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Friday, August 31, 2012

A Virtual Time Warp To 1975......

I found this awesome YouTube clip that will REALLY take you back to 1975.

It's an unscoped aircheck from a rock station, "The All New K-Keg 92" KKEG-FM Fayetteville, AR from 1975.

Complete with music, jock and original commercials. The guy who posted this said he found it on an 8-Track tape somebody recorded and he transferred it on YouTube.

".....this was most likely recorded in order for the owner to be able to listen to the radio while driving through the dead-air area between Fayetteville and Little Rock that existed in NW Arkansas during the mid-70s......."

And believe me, this can take you there and beyond. I don't know who Bo James was, but he definitely had the right sound for this format.

This was what Classic Radio REALLY sounded like back in the day. You'll hear the Doobie Brothers cover version of "Jesus Is Just Alright" ad nauseum today. But NEVER the Byrds ORIGINAL.

See how much of this music you haven't heard in EONS - if at all. (Segues like Blood Sweat & Tears cover of "Ride Captain Ride" into "Liar" Queen anyone?)

KKEG is still on the air and still rockin', but they've moved up the dial to 98.3 FM. KKEG's original 92.1 frequency is now home to an ESPN sports station. 

Pop open a can of Tab and enjoy......

The Seeburg 1000

Before supermarket/department store background music was a mishmash of oldies and Adult Contemporary radio recurrents. 

Long before the digital music services (We're gonna need a shovel for this.) Before Smooth Jazz, before Muzak, before Easy Listening radio, there was the Seeburg 1000.

(Above: A promotional flexi-disc record extolling the virtues of the Seeburg 1000.)

At this layer of the background music archeology sits a microwave oven sized and shaped contraption that was probably the most BRILLIANT invention for it's time.

It didn't nuke burritos very well.
It played 9" inch 16 RPM records with a 2" inch spindle hole, with a playing time of around 40-45 minutes on each side, hopelessly incompatible with all commercially made turntables and phonographs (although you COULD play them on any record player with a 16 RPM speed, if you could get the record centered right - no adapters were ever made. But you would also end up ruining the microscopic grooves of these records because they used a far smaller sized stylus than conventional records.)

The records were distributed quarterly in boxes of seven. The operator was supposed to replace records in the system with new records of the same number (i.e. MM-125). Each box is labeled with the library type, date to place in service, and instructions to the operator.

These instructions also specified that each record set was to be returned to Seeburg after use. Upon return, the records were destroyed.

Complete Seeburg 1000 systems and records actually are very hard to find today. They are EXPENSIVE.......
They were manufactured by the custom products division of Capitol Records for Seeburg for use only on these machines (this music was never intended for commercial release.)

But it's certainly not the music that's fascinating about the Seeburg 1000. Watch how it PLAYS.....

(The precision mechanics of this system would impress a Swiss watchmaker. But were also a migraine to repair.) 

The Seeburg 1000 was used from 1959 to the mid '70s and was ubiquitous in department stores, supermarkets and restaurants of the day. 

Here's a site with more info. Plus a link so you can hear one playing 24/7....


Thursday, August 30, 2012


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders

The Now Wave Sampler post I made earlier this month reminded me of the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders.

But I knew to dive into this would be pretty exhausting. Because, next to the NOW CD series and K-Tel/Ronco albums, they were the most successful compilation series ever. Especially in vinyl's golden age.

And Warner/Reprise did it all with mostly new and unknown acts then. Many whom went on to become superstars. Others languished in obscurity, and some became cult favorites.

During most of the '60s, Warner Bros. and newly acquired subsidiary Reprise (which was purchased from Frank Sinatra in 1963) were, next to Decca, one of the most staid and conservative record labels in America. However, by the mid-'60s, Mo Ostin Reprise label president promptly began to shake things up. He signed The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie, Frank Zappa, The Pentangle, Joni Mitchell - just about every demo tape that came across his desk to a deal with Warner/Reprise.

Most of these new rock acts appeared on Reprise Records while Warner Bros. itself remained mostly a Middle of The Road label. But soon, even rock was invading the schmaltzy Warner Bros. roster.

By 1969, Warner/Reprise had become one of the most (if not THE most) creative and unique commercial record labels of the era. With so many new and creative bands signed, they released their first "Loss Leader" compilation, The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook. The albums were compiled by Barry Hansen. You may know him better as radio's Dr. Demento.

