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Works Outing

Article from Making Music, January 1987

Strange goings on at Recycled Goods plc.

Ever wondered where the raw materials for your instruments come from? Investigative Reporter Hiram B. Pencilcase follows a hunch, and makes something up.

Foreman Sid Bonkers examines the spare leg of an organ.

"RECYCLED GOODS WELCOMES MAKING MUSIC" proclaimed the notice board in the small reception area of Recycled Goods (Musical Instruments) Ltd. The U was made from a C on its side. Maybe they didn't get much call for the letter U?

I began thinking of words with a U in them that might come in handy later on — ukulele, unionised and undulating were merely the first three. After all, as Making Music's chief investigative reporter I had been commissioned to write a sharp, informative and newsworthy article on Recycled Goods (Musical Instruments) Ltd. Since at least 1984 they had been producing and marketing a range of musical instruments made entirely from recycled waste products. No-one had seen anything like it before — rubbish turned into musical instruments. Who can forget Recycled's "What do you think of it so far" promotional campaign? It was altogether a phenomenon that the vibrant musical instrument industry had confronted in their traditional manner — they pretended it didn't exist in the hope it might go away.

Suddenly I was aware of a young woman cooing in my left earhole: "Good morning, can I be of any assistance?"

I explained that I was the representative of Making Music and was there to see the head of marketing, Mr Sprocket, that I didn't fancy a cup of coffee thanks all the same, and that yes as it happens I had met a famous pop star only the previous week and no I couldn't quickly explain what he was really like. Miss Chain asked me to sit and wait. I stood and looked at the plaques on the wall instead, just to annoy her.

Just as I became enmeshed in the delicate filigree work surrounding the words, "Presented to Recycled Goods on the proud occasion of their 50th Court Appearance..." the famous Mr Sprocket appeared at my side. "Ah, welcome, welcome, welcome," he spluttered in the Paul Hardcastle style. "They will have their little joke, ha, ha, ha," he roared, waving towards the plaque and with the other arm forcing me toward the door beyond Miss Chain.

Putting the final touches to a digital spitoon.

Beyond Miss Chain was Mr Sprocket's office. "Now young man, a quick drink and I'll show you the factory where all our instruments are made. Now what'll it be?" he demanded, flinging hack the doors of a quite spectacular drinks cabinet. Whisky, gin, Boogie Juice, Babycham, Beaujolais Nouveau, it was all in there, glistening under the lights. After being told in no uncertain terms that what I wanted was not a chilled Perrier water but 'a real man's drink', I settled on a small gin and lime.

Mr Sprocket ran briefly, if dramatically, through the company's history as I sipped my sour concoction. "...and so it was that we decided, given the industry's tendency to refer to each other's instruments as 'piles of old rubbish', that we'd do exactly that, actually make the guitars, keyboards and so on from discarded material. The trick was to make these new kinds of instruments desirable and, indeed" (a quick smile barely visible through the tightly clutched scotch whisky here) "desired."

No sooner had our drinks begun to explore the upper reaches of our respective digestive tracts, mixing with bile, pancreatic juices and the like, than Mr Sprocket dragged me out of my seat and into the main factory. Ancient Victorian machines which dispensed Sarsaparilla at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution were now harnessed to produce musical instruments on the factory floor of Recycled Goods. Mr Sprocket took me nearer to one such machine.

"...this one marked 'chair seats' provides the body while 'floorboards' feeds the neck production segment."

"This is our pride and joy," he enthused, spitting over me on the p of pride. "It's our guitar-making machine. As you can see at one end we feed old household furniture into two separate hoppers — this one marked 'chair seats' provides the body while 'floorboards' feeds the neck production segment. Out of the end comes a completed Fender Strat style guitar, though of course we're not allowed to say exactly that. It goes along that belt there, where our highly trained girls do the ever-important hand jobs — putting on old radio knobs for the controls, forming redundant record player arms into very serviceable wang bar units, and finally applying a thin layer of finest creosote, made from melted down old roads, to give that very popular all-black finish."

Mr Sprocket was evidently getting into his stride. In fact he virtually ran over to the other side of the factory and, once I'd got level with him, started talking and spitting immediately with enviable synchronisation. "Here is where the keyboard division does its stuff. This is Vernon who looks after our keyboards. Say hello to the nice man from Making Music, Vernon."

Executives of Recycled Goods indicate how the year's supply of secondhand dentures have been applied.

Vernon looked 15, was undoubtedly spotty, and had small round glasses constructed from vast amounts of sticking plaster and a minimal area of glass. He blushed the colour of an SG, and stammered, "Hello t-t-to the n-n-nice man from M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m..." Mr Sprocket's kindly nature quickly became apparent. "Vernon! Shut up you stupid invalid and show the nice man how your gadget operates. And just remember our lessons on 'how to talk to the press', OK?"

"R-r-r-right," replied Vernon, emboldened, "we sh-sh-should be doing s-s-s-some advert-t-t-t-t..."

"Just demonstrate the keyboard machine, Vernon!" stormed Mr Sprocket, turning to me and grinning widely. "Sorry about that, old chap," and now whispering close to my ear, "he's a musician in his spare time — usually December 24th." He drew away and winked heavily. Meanwhile Vernon was revving up his keyboard-making machinery and looking extremely concerned at the blasts of black, stinking smoke emitting therefrom. Mr Sprocket helpfully commentated.

"The roads that we melt down for guitar finishes are first stripped of their zebra crossings, and these are chopped down into keyboard sized units. That way there's no wastage, we're a very ecologically sound company here at Recycled Goods. And we also address ourselves to social problems, as this process demonstrates. Noting the increase in vandalised telephone boxes in the Inner City areas, we put all the smashed up gear to good use in the production of our ZXZ101 synthesiser. Basically — and stop me if I get too technical — we pour loads of old telephone gubbins into a big bin here and we get synthesisers out of, er, here. No, sorry, here. No... well, anyway, it comes out somewhere. Vernon's absolute magic with these machines. We are a very non-interventionist company here at Recycled Goods vis-a-vis our factory floor workers."

Vernon meanwhile had fallen into a large hopper at the back of his machine and was, even as we spoke, providing the basis for a new vocoder version of the ZXZ101, provisionally to he called the ZXZ101V. Mr Sprocket ably demonstrated his non-interventionist stance by failing to notice any of this, and invited me back into his office for more drinks.

Some hours later, after I'd been shown the efficiency of the company toilet system, Mr Sprocket showed me to the door (very cleverly made, as it turned out, from a recycled batch of Bond guitars). "I hope you're not going to write anything, er, critical about the company, young man. After all we're in this business for the good of musicians — we give them very cheap instruments made to a very high standard. Guarantee? Well, we don't actually feel the need to actually guarantee the actual instruments — they never go wrong. They're too good, you see? Oh, and you won't mention Miss Chain's little, er, 'dance' just now, will you..."

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Drum Hum

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January Calendar

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

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Making Music - Jan 1987



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