Growing up as something of a wannabe rock star, my dreams as a teenager were probably more focused on guitar gear than on cars than for most teenage guys.
And in fact they still are.
And the big mack daddy of ’em all, to a kid who grew up a Who fanatic and who played guitar for two years before he knew there was a way to strum the guitar other than windmilling, was the amp that Pete Townsend, more than anyone, made famous; the Hiwatt.
Famous largely for getting smashed during Townsend’s “destruction is art” phase from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, the Hiwatt was also famous for being clear, powerful, reliable and very, very loud. It was part of the “big three” of Brit guitar amps of the sixties and seventies, along with Vox (which was the Fender of Brit amps) and Marshall (which was, hello, Marshall).
Of course, being all Brit and exotic and all, they were impossible to find in North Dakota. Although rumors from travelling musicians had it that you could occasionally – rarely – see one at Marguerite’s Music in Moorhead. And so, one day, when I was finally old enough to do road trips to Fargo/Moorhead with my friends, I made the pilgrimmage. I walked into Marguerite’s…
…and found nothing.
So the second time I took a road trip to Fargo, I tried again.
And there it was. No, not the stack, but the “Studio Stage” combo…
…which, truth be told, may or may not have been up to the standard of the original “stack”, with its two cabinets with eight 12 inch speakers and 100-120 watts of pure electonic meth. It’s hard to say..
…and it prompts the question; if you’ve never tasted, say, scotch, and you walk into a bar and someone gives you a glass of six-week-old WalMart scotch and, next to it, a glass of 30-year-old LaPhraoig, do you think you could tell the difference?
I dunno. The little combo was a joy to play, but then everything at Marguerite’s was.
Even if they’d had an honest-to-goodness stack, could I have cranked it to the stops to get any idea of its real performance, in the middle of a music store? Probably not. It would have blown half of Moorhead and all the topsoil in Clay County over the Red River into North Dakota.