Fourty years ago today, 4 guys just out of their teens walked into an unassuming recording studio in Brisbane's West End to record a couple of songs that would be the cornerstone of what would be known as punk rock.
Taking what they'd heard and absorbed from glam, metal, soul and R&B and rock, and infused with healthy doses of garage they started playing in a style that was about to hit the world head on.
There were other bands doing something similar in far out reaches of the world, completely oblivious to each other but somehow almost landing on the same idea. Of course, Brisbane was about as far away from all of these other bands as you could get.
On June 12th, 1976 the Saints went into Window Studios AKA Sunshine Studios in West End where engineer Mark Moffatt had set up a new 16 track tape machine after returning to Brisbane after a stint in the UK where he mingled with R'n'R royalty.
The two tracks recorded that day had been kicking around for a couple of years and were to go down in not only Australian music legend, but would be recognized worldwide as one of the sparks that ignited a movement. (I'm) Stranded and No Time were ferocious sub three and half minutes slabs of pure rock 'n' roll released on their own label and promoted and distributed through their own Eternal Promotions to little fan fare locally.
While very few people in Australia cared, within months they were recognized for their brilliance in the UK, where bands like the Clash, the Damned and Sex Pistols were just starting to break into the mainstream, and they signed a 3 album deal with EMI in November '76.
In December they went into the studio to record their first full length LP.
This humble MXR Distortion + you see here is THE ACTUAL pedal used to record that album. Ed had used a borrowed Fender Twin to record the 7" but had been using a locally made EDA PA as a guitar amp.
Being a solid state PA head it had no break up or distortion so Ed struggled to find something that would give his guitar sound the anger needed for such songs. In late '73/early '74 he happened upon an ad in a music magazine for a new fuzz box made by a new company in Rochester, New York who had just introduced the Distortion + after the success of their first pedal, the Phase 90.
The ad claimed that this little box made your solid state amp, all the rage in the very late 60's and early 70's, sound like a tube amp. The money order was posted off in an envelope and the waiting began.
It is of course a huge honour for me to play and study this amazing piece of music history.
Like when I did this with J Mascis's original Big Muff that turned into the Fuzz Munchkin, I find this type of work both challenging and slightly nerve-racking. I appreciate the importance of these pedals on the music world and while dissecting them to see what makes them tick is very cool, as most of you know, this is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle, with the player always being the biggest part.
I'm a huge fan of both Ed's work and this little distortion pedal that I already make in several forms and while this circuit is very similar to other versions I make, there are, like in all similar versions of any effect, slight nuances that make it special, regardless of it's heritage.
The main difference between this version and the vintage germanium version I make is the rare 1N276 germanium diodes, not the more common 1N270 diodes usually found in these and this is the only one I've personally seen with these rarer diodes. They behave differently to other more common diodes I use and this very simple circuit, with relatively few parts, is more reliant on each individual component than say a Big Muff, which is a much more complex circuit.
When Ed and I started talking about doing this project it was clear that this year is the 40th anniversary of the recording of the 7" so the idea seemed obvious.
I will be making 40, that's right, FORTY of these (Tym) Stranded pedals to be released on August 1st, which was the release date of the (I'm) Stranded 7", meticulously reverse engineered from Ed's original vintage unit and endorsed by Ed to celebrate this landmark event.
Each pedal has artwork by Tony Giacca, featuring a map of Petrie Terrace, the inner city suburb that featured the Saints venue, the 76 Club and the house where Ed scrawled "(I'm) Stranded. The Saints" in red paint across the wall above a fire place.
Controls are simple. Volume and Demolition.
Each pedal has a serial numbered certificate signed by Ed and comes in special packaging.
These will be $400 each with proceeds from the pedal going towards a special Ed Kuepper project to be announced a bit later this year.
More detailed info on Ed's original and the (Tym) Stranded version will be available closer to the release date.