[SoundStage!]Paradise with James Saxon
Back Issue Article
January 1999

Talk All Night

As the SoundStage! insomniac, I occasionally tune in to Art Campana’s controversial radio show, Talk All Night. Art’s topics, such as UFO sightings, assassination conspiracies, and survival techniques pander to paranoia, but are generally non-inflammatory. Recently, however, Talk All Night ventured into dangerous waters, namely a discussion of hi-fi equipment. The first two segments, dealing with solid-state components and loudspeakers, were uneventful. The third and final segment began with an interview and ended with a sudden loss of signal. Luckily, I recorded the last show on my trusty Nakamichi 1000, and submit herewith a transcript. Maybe someone can come up with a theory about what happened that night?

ART CAMPANA: Welcome to Talk All Night. Tonight, we end our hi-fi series with a discussion of tube gear -- you know, the old-time glass bottles that glowed in the dark, and blew up once a year setting grandma’s curtains on fire. You won’t believe this but there exists a group of diehards who’d like to put a tube amplifier into your living room and light your curtains on fire. We’ve invited a prominent member of this tube cult to Talk All Night. Here to defend the fiery-furnace theory of home stereo is Steve Rockman, founder of The Joy of Music website and author of the world’s weirdest book. Steven, welcome to Talk All Night.

STEVEN ROCKMAN: Thank you, Art. May I say first that my name is actually Steven Ro—.

AC: Don’t worry, Steve, we’ll get to the plug soon enough. Tell me, what is this thing you’ve brought us? You say it’s a book? Damnedest book I ever saw. People, you should see this. I’m holding in my hand what looks like a small-bore eight-inch barrel with gold fixtures on each end.

SR: The barrel is a actually a piece of stiff cable. I believe in stiffness [LOL]. The ends are RCA connectors, Art.

AC: RCA? I remember that label. OK, where’s Nipper? Gotcha. You don’t even know who Nipper was.

SR: I only have about fifty albums with Nipper on the cover.

AC: Go on, tell us about the tube-book.

SR: Well, you unscrew the connectors, then you tap the "barrel" on a hard surface and pages of information fall out.

[Tapping noises.]

AC: Look at this, it’s like a spy pen. Suddenly, spirals of paper snake their way out of the barrel. Let’s see. One, two, three.... What’s this, Steve -- four pages -- that’s a book?

SR: Umm, according to my publisher, Schneider Publishing, books as we know them no longer exist. Now, the medium is the message. Well, almost. I still had to write something to stick inside the cable.

AC: Yeah, if you can call four pages something. What’s the title of this magnum opus?

SR: It’s humbly entitled, Do It Yourself Digital Cable.

AC: Would it be fair to say that this so-called book is a distillation of all you know about digital cables?

SR: I think, um, no, that’s not fair to say.

AC: We’ll get to that. People you should see this guy. He’s dressed head to toe in black. He’s wearing sunglasses; it’s after midnight. And his head is punctured with pieces of jewelry -- not exactly your typical hi-fi buff.

SR: May I humbly suggest….

AC: Hold that thought, Steve, while we go to a break.

[Commercial for Sunburst Home Insurance]

AC: We’re back with Steve Rockman founder of The Joy of Music website and author of the soon-to-be-best seller, Do It Yourself Digital Cable. How many of these books do you expect to sell, Steve?

SR: I have orders for five hundred and twelve so far.

AC: Wow, 512. Is that nationally?

SR: Well, actually, overseas sales are included. There’s a person living in Paradise who’s agreed to buy 500 copies. It was either that or I planned to sue him.

AC: How interesting. How much does the book sell for?

SR: Twenty-five dollars.

AC: Twenty-five bucks! Are you kidding?

SR: Twenty-five is what the Paradise person agreed to pay. The book actually costs about forty cents to produce, but you know, like, that’s hi-fi for you.

