Balloon Repair Station

Going to five – The return of the Mighty Dynatron

Been awhile since the Mighty Dynatron stood down to be replaced temporarily by a rather minted Technics system that came in boxes from the Charity Shop. Well, true to say it was quite swish, but didn’t have the soul or warmth of the Queen’s machine and finally, with the approach of Christmas, I figured it was time to do something about the now, slumbering, Dynatron. To be honest I was surprised to see it still in the front room, had I been ignored for so long I would have cluttered off to warmer climes, still an extension lead only goes so far. Now the plan had been to upgrade it but the more I thought about it the less appealing it all sounded. Best check out the later Dynatron amp really, that ought to decide things. All the old boys we used to use who had sympathy for the older kit have long ago retired. Barry, as usual, came up trumps with the most unlikely named repair shop I’ve ever heard of. Called ‘Oxford Powershop Ltd’ this is a rather large misnomer, suggesting a modern high tech place. It is actually a rather nice double shop, nicely painted in red, in Kidlington, hidden away rather. Off we went then with the amp and a request to ‘please see why nothing happens in the go department’. A deposit was paid and a week or so later we called them up (that’s how they work) to discover that it was actually beyond economical repair.

I sauntered into the front room and took a long hard look at me old mucker. It had a look of forlorn misery. Rummage, rummage to find the BA sockets and a bevy of screwdrivers various and half an hour later the rather nicely made cabinet was apart and the original Transpower SRX24 amplifier was sitting on the sofa. Everything checked out but it definitely dropped sound on the right hand channel. Nothing obvious, so it was back to Oxford Powershop for a bit of Tea & Symphony. Well the very nice gentleman explained that just about everything that did everything in the spare amp needed fettling, mending or replacing. Simply not worth the effort. Fortunately his humour stretched to possibly looking at the SRX24. I donated the 26 to his ‘may come in useful box’ and went for coffee and cake at the rather nice, but a bit poncy, Old Flight House opposite Weston-on-the-Green airfield. This place is a sort of antique interior design shop with a fine café come restaurant. Many, many years ago Wingco Gerry Turnbull (with a J) served here. We discussed the future of the Dynatron, tucked into carrot cake and wandered round the mainly reproduction antiques and decided that, as the planned fitting of the Dual turntable would involve quite a bit of redesigning of the interior, I would just clean the old turntable up, get the head tested and go from there. We’d worry about the speakers later.

So it was that the following week the original amp was pronounced in fine condition and the down power had been mainly due to grubby switching and some ratty wiring. One of the reasons that I won’t attack the wiring in the Dynatron amp is that it is just so neat. You really do need to know what you are doing and have a soldering iron to match if you are poking about in stuff of this quality. Being multi-layered it is also quite easy to destroy or damage underlying components and wiring. Best these days to leave it to skilled hands. I’ll stick to valves and computer boards! A test of the cartridge showed that was in fine fettle as was the turntable wiring so that would do. After some gentle cleaning and drop or two of oil (not 20/50!) it also spun at about the correct rpm, which was remarkable. They don’t make them like that anymore matey. I’d already taken the speakers out to clean them and discovered that one of them seemed to be sticking if very gently depressed. There seemed no reason, apart from age and being run at eleven, so I had a good hunt around and found the later ones from the robbed out radiogram. These were actually really good so got wired up and bolted in. That was it then, an hour spent gently re-assembling and rewiring the amp to the other bits and it was ready to go. Initially it was a bit crackly, more so it appeared, but as the old girl warmed up and got into her stride it started to sound a lot crisper. Sadly the radio seemed a bit lack lustre, signal drop somewhere, I suspected, but that could wait. The test record? Well it was a Hawkwind single my brother had come across, Urban Guerilla, followed by The Nice’s America with that lovely bit of prose at the end by a three year old that would be banned today by Trump. We were in business. It was Polly-walking in the hills and Pork Pie Friday so a fire was laid and dog and I adjourned to the Hills, thence the Swan.

