Crank eggs over easy

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

IDON’T KNOW how many read­ers of this col­umn were lis­ten­ing to mu­sic in the 1976-79 pe­riod. I sus­pect the num­ber will be rather small. Those were the three years that roughly spanned the time when I got out of school and got into col­lege. Many of my friends and I were al­ready avid lis­ten­ers and col­lec­tors (not the eas­i­est of ac­tiv­i­ties to pur­sue in an un­con­nected world with lim­ited choices). Most of us couldn’t af­ford good equip­ment ei­ther. In that ana­log world, our ‘mu­sic sys­tem’ would of­ten be just a mono cas­sette tape-recorder or, at best, lo­cally made stereos – brands such as Son­o­dyne, Cos­mic, Bush and HMV come to mind. High-end am­pli­fiers and speak­ers that catered to well­heeled au­dio­philes were far out of our reach – in any case, you couldn’t buy them eas­ily in In­dia. So re­cently, when a friend ex­tolled the virtues of lis­ten­ing to mu­sic via a vin­tage am­pli­fier and nudged me in the di­rec­tion of one HS Sakhale in Mum­bai, I im­pul­sively went for it. A cou­ple of weeks later af­ter a quick elec­tronic trans­ac­tion be­tween Mr Sakhale and me, the Akai AM 2600 stereo am­pli­fier (DOB roughly 1976-79) showed up at my place.

It’s a 10-kg metal and wooden box with old-school knobs, switches and dou­ble VU nee­dle me­ters. But af­ter hook­ing it up to my much more re­cent era speak­ers, I’ve re­alised that I’ve struck old gold at around 60-plus watts per chan­nel. My speak­ers, till now used to a sleek black fancy am­pli­fier, are re­act­ing with vim, de­liv­er­ing sounds that I never thought they were ca­pa­ble of – warmer, sharper and with greater tonal range. I won­dered how a 40-year-old amp could sound so much bet­ter than con­tem­po­rary ones. Then I read a CNET ar­ti­cle about how mak­ers of mod­ern amps, un­less they’re of the re­ally costly ul­tra top-end va­ri­ety, spend much of their

What’s it like lis­ten­ing to a for­got­ten genre of retro mu­sic on a vin­tage amp?

I call the genre a bridge genre be­cause it was quickly over­whelmed by Bri­tish punk rock, which as we know was an even more re­bel­lious, fierce and in-your-face sort of mu­sic. In­ter­est­ing trivia about pub rock: it may have been be­gun in Lon­don’s Ken­tish Town by a sadly over­looked folk-rock band from, wait for it, New York! Eggs Over Easy be­gan as a duo in Cal­i­for­nia be­fore mov­ing to New York and from there to Lon­don where a pub let them play for a few pounds a night. That may have set off a trend al­though it did not do much for the for­tunes of Eggs Over Easy, which ul­ti­mately dis­banded. I read about the duo, Jack O’Hara and Austin De Lone, in a de­light­ful ar­ti­cle in New Yorker re­cently, which de­scribed how the two men, now in their late six­ties, have re­united and may be work­ing on a com­pi­la­tion al­bum. A search for their mu­sic yielded a dou­ble al­bum, Good ‘n’ Cheap, which has 36 songs, most of them recorded in the early 1970s. All laid-back tunes with happy, even funny lyrics. Many orig­i­nals and many cov­ers. Delhi booz­ers will en­joy the coun­try stan­dard I’m gonna put a bar in my car (And drive my­self to drink); ev­ery­one will en­joy Horny Old Lady (es­pe­cially the bit about the alien en­counter); and those who’ve grown up lis­ten­ing to The Band, Rob­bie Robert­son and Levon Helm, will mar­vel at the solidly-in­spired Henry Mor­gan. Pub rock en­joyed a fleet­ing mo­ment be­fore punk ar­rived but Eggs Over Easy sadly had no brush with fame. Decades later, now there’s a chance more peo­ple will get to hear what the pioneers of a for­got­ten genre sounded like.

Tail­piece: I don’t know how to de­scribe the mu­sic that Jeff the Brother­hood, a band com­pris­ing two broth­ers (none of them is named Jeff; they’re Jake and Jamin Or­ral) orig­i­nally from Nashville, Ten­nessee, play. I heard one of their al­bums from 2015, Global Chakra Rhythms, and it sounded like the ti­tle: pure psychedelia. Their song ti­tles don’t leave room for am­bi­gu­ity. What do you ex­pect Ra­di­at­ing fiber plane to sound like? Or, Deep space bound on the edge of reality? Stoner mu­sic, right? Right. Even the tame sound­ing Food and Wine Fes­ti­val turned out to be an ex­cur­sion into stoner haven. Then, just to be sure, I sam­pled an­other of their 2015 al­bums, Wasted on the Dreams. It was a dif­fer­ent sound al­to­gether: de­li­cious garage rock! Wait, there’s more. On Black cherry pie off the same al­bum, a fa­mil­iar sound­ing flutist ap­pears and does a solo. Once. And then again. Guess who that is? Ian An­der­son. Of Jethro Tull fame. I’m still scratch­ing my head.


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