If anybody walks into your studio with a dog or a cat, or if they ask you to record wild animals or record a show involving animals then here is a list of things that you will need to take with you:
- Protective Clothing
- A shovel
- A bucket
- Some strong disinfectant
- Bail money
I might have included extra microphones-, but I am assuming that you will have these anyway: I once tried to interview an elephant (at Chester Zoo). I held up my microphone and the elephant, rather predictably, ate it. The last item on the list may puzzle some of you, but you would be surprised how often one can get arrested whilst recording wild animals.
My trying to explain to a Malayan policeman that I was lying faced-down in a swamp with a tape recorder and a shotgun mic in order to record a rare species of tree-frog was enough to convince him that he was dealing with a dangerous lunatic.
You will need the shovel, the bucket and the disinfectant for all those sweet little dogs and cats that their owners bring with them and are not going to cause any trouble whatsoever, but just lie quietly in the corner.
Cats are the worst because you will never get rid of the smell.
I was sitting in the workshop one day, setting fire to my fingers with some expensive semiconductors, a process I used to call soldering, when a musician with a tube-amp under his arm and a siamese cat on a lead walked in. I say a cat on a lead but actually it was a cat in the tradition of passive resistance, lying on the ground being pulled along on a lead.
He said that it was resting
He then handed us the tube amp saying, "Ive like added some circuitry make it like sound man."
What he had done was to take a circuit board out of some transistor radio and wire it up to various points in the tube amp just as his fancy took him.
Rather than explain the difference between tubes and transistors, my then employer demonstrated it: he plugged it in and turned it on. There was a yellow flash and a very loud bang and volumes of brown smoke poured out of its sides.
The cat took off like one of those motorcycle Walls of Death stunt drivers. It streaked round all four walls of the workshop at about five feet above ground before going to earth in a Leslie cabinet.
A week later, when the owner of that cabinet returned, I was given the job of trying to persuade him with a straight face, that it had come to us smelling like that.
A few years ago, I recorded a jazz band in a club in a small town in Germany. Malcom was the keyboard player.
After the concert Malcom still had music in his soul so, rather than doodle on the keys or sing Sonny Boy in the bath when he got home, he pulled out a set of plastic bagpipes and marched up and down outside a restaurant playing what he said was Scotland the Brave.
Minutes later, two uniformed policemen in a patrol car told Malcom to stop that unholy noise in the middle of the night and brought home the point by taking his bagpipes away. They gave him a receipt and told him where he could pick them up the next day, when he had calmed down.
Malcom said: "If this were a free country, that sort of thing would not happen!" and that it was an unashamed impingement of his personal freedom. Deprived, but not outdone, Malcom set about making a new set of bagpipes.
He borrowed a tartan dufflebag and found a cat on a garden wall.
He then put the cat in the bag and pulled the opening shut around the cats tail. When the police returned to make sure that he was not causing any more trouble, Malcom who was by now happy and ready to take on the world, hailed them with an expansive gesture:
"Officers! What do you think of my new bagpipes?" he shouted and tucked the tartan bag under his arm and bit the cat in the tail until it howled in protest.
Malcom and the bagpipes were released the next day.
Then something happened that nearly cost me my life. Our two Great Dane bitches went on heat at the same time and every time I ventured out onto the streets, all sorts of dogs followed me with a love-light in their eyes. Sometimes I got together such a canine posse, that walking became impossible.
We provided the sound and lighting to a conjuring show.
The sound was simple enough, just one mic and a backing tape, but the lighting was tricky as each trick had to be lit differently and, as each trick came off, the lights had to be changed to enhance the effect.
Also, I had to run the lighting board from off-stage-right and we had not had a chance to run through the routine as the hall was being used that afternoon. The show went well. I got every lighting cue right and the audience loved it.
Then a cage with a lion in it was put right next to me.
The conjurers assistant, assured me that there was nothing to worry about and then she disappeared leaving me alone with the lion.
Of all the lions to be wedged into a corner with, I had to be wedged into a corner with a lion that had once been bitten by a Great Dane when it was just a kitten.
Until it was his turn to be pulled out of a hat, that lion spent the entire time reaching through the bars of his cage, missing me by what looked at the time like mere millimetres.
You might like to add to that list at the beginning, a spare pair of trousers.
I was not part at this last story involving animals but the video engineer involved told me the story blow by blow with tears in his eyes.
Once upon a time there was 'A King!' all my little readers will exclaim. But no, this time you are wrong. One upon a time there was a big-shot record producer.
He has never actually had a record released by a major company or a video production accepted by any TV station, but he has tried and tried and tried.
And he has a rich daddy, so he goes on trying.
I cannot give you his name as he belongs to that ever growing number of producers who have learned to read and write, he may just be reading this, so I will call him B.
B got fed up schlepping round the various record companies, just to have them thank him for all his effort,
"Good, as it is, it is not quite right for the market at this moment. But I took your recording upstairs and they found your concept of a man eating celery in 3:8 time, er... fascinating."
So B decided to put on a show to end all shows, a show that would show them all that he was a force to be reckoned with. No ordinary hall was good enough for B, so he hired a Roman arena, a 24-track mobile, a video OB unit and 18 musicians.
The whole Roman arena was lit by the biggest lighting system the little town had ever seen. The rig was so big that the local power company had to bring in an extra generator. A laser show was hired for the interval and the start of the show was to be accompanied by fire works.
People came and the arena filled up.
A large part of the audience was made up of people who had known B as a snotty little boy in school who had never been able to get anything right. They had a feeling that the coming entertainment would provide them with unexpected pleasures - and they were not disappointed.
The band struck-up and the lights went down. A platoon of Roman gladiators entered the arena, followed by Roman soldiers on horse-drawn chariots. Members of the audience recognised some of the participants as friends of theirs and called to them by name; one of the gladiators broke character by making a rude gesture with his trident and this got a good laugh from all sides but there was better to come.
The star of the show entered the area dressed as a centurion astride a beautiful white Arab charger.
The inevitable cat calls and laughter were drowned out by the trumpet section giving of their best with a Hollywood-style fanfare as B, lit by two follower-spots, trotted to the centre of the arena reined up this beautiful animal so that its hooves would paw the air and disaster struck.
This was a borrowed horse.
Moreover, it had had a full and hearty meal that morning and B had left it in the horse box for the past four hours and nobody had thought to warm the animal up before the show or even let it stretch its legs a bit.
Instead of rearing up on its hind legs, it went into a half squat and had a violent attack of diarrhoea.
The crowd went into hysterics and the fanfare died like a set of punctured bagpipes.
Gladiators were seen holding on to each other with tears in their eyes and everywhere people were rolling about in their seats with laughter. Then the fireworks started.
Great exploding rockets and whistling stars lit up the sky. The horses pulling the chariots panicked. Two of the charioteers fell off and ended up running behind their runaway vehicles.
B, who had spent a lifetime being told how wonderful every thing was that he did, was red in the face with rage. He dismounted, marched up to the bandstand and grabbed a microphone.
"How dare" he bellowed "the people of this provincial, cultureless backwater laugh at a serious artistic endeavour."