Talk of the town it was. As the front room hadn’t been used for some time it did take a while to remove stuff various, including my Claud Butler but, eventually, the comfy seat and sofa were clear. The Dynatron was a go-go. I was so excited I nearly left me beer early, but instead bought a couple of bottles of Golden Pride for the journey, so’s to speak. I had thought long and hard about what the first proper play would be as we walked along the banks of the hillfort but I just couldn’t make me mind up. I sung ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ and ‘Photographs of Kitty Hawk and the bi-planes on the wall’ and got more confused. Upon my return, suitably relaxed, the fire was lit and somehow logic took over. I have quite a pile of LPs you see and, to be perfectly honest, I just cannot remember when some of them last got played or, come to that, what there was! Simple then. Just start at the first and work through the lot. So that is what I did. The fire was roaring the volume set at a respectable, but agreeably loud, four and the needle plonked down on the top of the pile, track one of Nucleus’s Elastic Rock, dating from 1970. I’d seen them many years ago at The Stables and, not that I’m overly ravey about Jazz, Jazz Rock is great. They did a version of Twisted Track which is awesome and, indeed, lurked somewhere a few tracks away. Best thing was that it was on the Vertigo label with its iconic ‘swirl’ design just in case the drugs didn’t work. Next down was Ars Longa Vita Brevis, bit of Latin about motion, in case you were wondering, by The Nice. This was their second LP, released in 1968, and is everything that Five Bridges became (which will be in the pile somewhere). Lee Jackson wrote the great lines ‘Life is too short to paint a kiss, so sing a picture and paint a song’. Half a bottle of Golden Pride supped and out came Picnic, A Breath of Fresh Air. Now this Harvest double album is really a sampler but is probably the best one ever. I love it. There’s even has a track on it by Pink Floyd which doesn’t appear on any of their albums. It also features Deep Purple, Syd Barrett, Roy Harper, Pete Brown’s Piblockto and Bakerloo, amongst others. Somewhere I have all but one of the LPs sampled on it (apart from the Pink Floyd track that wasn’t on one and Tea and Symphony). It was released in 1969 and is the reference book for prog rock, if you like (or not). Cover is pretty clever as well with people in gas masks possibly on Poppit Sands (I may have dreampt that as that is where I swam with dolphins). That out the way then a charge through Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain (who Stewpot saw once upon a festival). Love the words to this. ‘Fly your willow branches, wrap your body round my soul, Lay your rattle and drums on my soft sheets.’ The song is all about whaling and dedicated to Owen Coffin. You’ll need to look it up but the song will be up again later big time so more then perhaps.

It was around now I actually appreciated how great Dotty the dog had been. She would come in with Daisy and crash out in front of the fire and suck up volume 11 of whatever was slam dunkin. Not a movement from either unless it was moving! In complete contrast Polly poked her head round the door, took in the fire and adjusted to the sound but a spit and spat from an errant log and she was gone. Jane’s nutter Rox came in, barked loudly at every aspect and fled. Nice, I had it all to meself. Bit like gliding I figured.

Another log on the fire, another glass of jollup and onwards into the night. Boldly we crept to five and the sound was crisp and even (was nearly Christmas after all) everything was working as it should and I’d even got back the knack of dropping the needle on the run-in. Now, seems odd and unlikely, that the next LP would flow but I do actually quite like The Moody Blues. We’ve seen Justin Hayward a few times now including in Canterbury Cathedral which was pretty special. They are actually quite trippy and Question Of Balance is no exception. OK, I grant you, some of the poetry stuff is a bit pre-tensh but hey, it was 1970 and they were trying to hang on the sixties (or a dream!). Cover is the whizz of all whizzes. I’ve had the LP for years but rooking round the cover I discovered there is actually a word sheet in the ‘empty’ side of the gatefold and totally mint. Well I never. Jefferson Airplane flopped onto the deck. Early Flight is so California, Jefferson Airplane are so San Francisco, even for 1974 when it came out. High Flying Bird is quite well known but I’d forgotten all about this album. Bet I hadn’t played it for years. I was on a skateboard and looking at sumptuous stuff with flowers in me hair.

By now, I’m sure you have realised, appreciated even, I don’t ‘catalogue’ me collection. Not the correct word. Try again. I don’t sort the records I have bought over the years, either alphabetically by wotsits or even labels as apposed to lapels, wot are different altogether! They are generally in the order they were last played or moved to Hoover the carpet! So it was we ended up with playing War of the Worlds. This is a double album in the total top banana (only because one cannot use the term bollix) sort of way. Created by Jeff Wayne in 1978, it is a true classic. I love it, not because I have stood in the empty studio in Marylebone, it was recorded in, but because it is just another dog’s wotsits version of the original story that caused world panic when first broadcast. Not heard it? Well you have no argument, and it has ‘Forever Autumn’ on it sung by none other than Justin Hayward. Sorted. Fine time for bed Zebedee but not before Uriah Heeps legendary Salisbury, I’ve got the T-shirt! You know how it is, just one more! If there is ever an LP that deserves loud this is it but it was late so wasn’t too loud. It will go again when everyone in the road is out. With a very definite ‘ker-lunk’ she was turned off and the lid closed. Time for bed, it had been an adventure into the past.

The Mighty Dynatron is back. Its not private, as I still have no headphone socket. Does it do it? Yes. Do I regret not updating it? Not at all. I now realise that had I done so I would simply have had a cabinet with modern stuff in it. When I was small we had a telly that only got BBC1 and required a screwdriver to prevent the picture spinning out of control. Was it rebuilt with a ‘modern three station thing that got ITV so we could watch Stingray? No. It was converted into a drinks cabinet that my brother (and I) still enjoy today. I love my LPs. I could ramble on for hours explaining that a magnetic strip or wobbly groove is seamless, unlike modern bits and bytes that are singular and make up what goes for modern production. I won’t. I will simply say that the record is making an enormous comeback. It is the definitive copy of the real world. If you have never played one just go and do it. They are crap for romantic evenings as you have to keep getting up to turn them over or put the next one on. But then that’s what we did back in the day. Joined up passion. Now, if you want a copy that you can play in your car or play through headphones as you climb to 20,000 feet then digitally record it by all means. Better still, stuff on a cassette. For me, the sound of a needle on vinyl cannot be bettered. It can, of course, if you are in the studio or at the concert. That’s it. Stand by for the next evening of loudness.