Part of my motorcycle history: a 1941 Matchless G3L not seen since 1975 …until now!

My second road bike, which I rode on a regular basis when I was 18 – 19 years old was a 1941 Matchless G3L, a rigid-framed (no rear suspension) machine. It was truly a wonderful bike, a pure classic British single cylinder. With a capacity of 350 cc, it was never going to set the world alight in pure performance terms, but the engine was soft and tractable, low compression, I think it was 6.8:1 (so that it could run on the “pool” – low octane – petrol of the wartime period) and it had a long stroke and big flywheels, giving it similar power characteristics to a steam engine. You didn’t need to rev the bike much, it delivered usable power from right down at the bottom of the rev range, and would be happy to cruise at 50 to 60 miles an hour on the open road. It had magneto ignition, meaning that it generated its own electricity to make a spark (no battery required) and returned 60+ mpg without any problem. I really loved this motorcycle and travelled far and wide on it.

My old Matchless outside the family home in 1974, I'm guessing.

My old Matchless outside the family home in 1974, I’m guessing.

The bike came into my possession courtesy of my mother, who was working as a kennel maid at a racing greyhound kennels, the machine had been ‘rested’ propped up against some old shed round the back of the property. When I got it, it was crudely daubed in thick black paint over the original Army olive green. I pulled it all to pieces, overhauled the engine carburettor and magneto – this was pretty much just a cleanup job as everything was actually in very good condition apart from the ravages of age, the bike was, after all, already 32 years old in 1973. A fair age for a bike, or any motor vehicle for that matter.

OK, that’s plenty of mushy reminiscence from me. Now can you imagine my surprise when I came across this this photograph and attendant text in this January’s (2015) “Old Bike Mart”. I was blown away. I sold that bike for £90 I think, and it must have been in 1975 because that was the the date of the last tax disc – June 1975.

Found in the 'Unearthed' section of the UK's vintage bike newspaper 'Old Bike Mart' January 2015

Found in the ‘Unearthed’ section of the UK’s vintage bike newspaper ‘Old Bike Mart’ January 2015

That’s 40 years ago since I sold it, more years than the age of the bike when I first owned it – and I thought that it was pretty ancient then! Well, of course I have written to the ‘OBM’ and hopefully they’ll put me in touch with the new owner, who coincidentally must live quite near to where I now live, which is a bit weird. I’ll update this blog if I do finally have a reunion with this long lost faithful servant.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of one of these bikes in rather nice original condition – from Bonhams auctioneers, no less. It seems to have sold for £4140.00 Wow!

Sold at auction by Bonhams - it made £4140.00 - not bad at all.

Sold at auction by Bonhams – it made £4140.00 – not bad at all.

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Hey Mama, we’re all photographers* now!

David Bailey once said in a magazine interview that in photography people can’t tell the difference between a Botticelli and a Beryl Cooke – or words to that effect. And it’s because a photograph is generally just that: a photograph – a load of reflected light captured from some object(s) in some brief moment on to some light-sensitive medium and represented in some graphical form.

A photo of valve trombone

A photo of my valve trombone –  as featured in other posts.

A photograph is a photograph, is a photograph.

On the other hand, a painting is an oil, a watercolour, a pastel… and is impressionistic, expressionistic, cubist, modernist, Flemish school

Creating a photograph is only faintly related to what an artist does: like looking at a scene, then interpreting it in your mind and then daubing it on to some medium such as paper or wood or whatever using whatever variety of daub and tools you might have to hand to do it – and also having that interpretation heavily influenced en route by your type of daub and the skill and style with which you choose or are able to apply it. There in the moment.

An artist painting a subject. copyright: www.jamestrubyart.com

An artist painting a subject.
copyright: www.jamestrubyart.com

You can, however, manipulate your photograph in Photoshop or whatever and crop it, invert it, bugger about with the colours or contrast using a computer. You do this generally speaking long after the moment you took the picture. It’s editing really, ‘creative’ editing if you must.

A manipulated photo of my valve trombone

A manipulated photo of my valve trombone

A photographer using present-day digital equipment doesn’t even have to previsualise the image anymore. He can simply crack away with his electronic light gathering device until he gets an image on the back of it that he’s happy with. There’s no appreciable financial cost either, no risk, no pressure.

