heard as a lead instrument – a ‘voice’ – in popular music. Until that time it had been used in orchestras and big bands purely as a rhythmic ‘chug’ in the background, until it became electrified, and amplified – notably by Les Paul, but equally notably by Django Reinhart. Suddenly here is this wiry little black guy with a wicked smile and a glint in his eye, singing his own songs which are in themselves quite risqué, with a wry dry voice, but also underpinning his performances and recordings with a guitar which rudely led the whole thing … his riffing was as rude and cheeky as his voice. It’s actually more than this. He hit those tight top strings of his guitar with such gusto that they actually made a kind of insistent clanging sound (one of his most famous lyrics (in Johnny B. Goode) says “He could play that guitar like ringin’ a bell”. I sincerely believe there is not a single rock guitarist in the world who hasn’t been influenced, directly or indirectly, by Chuck Berry’s ‘bell’ playing, and who hasn’t occasionally dabbled in his trademark double-stopped riffing style – which opens Johnny B Goode, Bye Bye Johnny, Carol, and many others among his classic rock records.

Yes, I’ll own up straight away … there’s a very deliberate direct quote in my playing in the coda of ‘Now I’m Here’ – followed by another nod … the thrown-in chorus “Go go go little Queenie”. This was in a song which was already a tribute to Mott The Hoople, whom we’d been supporting on tour, and who also can trace some of their influences to Chuck. The whole song is really about our swim in the Rock River which flows, and grows, and lives, largely because it IS so self-conscious about enjoying its roots… More at Brian May.com.

Such a brilliant tribute from the world’s best guitarist in the world’s best band.

Loft: the stereo system you once loved

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All the power and connectivity of our classic full size consoles packed into a much smaller footprint, the Wrensilva Loft is a fresh take on the modern record console.

Upholding Wrensilva values of thoughtful design and American craftmanship united with high fidelity analog and streaming audio, the Loft is equipped with a 300 watts per channel Wrensilva amplifier, a fantastic sounding turntable, state-of-the-art SONOS® functionality, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a set of RCA inputs for anything from an old school cassette deck to a digital cable box.

Available for purchase as a standalone unit that can be used with even the most demanding speakers on the market and the ability to connect wirelessly to all Sonos speakers throughout your home, or for purchase as a complete package with matching Wrensilva Monitor speakers and included welded steel speaker stands. The Loft offers a truly elegant and flexible option to our line up… More at Wrensilva.

That really is beautifully modern while still managing to take you back to your parent’s music system that dominated the front room.

Non-stop Hi-Res Music while Wireless Charging

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Everyone has seen many jokes and videos made about the lack of phone jack on iPhone 7. You could put a 3.5 mm to a lightning adapter, but that would mean you cannot charge the phone at the same time.

The RES converter was designed as a solution for dual charging and listening. Instead of purchasing completely new add-ons, The RES external digital-to-analog converter (Hi-Res DAC 24 bits 192kHz) attaches to 3.5mm jack and lightning ports, allowing you to play audio and stay charged around the clock… More at kickstarter.

Potentially a very good product and especially if the sound is markedly improved. Would like to see a more original design though. It looks a bit clunky to me.

Pandora Premium

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The first thing you’ll notice with Pandora Premium is that it takes fewer clicks to actually start playing music compared to Apple Music and Spotify. The app launches into My Music, which features a carousel of recently played albums and stations that can be played with one tap, something that requires switching tabs and searching through a list on Apple Music.

Below the carousel is a list of all your saved music, sorted in reverse chronological order — another decision that keeps you from going back and forth between the album, artist, and song lists that streaming users have become accustomed to. (You can still sort by those categories if you so choose, but the option is hidden in a drop-down menu.) More at The Verge.

With millions of tracks available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon etc, there are only 2 areas left to compete on; pricing and design. Could well be that Pandora will win in terms of design.

Prototype Apple iPod Classic: $99,995.00

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Up for sale is an extremely rare iPod. This is the iPod that really turned Apple around. Apple had started it’s upward ascent after releasing the iMac, iBook, and PowerBook’s, but the iPod is what changed everything. I have never seen another iPod prototype 1st gen like this before. Not only is it in fantastic shape, given it’s age and it being a prototype, but it has a red board inside. As you can see from the photos, the iPod still holds a charge and is fully functional. This is your change to own a piece of history, not just Apple history, but actual history… More at eBay.

$99,995.00, but that is understandable because as the seller says “There is a small dent on the back that is barely noticeable and some small scuffs/scratches on the back and front.”

Podcasts worth checking out

Podcasts have become even more of a common form of entertainment for me recently and so I thought I would recommend a few. If you would like to add yours to the comments, I will post them as a future list so that others can enjoy them as well. Click the titles below to read more about each podcast.

Pod Save America

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A brilliant podcast that admittedly has an Obama / Clinton bias, but there is no doubt that the hosts really know their stuff. Always interesting and one of the podcasts I look forward to the most each week.

This American Life

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One you will probably be aware of already, but to date it rarely fails to impress and I always learn something new.

Reply All

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Quirky is the name of the game here, but now and again they produce an amazing episode. Has the potential to be one of the very best when they stop messing about.

The Grey Nato

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Admittedly this is very much a podcast for watch nerds, like myself, but they do cover outdoor gear and other stuff as well. The two hosts are incredibly knowledgeable though and really know how to keep their audience engaged.

Twenty Thousand Hertz

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A brilliant and highly unusual podcast which offers the real stories behind the world’s most recognisable and interesting sounds. At times it is quite amazing.

And my podcast player of choice? Pocket Casts which is way ahead of the competition…