Funny Stories

Here’s one for you….guy called me one time looking for a driver magnet for an EMT, because his ex took it when she left….can you picture her removing the side in order to get at it?

The “creative moment” has always seemed magical to me. I don’t know where songs come from. Sometimes they seem to simply appear.

I know John Seabury as a member of the Psycotic Pineapple, a local Berkeley group that I had the pleasure of producing in the late 70’s. He is also an acclaimed poster /cartoon artist in the R. Crumb vein. I have a collection of his original art. One quite striking example of the creative moment occurred one day in the early 80’s:

One day, we had a band meeting in my office. John says to me “Give me a pen and I’ll draw you a picture”….

I replied “Here, have two”, and I handed him two pens……He took the two pens and a piece of paper, and immediately started furiously drawing, and not more than 90 seconds later, handed me a picture of a head in profile, all doubled; with an arm raised with two fingers displayed in a victory sign, NOT doubled….and the phrase “how many fingers?”.

The point is, John had no idea that I would hand him two pens instead of one and obviously, he created the picture “in the moment”. It is a great picture and I will never forget how amazed I was when he handed it to me. Of course, I still have it. Some of John’s wonderful art work is featured in the classic book “The Art of Rock”.
He’s also a great bass player, singer and songwriter.

The burnt up Neve: I heard that BBC Manchester, England, had had a fire in the control room. I called and asked what happened to the console. “It’s in bits and pieces under a tarp outside”.….”Can I buy it?” I asked….”No one would want this, they replied”…so I said I’d like to take a look….well, the long and the short of it is, I bought the pieces for $750. It had (56) 3104 input modules…

The drowned Neve..…there was a studio in the midwest under construction…full bore place…the 8078 was in the control room under tarps…..a workman (a fine craftsman, no doubt) was doing something to a water pipe that ran thru the control room ceiling on a Friday evening….everybody went home…..on Monday,the control room was FILLED with water……

One time (I think in 1981 or so) an engineer from Thames Television (which no longer exists), called me on the phone to ask if I might be interested in some old AKG C12 mics that they were getting rid of. As usual , I asked if there was any gear he might be interested in swapping for. So, we made a deal where I got (9) C12 systems and he got a new pair of BOSE 802 speakers and 5 copies of “Modern Recording Techniques” by Robert Runstein! ………..It was his idea of a fair trade!

He later apologized to me as the 9th mic had a cable but no supply…….. I was steamed, let me tell you……..

One day the phone rings and it’s a very famous engineer, whose name I can’t recall, and he wants to buy a pair of Neve 2254 limiters. I don’t have them at the moment I tell him, but I do have a 33609 . He starts ranting about how he can’t stand the 33609 , never ever uses them, they suck and blah blah blah.

So, I ask him how he likes the 32264 modular limiters that one finds on 8058, 8068, or 8078 consoles….he then goes on about how great they are, he loves them and uses them all the time….I had to bite my tongue to refrain from telling him that a 32264 and a 33609 are exactly the same circuit board in a different box…………

I got a call to sell some tube mics and Pultecs to Frank Zappa one time. I got the address in Laurel Canyon , and went over there. I wandered around looking for the house but none of the places had numbers…I went to a wooden gate that I thought must be it, and rang the buzzer. A kid, maybe 8 years old answered and I asked “Is this Frank Zappa’s house?” “No”…..gate slams closed…..after 15 minutes of additional wandering, I figured it out and went back……(it was Dweezil).

I was sitting in the office of a European studio (actually it was in the basement of the Vienna Opera House) one day (about 1983) and I’m buying 14 U47’s for $325 each. The chief engineer walks in and sits down and asks me, “What do you want this old junk for?” I ask him if he has ever tried these mics… “Oh, no. We use the new microphones,” he replies………

One time Stephan Temmer, then the owner of Gotham audio and the sole “authorized” importer of Neumann products into the U.S. told me (1980 or so), “Any recording engineer who uses a tube U47 is obviously not a professional”……

For many, many years, Gotham would regularly charge $100 to anyone who sent in an “illegally imported” Neumann mic for repair as a “registration” fee. They would also, without asking, replace any “Telefunken” logo badge with a “Neumann” badge.

In 1955 the chief of engineering for MGM films, ordered 200 U47 grill tops and capsules from Neumann and built the now obscurely famous “Telecine Church Mics” from them. Stephan Temmer was so incensed by this temerity, that he refused to sell anyone in the U.S. any Neumann parts for the next 30 years, even though they were readily available from Neumann dealers throughout the rest of the world.