There’s no manual measuring of the amount of light being reflected by a subject, maybe comparing that with the incident light falling on it and then making various camera adjustments which in your experience will work to give you the result you desire. All of which will vary considerably depending on the particular film stock you might be using. And each of the exposures you take will also cost you money and will be limited by the number of frames your prepared to use with your experiment. And of course you won’t actually know if your image capture has been successful until after you have developed the film and then printed an image from the resulting intermediate negative or transparency.

A photographer used to be a craftsman, if nothing else – and I’ve not even got on to printing yet – another ball-game altogether dear reader.

It’s different nowadays and even David Bailey’s photographer who never really confused himself with being an artist, would still be reduced to being a *’photo-aggregator’ in the 21st century.

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Core benefits of riding on the back of a motorcycle

About time we had a bit more rambling about motorcycles /…cling. And talking of ‘clinging’ my fab wife who includes being a fab pillion passenger* in her fabness spectrum, often comments about the therapeutic benefits of riding a motorcycle, quite particularly in her case – riding as a pillion. If she is ever experiencing any lower back niggles as a result of the exertions concomitant with everyday life, then the by-product, core workout that riding on a motorcycle bestows, generally sorts her out. True!

Your core is a complex set of muscles, going way beyond your abs and include those that extend from hips to your spine, your pelvic floor and right up your front. They play a part in almost every movement of the human body and stop you flopping about like a rag doll.

Bikini_pillion_on_Hayabusa_at_Black_Bike_Week_Festival_2008

Brace that core Baby!

On a motorcycle, especially as a pillion passenger without a pair of handlebars to hold on to, you constantly have to brace yourself against the forces of acceleration, braking, cornering and combinations thereof. This means that your core is constantly called upon to keep it all together and over a longish journey this can be quite a workout.

And there’s a kind of wholesome post-workout fatigue which you regularly experience after a day of motorcycling and which in one more positive way sets travelling by bike apart from travelling by car. The fatigue you tend to experience having completed a long car journey, either as a driver or passenger, is more one of stuffy, cramped tiredness rather than the exhilarated “wow, that was a great ride” variety you get from having ridden some distance on a bike.

Of course the ‘great ride’ feeling comes from the endorphins your brain has generated as a combination of the real physical exercise and exhilaration that are part and parcel of the journey. Couple that with the universal pleasure of having arrived at your goal – and as an experientially impoverished car driver, you maybe now have some further understanding of why we bikers are all so nuts and evangelical about riding those damned things!

*the ‘fab pillion passenger’ is one who fully partakes in the ride: following the road, intuitively leaning with the bike, no matter how far, and who also anticipates and responds in relaxed yet on-message fashion to the powerful braking and acceleration forces that can be experienced while riding a m/c.

 

 

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The bastard trombone – My journey into Yellow Metal music – Part II

A bit harsh, you’re thinking, but the fact of the matter is that my chosen tool of destruction in the world of brass is a valve trombone.

The Conn vtb, resting at home

The Conn vtb, resting at home

So what is a valve trombone? Well, the normal trombone that we all know and love (yes?)  is a ‘slide’ trombone, where the pitch of the note being blown* is altered by varying the length of the route through the instrument (a principle common to all brass instruments) by means of a sliding tube arrangement. This is the classic trombone format and which of course produces that lovely smooth ‘sliding’ note sound which is so characteristic of the ‘tbone’. Slide trombones also blow very freely, i.e. there’s not as much resistance to the blow as with other ‘valved’ brass instruments. A valve trombone dispenses with the slide arrangement and instead has a scaled-up version of the trumpet plumbing attached. To vary the note being blown, the air is directed via various loops to lengthen the distance travelled and thus the note’s pitch. This switching is carried out by valves, both singly and in differing combinations. The really great thing about a valve trombone is that you can play it right away coming from a trumpet, tuba, euphonium or any of the brass family of instruments. In the 50s and 60s in particular, a number of trumpet players would double on vtb, thus letting them dip into the tenor trombone’s range of pitch without having to go through the whole new leap of learning demanded by a slide tbone, where the six different slide positions – and all points in between, for that matter(!)  – conform to differing note pitches.

