"Listen, Gil, I want to make this perfectly clear -- there's no charge for any of this. No pressure, no nothing. Congratulations on your coup from Systems, Inc."
"Boy," I said to myself as I hung up the phone, "these guys really like to play hardball. Real hardball. Maybe if they knew what was going on here, what I was doing for them, the money I was laying out for them, maybe then they'd be easier on me -- a touch more appreciative."
I walked up the stairs at the back of the Studio B Control room, and out into the chaos and confusion of the construction area. A large, freshly cut beam of hemlock was being gently lowered into place; guys ready at each end with hatchets. Electricians were stringing half-inch diameter metal pipe for the eventual lighting circuits; two audio technicians were laying their own metal pipe for the microphone cables. We were going to provide thirty-two channels of audio, strung all the way around the performing area of the stage. Four country lads from Spencer were hammering tack strips into the living and recreational area, preparing for the laying down of a rich red carpet. Billy, Geoffrey's cousin, was installing an inlaid wood fascia strip across the front of the stage. Two kids were busy sweeping up sawdust; two others were scrambling about high overhead on the rickety scaffolding, vacuuming the ceiling in preparation for an application of sprayed linseed oil. People were busy.
"Just took delivery of the oak for the stage floor."
It was Geoff Myers, clipboard in one hand, and his extendable metal rule in the other.
"Two thousand dollars' worth. And we got it cheap. Stuff really costs. Also, there's a guy right outside in a van, wants to back it up here and unload some equipment he says you ordered."
"Me? I ordered equipment? Where is this guy?"
"At your service, Monsieur. Stan Freeberg, Systems, Inc."
I wheel about and find myself facing a nice-looking young fellow, in his twenties, I'd say -- my height. He's holding a sheaf of customer copies of what looked like twenty or so invoices.
"Stan Freeberg, Gil. Systems, Inc. "
"Hi, Stan," I said.
"Listen, I'm sorry I came before reaching you on the phone, but you're one hell of a guy to get a hold of these days. In any case, I'm here, and I've got a van full of recording gear for you, courtesy of Systems, Inc. Absolutely free, Gil. They want the gear on display out here during the stay of the Rolling Stones, and they don't care if you end by buying any of it or not. I'm basically the guy bringing you the good news. And the gear."
Stan motioned to the driver of the van, and it began to inch its way slowly up the ramp, and into the very heart of Studio C. It stopped, and its rear doors were thrown open. Inside were many large boxes bearing familiar names. I suddenly felt like the winner of a TV game show.
"Here's what you get, Gil. Three sets of professional audio monitors. Urei Time Aligns, Tannoys, big and small, and a set of JBL 4311's. Also power amps to make them work. Snell Acoustics has thrown in a pair of their new high-end audiophile electrostatic speakers. Great for a highranking guest, and God knows you've got some of them on their way here."
Stan's arm was now around my shoulders.
"This is just a start. We got the Bryston Amp people in Cambridge to cough up a couple of Four-B's. I don't have to tell you what those cost, or how highly they're thought of these days. A wireless mike for Mick. Don't know whether or not he's happy with what he's using now. A top-of-the-line Technics broadcast standard turntable, with Denon cartridge and matching head amp. A brand new Ampex ATR mastering deck. Eight grand, at least, it'd cost you to buy one of these, if you could find one. Brand new, you know.
"You'll be needing TV, of course, so we've arranged for a couple of three-quarter-inch and VHS cassette decks to dress up the Game Room downstairs a bit. Also a video switcher, and a drop-out compensator in case people want to make copies of their video cassettes. Bill Wyman is a video freak, as you know, so you better be prepared. Next, a 27-inch Sony remote control, professional grade TV set, for whatever bedroom suite Wyman ends up in. Bill Wyman really likes TV.
"Here," Stan said, "this, too," extending to me a large jeweler's case, fully the size of a shoebox. It was covered in brushed black velvet.
"You push the clasp like so to open," Stan said.
The clasp clicked open like a fine machine, built to close tolerances, and the lid of the box eased upwards all by itself. It smelled like leather and transistors inside, and I inched forward for a better look, pulse higher than normal.
"This is is not even out yet," Stan said, "Friend of mine picked it up in Japan from a Sony research lab. It's a prototype."
"A prototype of what, Stan?"
"Super-Walkman," Stan replied. "Portable cassette playback like you've never heard before. Records, too. Stereo, switchable Dolby-C, switchable limiting, and built-in stereo mikes. It'll also work with this miniature radio mike, which will transmit from up to half a mile away. Extremely high fidelity. Originally designed with the CIA in mind. It's yours for the duration, Gil, together with these rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries to make it work. All courtesy of Systems, Inc."
"Incredible, Stan," I said. "But can I afford these things?"
"Listen, Gil, I want to make this perfectly clear -- there's no charge for any of this. No pressure, no nothing. Congratulations on your coup from Systems, Inc. Now, where do we put all this stuff?"
"Over there, I guess. Right where those kids just finished sweeping. Stan, I gotta go. I've got another phone call, I think. I think that's what John's trying to tell me over there. See him? The guy who's waving his arms? Thanks for the gear. Give me those yellow invoices. I understand that I'm to pay none of these.
"Who is it on the phone?" I shouted over to John.
"Joe Rascoff. Stones' office in New York. Told me to tell you to come to the phone with a pencil." .
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.