The Rock Star's New Stompbox

with apologies to Hans Christian Anderson

Once upon a time there lived a vain Rock Star whose only worry in life was to play music on his elaborate pedalboard. He changed equipment almost every hour and loved to show off to his fans.

Word of the Rock Star's refined habits spread over the country and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Rock Star's vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of his mansion with a scheme in mind.

"We are two very good technicians and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to modify stompboxes so pure and fine that it sounds simply marvelous. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."

The chief roadie heard the scoundrel's strange story and sent for the tour manager. The tour manager notified the personal assistant, who ran to the Rock Star and disclosed the incredible news. The Rock Star's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.

"Besides being marvelous, your Highness, this pedal will be modified into a circuit with tones created especially for you." The Rock Star gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the pedal immediately.

"Just tell us what you need to get started and we'll give it to you." The two scoundrels asked for a silver solder, teflon-coated wire, metal film capacitors and then pretended to begin working. The Rock Star thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary pedal, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise tour manager, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.

"Go and see how the work is proceeding," the Rock Star told him, "and come back to let me know."

The tour manager was welcomed by the two scoundrels.

"We're almost finished, but we need a lot more metal film capacitors. Strum here, Excellency! Admire the tone colors, hear the richness!" The old man bent over the pedalboard to hear the sound that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.

"I can't hear any change," he thought. "If I hear nothing, that means I'm stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!" If the tour manager admitted that he didn't see anything, he would be discharged from his office.

"What a marvelous tone, he said then. "I'll certainly tell the Rock Star." The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More silver solder was requested to finish the work.

Finally, the Rock Star received the announcement that the two technicians had come to take all the measurements needed to finish his pedalboard.

"Come in," the Rock Star ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels presented the modified pedals.

"Here it is your Highness, the result of our labour," the scoundrels said. "We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful tone in the world is ready for you. Listen to the magic and hear how fine it is."

Of course the Rock Star did not hear any change and could not detect any difference from the stock pedals. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the speaker cabinet was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not hear the tone, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Rock Star didn't know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.

The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began patching the modified pedals into the impressive equipment setup.

"Your Highness, you'll have to plug in your signature-model guitar to try out the new pedals." The two scoundrels stretched the cords for him and then turned on the amplifier. The Rock Star was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.

"Yes, this is beautiful tone and it sounds very good on me," the Rock Star said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."

"Your Majesty," the tour manager said, "we have a request for you. The fans have found out about this extraordinary pedal and they are anxious to hear you jam with it." The Rock Star was doubtful showing himself to the fans, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.

"All right," he said. "I will grant my fans this privilege." He summoned his limousine and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the audience. All the people had gathered around the stage, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Rock Star slammed the first few power chords, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.

Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Listen at the Rock Star's new sound. It's beautiful!"

"What a marvellous tone!"

"And the fidelity! The sustain of that beautiful tone! I have never heard anything like it in my life!" They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to hear the changes from the factory pedal, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.

A child, however, who had no important job and could only hear things as his ears revealed them to him, went up to the stage.

"The Rock Star is fooled, there is no tone change" he said.

"Hush!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:

"The boy is right! The Rock Star is fooled! There is no change in tone! It's true!"

The Rock Star realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the session under the illusion that anyone who couldn't hear his beautiful tone was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on the stage, while behind him a roadie held his backup guitar.

NOTE: This parody is meant in all good fun and is not a criticism in any way of the fine work or mods that any pedal manufacturer performs.


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