So why have a I called it a ‘bastard’ trombone. Well this is what it is: the bastard son of a trumpet and trombone – and what’s more they tend to be frowned upon by ‘proper trombone’ (i.e. slide) players. They are dismissed as sounding ‘fusty’, have intonation issues – i.e. like staying in tune using the 3rd valve in the lower register – and not at all free-blowing like a slide tbone. This is true to a degree, but there is a huge variation in quality among vtb’s, I’m lucky to own a Conn 6H, which is a beautifully vibrant tbone in my opinion – and as for tuning, well it depends on the kind of material and context you play in as to quite how much of an issue this is. Some, shall we say – cheaper – vtb’s are indeed fusty, out-of-tuney, sounding/playing things.

*As is the case with all brass instruments (for the uninitiated, saxophones are ‘reed’ instruments btw) The player can generate various ‘starter’ notes right at the mouthpiece e.g. C, G, E and high B-flat without any further messing with slide or valves. These are generated solely by the player’s ’embouchure’ i.e. blowing through pursed lips.

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‘Playing a brass instrument is an athletic endeavour’* – my journey into ‘yellow metal’ music – Part I

I started to play trumpet an embarrassing* (*as a function of my level proficiency with the instrument) number of years ago. I was self-taught and had crossed to the brassy side after being disappointed with my own meagre achievements on the guitar compared to my contemporaries, although I now realise that many of these were then – and still are – well above-average players.

I had seen Dizzy Gillespie on the TV and had worked out that if you take a deep breath, puff your cheeks out and then blow down the instrument while wiggling the valves up and down – you can then play the trumpet… Yep, one helluva simplification which of course I had realised, but heck, I hadn’t reckoned on quite by how much.

dizzy_gillespie
The legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie

Jim's Ties 1991
Note Yours Truly’s cheeks in a poor DG imitation

When I bought my first (nasty Chinese-made) trumpet back in the early mid-eighties I took some lessons with a tutor who had been recommended to me by the music store who had sold me the brassy travesty. It was one of those old-school music shops which sold beginners’ instruments, sheet music and lots of musical accessories and accordingly themed toys. My tutor, clearly only used to teaching school kids and not cool, aspiring (slightly) mature jazzers like oneself, took me through the rudiments of ‘Tune A Day – Book 1’ and by the time I’d seen him three or four times and not got much further than Little Brown Jug, let alone Ornithology**, I decided to myself that I’d be better off going it alone. Hmm…

Anyway, to cut what is developing into a very long story, short – I became one of those players who use their untutored breathing to create untold air pressure in the upper respiratory tract, which is then released by squirting the compressed air through pursed lips pressed hard against the trumpet mouthpiece, effectively a thimble with a hole in the end. To play higher notes you simply blow harder and jam the trumpet ever more forcefully into your face. I am writing this today, because back then I was still not at an age to be in the usual ‘stroke candidate’ territory, although my lifestyle comprised many of the other requirements: cigarettes, alcohol and little exercise – apart, that is, from blowing the trumpet. Actually, as many will know, smoking and drinking is pretty much de rigeur, if you do want to be a decent horn player – well OK, look like one – which was for me 9/10 of the journey.

To be continued…

*The title is a quote from the legendary New York brass tutor Carmine Caruso, 1904-1987.

**Ornithology, OK yes, it is clearly the study of birds, but it is also the title of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker’s definitive bebop tune, a brisk little number requiring much valve wiggling and er, playing ability.

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Laverda Racer

Laverda Racer

A true object of desire!

