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An Inside Job

Shock discovery for instrument makers - funny you should say that.

Come with us now as we stumble about and... er... look for the light switch. S'dark in here, innit? Funny place altogether, really. Almost as if we were in some huge jack socket...

How do you think musical instruments work? I suppose you've got some very convincing clever-clever theories involving things like magnetism, energy, mechanical bits and pieces, transistors, chips, and an awful lot of electricity, haven't you?

Well you're wrong. Ha, ha, ha.

Musical instruments only work thanks to the tireless efforts of teams of tiny, tiny people. They've been specially miniaturised, these workaholics, so they can fit happily into the space behind the tremolo arm block on your guitar, for example, or rush about with little messages between the chips on your isn't-science-wonderful synth.

Don't bloody laugh. It's true. Pardon? did you say, "How come I've never seen any of them, then?" You really are awkward at times. Does your mum know you're reading this sort of newspaper? Well take her out of the cupboard and ask her. I know she thinks 'words' are the things that stop pictures of Samantha Fox bashing into each other in the Sun, but that's not the points.

But back to the subject. All the little people who work so hard in your instruments always get together for a nice big tea on Sunday evenings and sit around talking about the old days when they were very big people and could do normal things like standing on chairs to fit new light-bulbs in the front-room light and going down the chippy and looking into the big glass case counter and saying "Oh dear it looks like the conger is off again".

Now then. Thanks to the new bugging devices which we bought from that nice Harry down the pub (very cheap, only a tenner, oh you've only got a fiver oh you well that'll 'ave to do then I suppose) we can now take you this very Sunday to the meeting of TWIST, the Tiny Workers in Instruments' Sunday Teaclub.

The Teaclub of the tiny instrument operatives actually meets in a duff old fuzzbox that no-one in the band uses any more, thrown into the corner of the rehearsal room and forgotten (remember when someone said "we've got a duff fuzzbox so we're not going to use it"?). T' committee have lovingly refurbished the innards of the discarded fuzzbox, chucking out all the old cheap electronics and putting in sofas, soft lighting, Union posters, lovely carpet, and a big bar.

But we promised to take you to the Teaclub thanks to honest Harry's bugging equipment, and so we shall.

Shhhploooopshhh. That's it - just stuck the big black sticky thing on the side of the fuzzbox/Teaclub. Clickplock. That's it - just stuck our headphones into the socket on the big black sticky thing. Now then, what's happening in there? Hold on, it's YES! I can hear small but perfectly formed voices!

"No really, Pete, how did you become a small person?" asks a slightly-slurred yet evidently friendly voice.

Pete, for it is he, sighs. "Well it weren't, like, overnight. It came on sort of gradual. Working the Strat trem was an obvious job to go for, really, I mean, I could have been the fluff attendant in Madonna's belly button but I couldn't fit in the overtime. I was on a YOBs scheme at one point. Yeah, it's similar to YOPs - it's Youth Opportunities Bastard - all jobs come with truncheons.

"There's nothing I like better than slipping in between the springs. Just for a change at the weekend I crawl in under the bridge saddles. Have to be careful, though. Walter, who had the job before me, came a real sticky cropper there once. Yup, there's a lot of Walter under the bridge..."

Hold on a minute: in goes the very expensive video camera/converter/screen thingy and ooh, there's the picture. No sorry, it's two corned beef sandwiches shaped like Patrick Moore. Here's the picture and I can make out YES! it's a very small person. That's like a normal person, but one who fits Elton John's shoes. He's coming away from a very small bar with a very small vodka in his hand. Ber-illiant. And he's going up to another very small person. Can you actually contain your excitement? Here's a bucket.

"Oh wotcha Tarquin. How's tricks me old mate?"

"Oh rather good actually Peter. Is the patented Fender vibrato arm system giving you well-rounded, full job satisfaction?"

"Sorry Tarq, I've lost the thread."

"Are you into the wang bar?" enunciates Tarquin slowly.

"No Tarq, like I said, I lost the thread. It unscrewed while I weren't looking and dropped under the sofa." Pete shrieks with laughter for a good four minutes. He dries his eyes with a miniscule handkerchief, calms down, and speaks once more to the dapper if diminutive Tarquin. "and what're you doin' Tarq. Synths, innit?"

"High-tech synthesiser equipment, that's correct. I am in fact a memory chap - I memorise things for the keyboard player. My terrific brain has the speed of an A&R department, the broad scope of a Motorhead, and the precision of a PA in Wembley Arena."

"Yeah well that's great innit," suggests Pete, vaguely. "What d'you actually like do then, eh?"

"We sit in rows and memorise patches." He looks at Pete and decides to explain in more detail. "Every time the giant keyboard player upstairs presses a button, there's one of us underneath to recognise it. Well, we can't fail to recognise it actually because a great big rod comes down and bashes you on the head. It's all dreadfully low-tech, you know, you really shouldn't believe all those ads.

"Yes it does hurt a bit, but the worst part comes during the tests. This person called the Chip Manager walks round and, at random, says to us, 'What are you memorising?'. If you don't give the right answer instantly, they stick a red hot needle up your bum. I think they're a little bit perverted, actually."

"And it's interesting that, for example, Rick Wakeman is the most popular player amongst the memory chaps because of the copious amounts of alchohol he pours into the synth and, thence, over us. And that Tom Dolby killed 15 of us once because he forgot to put his glasses on. Fascinating, what?"

"Oh yeah right, I see. D'you wanna drink Tarq?" asks Pete.

"A pina colada would be a distinct advantage at this juncture," says Tarquin.

Pete stares at Tarquin for a few seconds, slack-jawed, head cocked to one side. "But it would leak."


"I mean, I know I ain't as technically up as you sorts, but if you goes around peeing in colanders it's gonna make yer trousers very sticky."

"I'll have," heaves Tarquin, "the usual. And give us some 50 pees for the..."

Suddenly, without warning, like musical inspiration on a Sigue Sigue Sputnik record, the whole bar is turned through 360 degrees; tiny people are thrown from end to end and shriek and scream in their dying throes; chairs and bottles and pints of phlegm fly around. Almost as suddenly, everything goes quiet. It is pitch dark. Every single member of TWIST lies dead. Oh dear.

Far, far above in the real, really big rehearsal room, a much bigger Pete walks over to an enormous, life-size Tarquin. "Tarq, Tarq," he shouts, "I've found that bleedin' fuzzbox we lost! Shall I put some tea on?"

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May Calendar

Making Music - Copyright: Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.


Making Music - May 1986



Feature by Tony Bacon

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