AC: Not for me, pal. Hi-fi, schmi-fi. I use Bose. You ever hear of Bose? Whatever Bose doesn’t make, I don’t buy. So go on, tell us why we should introduce hot, lethal, unreliable tube gear into our living rooms.

SR: Well….

AC: By the way, you see the No Smoking sign above my head. That’s real, pal. Whatever you’re puffing on, either put it out, or share it.

[Several seconds of silence]

AC: That’s good stuff, man.

SR: As I was about to say, tube electronics are more than a way to listen to music. They are a way of life. For example, the way I look, the way I live are results of my belief in simple circuit design using old-style devices called triodes.

AC: Triodes? Are those tubes?

SR: You can call them tubes, or valves, or thermionic devices -- they’re all made of glass. In my humble opinion, tubes make the music sound more emotional than transistors do. I’ve owned a lot of transistor equipment in my life and the sound of transistors is flat, lifeless, dead. Tubes sound alive, dimensional, connected to the music.

AC: Are tubes better than transistors?

SR: Umm, I thought I just explained that. Do you want me to repeat myself?

AC: Hold on a minute. Someone is coming up to the trailer. Joel [Engineer Joel Paige], what’s going on out there?

Joel Paige: Looks like a bunch of deer hunters have pulled up. This is deer season, you know.

AC: It’s always deer season. That’s why everyone has a rifle. Steve, you might want to duck down if these people come in. We have a lot of conservative ex-Canadians living around here and they might not like your looks. Joel, go out and tell those fellows this is private property, posted "no hunting."

[Noises]

AC: Hello, there. Can I do something for you?

Male Voice: You got a transistor-basher in here?

AC: Not at the moment. This is a radio show. You fellows want to be on radio, this a hell of a way to go about it. Why don’t you call in?

Male Voice: What’s the number? We’ll use the cell phone.

AC: 420-61….

MV: Just kidding, pal. We’re tracking this man. Have you seen him?

AC: Wow, I’d remember that face if I saw it, and believe me I don’t remember it.

MV: Do you mind if we look around?

AC: Do you mind if we call the police?

MV: That’s a good one. We are the police. Sort of.

SR: [Inaudible] …with the Mounties?

MV: Well, hello there! Just the man we’re looking for. And Art couldn’t remember seeing you.... No, we’re not with the Mounties. Have you ever heard of GL Semiconductor -- largest manufacturer of bipolar transistors in the world?

SR: The "Evil Empire?" Yeah, I’ve heard of it.

MV: I’ll bet you have. When they offered to buy your website, you shouldn’t have turned them down.

SR: They offered to buy Joyofmusic.com? When? How much did they offer?

MV: It was all in the contract they e-mailed you last month.

SR: [LOL] I thought that was spam. Just tell them to resend it.

MV: That’s not our mission. Our mission is to take you with us.

AC: No one leaves these premises against his will.

MV: Say, what is that -- a .357? That little pop gun won’t help. We got serious fire-power here.

AC: Maybe, but I’ve never lost a guest and don’t plan to start now.

SR: That’s OK, Art. I’ll just download the contract, sign it, back-date it, and I’ll be home free. Can I use your computer?

[Two minutes of silence]

SR: How do like that -- I must have erased it. Say, Mr. Gentleman, would you mind calling GL Semiconductors and ask them to resend?

MV: Sure, we’ll do that from the office. Come along now.

AC: It’s a trap, Steve. Don’t go.

SR: Don’t worry about me, Art. The tube gods will protect me from the transistor devils. Let me take my audio shaman from the backpack and -- voila!

[At this point, transmission ceases.]

There you have it, gentle reader. Art Campana is back on the air, but he has never mentioned this episode or its conclusion. If anyone has a clue to the outcome of Steve Rockman’s run-in with the transistor devils, please let me know via secure transaction -- or simple e-mail. I welcome any and all suggestions. Column ideas are hard to come by these days.

...James Saxon
jimsax@soundstage.com

 

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