Now every once in a while you come across something which is so right, you feel that all of a sudden the longing for that elusive (in this case) MOTORCYCLE has come to an end. Consider, if you will, the elegance and poise of this fine Italian transport of delight – I think I first read that phrase in 1954 copy of ‘Motorcycle’, and you have to be of a certain vintage yourself to get away with using it. :-/ The arguably vulgar – to the uninitiated – colour is in fact the standard house colour of the Laverda marque. (The Laverda brothers made tractors as their main business which may explain their taste in paint colours?) Very seventies in my opinion and reminiscent of Ian Dury’s ’78 Blockheads*’ ‘black and orange cars’ – but let’s face it, rather classier than that analogy suggests. (*google it, you wont be disappointed) This racer has no additional adornments other than what is required for going fast. It has that beautifully elegant 1000cc three cylinder Laverda motor – might be a ‘Jota’ or a 3C, I’m no expert on these bikes. I do see though that some modification has taken place where the standard equipment generator has been removed from the r/h crankcase cover and a relatively crude homemade replacement cover has been fitted in its place. I find that detail part of the charm, part of the purposeful nature of the machine, although it does make the end of the crank look very vulnerable in event of dropping the bike. Eschewing crash bungs suggests to me that the owner is a hardcore purist aesthete. The bike would would also appear to have a stock or something close to a stock exhaust, which I find interesting, I’m thinking it’s probably conforming to a certain race formula.

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The practical application of the motorcycle to modern life II

The author's Beemer

Outside my favourite butcher’s shop – J Brindon Addy of Hade Edge.

Motorcycling tip of the day: beware the overly short journey, especially if you ride a larger engined bike. The engine in your bike is one big lump of metal, or more correctly combination of metals and since the various laws of physics mean that all sorts of things take place as soon as you get that motor spinning, you’d better pay attention to one or two of them.

A real killer for your oil and therefore also for your engine is CONDENSATION. As the motor cooled down from the last time you ran it, moisture held in the air that remains inside the motor will have condensed out of the warm air settling on the various now cold metal surfaces it comes into contact with. You need to get rid of that moisture and the only sure-fire way of doing that is to get the engine well up to operating temperature and keep it there for a good while to make sure all of that moisture evaporates and is then expelled through the engine’s breather system and also through the combustion process itself. A series of short journeys will mean that the engine never quite gets rid of all that moisture and what happens then is that it is held in the engine’s lubricating oil and this will manifest itself in the formation of an emulsion (a mixture of oil and water) i.e. sludge, in all sorts of areas which over time will hinder lubrication, cooling, engine breathing and of course generally detrimentally affect the performance and longevity of your bike’s motor. All of the above also applies especially to bikes with separately lubricated gearboxes, they warm up even slower, such as BMW Boxers like mine (above) and older Brit bikes, for example.

The smaller the bike, the less of a problem this is as, they tend to warm up faster and therefore expel moisture faster than bigger lumps.

So a smart way to look after your bike’s motor is to make somewhat longer excursions on your bike than just nipping down the co-op in a single trip. Yesterday I rolled-in a trip to my superb butcher’s, J Brindon Addy of Hade Edge, (see above) to both warm the bike up nicely and take a look at his newly extended premises, which are fab btw, and then also to saunter round a few lanes before arriving at the co-op for the basics of bread and milk. Enjoy your bike more and cater for its well-being at the same time -you know it makes sense!

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Bill Kirchen – King of DieselBilly – talks Tele

I love this. I own a Telecaster and Commander Cody’s ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ has to be my all-time favourite Teeeleycaster featurin’ toon. So it’s wonderful to hear Bill Kirchen talk so interestingly – and so modestly about his guitar and guitar playing. Bit of a cop-out for a blog post, but hey, if you’re interested in guitars / guitar playing, then this is a little bit of gold.

PS Watch the way his left hand opens to a ‘ready to play what the hell you want’ @ 1:48 as he prepares to touch the fretboard. I think that some people have natural guitar-playing hands.

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▶ Anita O’Day – Newport Jazz Festival 1957

▶ Anita O'Day – YouTube.

To me this is a perfect video. Anita O’Day is stunning in every sense – get her phrasing and dynamics. The band are so cool and the video (let’s face it we’re talking proper film here!) captures the moment / the performance so well; it’s a documentary, you’re shifted right back in time. I was one year old in 1957, dig the crowd, these folks aren’t retro, they’re actual and they were looking into my pram!

So good – so enjoy!

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Ducati Fight For Me Extreme ?! (no, I’ve not completely lost it – read on!)_

So here’s the copy:

“Fight For Me Extreme, it’s him. It’s all about him.

