This Is Not a Goodbye, My Darling, This Is a Thank You

Remember your first GF or BF? Of course you do. Mine is Christina McWilliams, a vision of 16-year-old loveliness. She gives me her school pin. I give her mine. We hold hands, kiss and cuddle. I’m taking it slowly and then, poof, it’s over. She wants her school pin back. I cry for a week. I’m through with girls.

For the Love of Mike

Altec 21B Condenser microphone

In 1956 I am working at Radio 2UE. We have a new Altec 21B condenser mic. While her Saarinen curves might break your heart, she is flat from 20 to 15,000 Hz—the perfect blend of form and function. I am in love.

Kicking and screaming, I am conscripted into National Service and taken away for military training. By chance, I see a classified ad for my Altec princess. On my day off, while my Air Force mates are pub crawling, I’m catching a bus to meet the seller, Bill Armstrong. I spend every penny I have buying her. She is my first professional equipment purchase.

When I come home at night, she will be waiting.

She’ll be the truest gal in all this world.

I’d rather have an Altec 21B to call my own,

Than a fickle-minded real live girl.

There Will Be Blood

My love sleeps under my pillow in the Air Force Nissen hut. My fellow conscripts think I’m weird.

One night they try to take her away. I lash out and break the ringleader’s nose. There’s a lot of blood. After that no one dares to touch her or me.

Hey Presto

Presto !C recording head

Out of the Air Force, I buy a Presto 1C cutting head, turntable and lathe and build a mini Abbey Road in my mother’s laundry. I specialize in cutting copies of impossible-to-get LPs.

My biggest hit is The Songs of Tom Lehrer. Lehrer sings of drugs, sexual diseases and poisoning pigeons: all the things that make life worthwhile.

Jazz Me Blues

In 1959, the princess, my friend Robert Parker and I drive to the Cootamundra Jazz Convention. While Robert is recording the jazz using my Altec, I’m filming the event with a new Bolex H16.

A week later I marry wife #1. Big mistake. I should have stayed true to my princess.

Eight Years Later

Wife #1 is gone but I have my loyal techie family: Altec, Presto, Bolex, Éclair and Nagra.

Stefan and Tricia 1968

I make TV spots, pop videos and full-length documentaries. I haven’t dated a girl for six months.

Mike Pearce is a close friend. “Come on, Stefan, you’ve got to start taking girls out again.” Nope, it Hz.

“Snap out of it. Ask the next girl who comes to the door. You can do it.”

On cue, knock knock. I fling open the front door. “My darling! At last I’ve found you. I know I sound crazy but I’d like to ask you out.”

“Oh dear, no. I’m here to meet my daughter, Tricia. She wants some modeling work. You should ask her out.”

Love Me, Love My Nagra

Two months later, Tricia and I are in London. I’m shooting TV interviews, Tricia is recording the sound.

We meet Aussie friends. “Have you got a sound studio? We want to record The Bee Gees Story.” “No, but I can build one. I have a great microphone, an Altec 21B.”

Robert, Tricia and I build Molinare. Twelve years later we have 40,000 sq. ft. and 100+ employees, but my darling Altec has vanished, gone forever.

Princess, thank you: thank you for showing me that there would come a time when I could eventually let you go.

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