17 Watts? -The Birth of British Rock Guitar – Mo Foster

17 Watts? Front

The first of a short series (10) of what I consider to be essential rock reads, the first one is a real cracker! Those kicking around the 70’s 80’s scene will be well aware of Mo Foster, Bass player to the major musicians of the period. A familiar face on videos for Gerry Rafferty et al, this curly haired bearded and bespectacled figure would be there somewhere in the background, plucking his trusty fender. Well back in 1987 Mo put pen to paper, and taking as a starting point his own experience, has assembled this fabulous collection of human experiences from the birth of british Rock. The back cover lists some of the names whose experience are chronicled within – Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Andy Summers, Bert Weedon (!) and Bruce Welch to name but a few. The title comes from a band decision that had to be made by Mo’s school band, The Tradewinds, whether to upgrade their amps to the 17-watt Watkins Dominator (fab name),

Watkins Dominator!

did they actually need all those watts? as is noted on the cover, when Mo played in Beck’s band, his rig alone was 1,500 watts.
Tackling the story chronologically, Mo splits his book into chapters dealing with different periods, In the Beginning, The Outbreak of Skiffle, Rock ‘n’ Roll Radios, The First Guitar, Innovation, British Beat, Do we really Need 17 Watts?, Adulthood, then moving into his (and others) experience of life in the session world and all the odd characters therein.
This is an eye-opening and engaging read, each page being packed with anecdotes, some poignant, most hilarious and a number, jaw-dropping! It’s copiously illustrated too, with thoroughly embarrassing snaps of shambolic ill-matched combos, many of whom went on to stardom, more to ignominy (and all credit to the famous for allowing potentially embarrassing material to be in the public domain).

17 Watts? - rear

If you want entertainment mixed with fact, and enjoy the hoary old rock anecdote, finely polished through much-telling, this is the book for you. Humour, the absolute character trait essential for any bandstand shines through this collection and illuminates a motley collection of characters the likes of whom we are unlikely to see again. Thanks to them, and Mo.

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