His strength, his charm, his sensuality.
With him, she would go anywhere. Right to the end, right to the limit and beyond, leading them ever further into their game of seduction, in a continuing crescendo.
The rules have not changed. As the fragrance, they are just intensified.

Like a motorcycle thrusting full throttle into the fresh air of the night, the first contact of fresh bergamot and green apple is intense, total. In a continuous build-up of speed, the heart note radiates strength and energy, geranium essence riding on the spicy warmth of cinnamon and cloves in an intoxicating sensation of power.

The point of no return. The dry-down unfolds in a warm base of sandalwood and vanilla boosted by a note of amber, leaving in its wake a refined, sensual, definitively masculine echo.”

Ducati perfume
Pack Shot: Fight For Me Extreme

Oh… My… God… With copy which is straight off the page from an episode of ‘Mad Men’ Ducati appear to be launching their own men’s fragrances range – at precisely whom, we can only speculate. My own target group prediction is probably the 15 year old kid, or his parents, or girlfriend wanting to suppress the odours accompanying his hormonal shenanigans. At around that age, or perhaps a year later I remember being bought ‘Hai Karate’ – a kind of kung-fu themed aftershave, then of course back in the 70s there was also a flood of ‘Brut’ into the men’s fragrance pool, which up until that point had consisted purely of ‘Old Spice’. Barry Sheene and ‘Enery’ Cooper certainly splashed it all over the place and I get the feeling (because frankly I never really actually followed the market all that closely) that the men’s fragrance pool would never be quite so ripple-free again.

But shame on Ducati – really! Now it’s OK for Harley Davidson to license their brand onto everything from boob jobs to baby diapers, the H-D motorcycle is all about fantasy after all: the brand IS a fantasy, it’s a dream, a ‘lifestyle choice’. Living only in the minds of those who ride them – the ones who have bought the dream – and those who know nowt about bikes – the ones who have been sold the dream – the ‘legendary’, ‘iconic’ Harley Davidson forms a pulsating orangey-black froth through which the ‘motorcycle experience’ is perceived.

HD garage-caddy

Having a bottle of H-D aftershave in the bathroom cabinet is a no-brainer accompaniment to having the H-D beer cooler, beer glass, slippers, dressing gown, wall clock, doormat, duvet cover, sunglasses, toothbrush, toothpaste, dog lead and collar set, rucksack, waste bin, beanie hat, coffee mug, pool table, tent, gas BBQ, bar stool, hall mirror, poker table and chair set, H-D Super Premium Gas Pump Display Case etc. etc. The bottle of aftershave in the bathroom cabinet is NOT an ironic wink at the lifestyle tat that is the H-D brand, the owner of the H-D aftershave lives it, he tips up the bottle and slaps it on his swarthy chops! Have you ever noticed how 95% of all H-D riders are portly mature blokes and are surprisingly well groomed beneath all those wrist thongs, flapping chaps and tassled H-D embossed ‘highway apparel’. They will all have a bottle of H-D aftershave and H-D deo-spray at home and which they darned well use. Only somewhere in the dark recesses of their psyches lurks the Marlon Brando (Triumph-mounted btw) Wild One, he pops out somewhere in front of the id when they swagger into a McDonalds after a tough haul round the Peak District on a Sunday afternoon – in a long convoy with all their other H-D ‘bros’ of course. Ever thought to yourself “Hmmm… those Harleys are burning Castrol R.” as they chug through your town, well of course they’re not, that’s the fusion of H-D aftershave, deodorant and burnt Texaco, the cavalcade’s olfactory signature.

legendary-harley-davidson-eau-de-toilette-motorist-small-16158

Whoops, I appear to have digressed somewhat… back on track now… but Ducati, now that’s a proper potent, muscular motorcycle, a bike that you choose to ride because it does what a motorcycle should do and does well. It’s not a ‘lifestyle choice’ it’s not a ‘brand’, it’s a proper bike designed by smart Italian engineers and made in a modern factory, which also has product development led by MOTO GP racing and has classy European styling. Aftershave (an astringent scented lotion for applying to the skin after shaving) has no right to bear the Ducati name. It has nothing to do with motorcycles like Ducati. Once again, shame on you Ducati for going after a cheap buck. It cheapens your name.

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