Gotham kept (and probably still does) keep a list of stolen Neumann products. Whenever one was sent back to them for repair that showed up on their hot sheet, they would inform the sender that the mic had been stolen from so and so and was being returned to them….one time I left a U67 with the owner of Hit Factory in NY. He called me up the next day screaming at me that this mic had been stolen and what was I trying to pull, trying to sell him hot mics? I asked where it was stolen from. This mic was stolen recently from Wally Heider’s in LA, he yelled at me. I said that’s interesting, because I just bought that mic from Janna Feliciano, and she owns Heider’s LA…….. go figure……

One time, I was talking with an English audio dealer on the phone. He asks, do I want to buy an AKG C12A mic? Sure how much? $350 or so……ok…..the mic arrives and it is painted lime green……I call him up and say, you didn’t mention that the mic was lime green. He says, what, don’t you like the color?

I sold a pair of Neve 33115 modules to a very good engineer friend of mine. Seriously, he’s an excellent engineer….so a year and a half later, he calls me up and says a tech has opened his modules to fix something, and has discovered that one module was all IC amps (600 series IC amps instead of 400 series discrete amps). I had no idea, and I exchanged amp boards for him, but he used them as a pair, for 18 months without noticing any difference! As a result, I did a comparison myself and the difference is slight; very subtly noticeable in the low end.

The most influential elements of the Neve designs seem to be the transformers and the simplicity of the circuits themselves, not the particular amplifiers.

A number of years ago, during a San Francisco AES conventions, a European manufacturer of microphones came to our studio, Coast Recorders , to do a comparison of their new tube mic with our vintage mics. We invited a number of well known engineers to participate. Upon the arrival of the new microphone, the box was opened to reveal a mic that was gold plated, except for the body tube, which was made of clear glass. I asked the gentleman if the regular production model was made of gold plated metal? No, he responded, this is the production model. I asked, what happens when they drop it? He says, “If you had an $8,000 tube mic, would you drop it?”……you all know the answer to that ……..

Jay Kaufman, one of the most brilliant technical minds in audio, and a dear friend, once told me his idea of a good tech was “one who fixes more than he breaks…..”

I’m a pretty casual dresser….in fact, I’m a hippy bum….the idea of clothes shopping isn’t my favorite… one AES convention, my friend Matthias and I were wandering and came to the Publison booth..…the Infernal Machine (no doubt named after the often impossible-to-comprehend instruction manual) had just been released. We had an AN89 at my studio, and I turned to the well-dressed French person (I’m sure he was Mr. Publison) at the booth and said “We have one of these at my studio, and we like it a lot”.…he took a step backwards, pointedly looked me up and down…..and said in an astonished tone of voice,”YOU have one of MY units?” Apparently, each Publison unit was sold with a dress code…..Publison seems to have gone into other endeavors…..

I was once persuaded to send a pair of Neve limiters and a pair of Neve input modules to a guy in Philadelphia to “try out”….he never paid me and then stopped taking my calls. One time I succeeded in getting him on the phone, and after yelling at him for a while, the guy threatened me with “You know, you’re only a short plane ride away.” It turned out he also was “trying out” some mics that belonged to an east coast audio dealer….so the audio dealer and I made a deal…..I paid for $500 worth of whatever, and he went with a couple of large friends to retrieve our gear, which he did without further incident!!! I love that guy, and wear his t shirts to this day….

A number of years ago there was an AES convention in San Francisco. I attended one morning and as I was leaving, came upon an acquaintance of mine, who asked if he could possibly use my entry badge for a friend of his.

Without thinking twice about it, I handed it over. It seems that his friend, whom I never met, was not only a bit, err, scruffy, but also a bit obnoxious and loud. ..So this guy has my name badge on and he went to the Sony booth (I’ve been told, understand, I wasn’t there) and listened to the Oxford demo (something I never have heard) and loudly proclaimed it to be this and that (all bad) and apparently did a number of rather odd things at various booths including the Avalon booth (I’ve heard)……well…. I may be a bit scruffy at times and I may be somewhat opinionated and enthusiastic, but it was not, was not, not me. When I saw the Avalon stuff at the convention, I thought it looked great and sounded very good. Love those oval meters and the pseudo Fender knobs too…… it’s hard enough to deal with all the real situations without being responsible for some other nutcase who filches your identity. I was lucky, it was only for a few hours…..

Into the dumpster! Over the years, I have encountered numerous credible stories about classic gear that was thrown away or scrapped.…here are a few of them…..

Circa 2000, one department of German Broadcast threw away 1000 Telefunken / Siemens V72’s…..about $500,000 worth!

Three years ago, a foreign broadcast agency threw away (4) 44 input Neve broadcast desks….that amounted to (16) 3314 limiters and (104) 33129 input modules, not to mention a huge pile of other stuff…..

Oh yeah, here’s a good one….German Broadcast stomped on and threw away 200 Neumann M49’s!!! By today’s prices, that would be a cool $1,000,000, give or take a few marks….this happened about 25 years ago….

“What do you want this old junk for?”….Austrian Classical Recording Engineer in 1979…..