There was no radio or TV advertising for the Loss Leader albums. They were promoted in magazines like Rolling Stone and on the stock inner sleeves of other Warner/Reprise albums of that time with sarcastic copy.

"These Warner/Reprise specials are full stereo, double albums in deluxe packaging. The double albums ($2 for two records) average about 28 selections, each of them is filled with the best of the artists' work, plus some extra collectors' items (like unreleased singles, even an Ice Capades commercial by our Van Dyke Parks).

You can't buy these albums in a store; they are available only by mail, for the ridiculously low price of $2 for the doubles, $1 for
Zapp├ęd, and $3 for the deluxe three-record set, Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies.

We can get away with that low price because these celebrated artists and this benevolent record company have agreed not to make a profit on this venture. We (and they) feel it's more important that these samples of musical joy be heard.

If you're as suspicious of big record companies as we feel you have every right to be, we avert your qualms with the following High Truths:

This is new stuff, NOT old tracks dredged out of our Dead Dogs files. If our Accounting Department were running the company, they'd charge you $9.96 for each double album. But they're not. Yet.

We are not 100 per cent benevolent. It's our fervent hope that you, Dear Consumer, will be encouraged to pick up more of what you hear on these special albums at regular retail prices.

That you haven't heard much of this material we hold obvious. Over 8000 new albums glut the market (and airwaves) each year. Some of our Best Stuff has to get overlooked. Or underheard. Underbought. Thus, we're trying to get right to you Phonograph Lovers, bypassing the middle man.

Each album is divinely packaged, having been designed at no little expense by our latently talented Art Department...." 

From 1969 to 1980, over 30 Warner/Reprise Loss Leader compilation albums were released, covering the hippie rock of the '60s through the singer/songwriter phase to New Wave.

Here's a listing of all the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders. Plus info on their rare CDs from the late '90s.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Your First Phonograph/Stereo

You probably started out with this.......
And moved up to a stock GE kids phonograph of the early '70s (also manufactured for Sears and Concert Hall under their house names...)

.....or if you were really lucky, you got one of these.....

Vanity Fair and Imperial "Party Time" phonographs were really cheap knockoffs. Made of cardboard, low quality parts and a stock design that was easily customizable for whoever wanted to license their images and product name to  it. That's why they were the most popular design of kids phonograph .....

The famous Michael Jackson Vanity Fair phonograph. Still made by VF/Imperial "Party Time" Clean, functioning units however sell for LOTS on eBay.....Way too much in my opinion......

Barbie Phonograph, made by VF/Imperial
Another portable record player w/radio, the Phillips portable. It was also made by Sony. and also sold under the then Phillips owned record label names of Mercury and Fontana. The blue Fontana labeled ones are the rarest.....

The GE Trimline 500: A very popular portable (allegedly), stereo record player of the early-mid '60s. They were popular as teenage hand-me downs from parents in the '70s because they were SUPER rugged and lasted THEM through high school and college. They were also SUPER heavy, but look at it! It was made of 90% pure metal parts! And it was built to LAST. The speakers were fully detachable and housed in steel cabinetry, just like the rest of this thing. And GORGEOUS sounding! With a dependable 40 watt tube amplifier with full bass and treble knobs (yet just a tad brassy, speakers being encased in metal boxes.) The plastic tone arm was a bit on the heavy side, but the automatic mechanisms rarely failed. Repairing one is also pretty easy and pasts are everywhere on eBay.....   
The GE Wildcat was a sleeker, MUCH lighter plastic cased version of the Trimline. While still a durable and dependable record player, the 40 watt tube amplifier of the Trimline had been replaced by a 20 watt transistor amplifier. But the basic mechanisms remained the same.....

The Emerson Swingmate
Fisher-Price's first REAL record player. It was designed as failproof as a kids phonograph could get (and believe me, NOTHING is completely failproof around a smart kid for too long....)

Click here for Part Two

School Lunches

Ahhhh.....The delicious, irresistible public school lunch........

Oh hell, they were horrible.

At elementary schools in the Edmonds School District in the '70s, school lunches consisted of a weekly rotating menu of:

- Some Slop Over Rice or Mashed Potatoes: This wasn't the official name of it on the menus that went home to our parents and I can't remember what they billed it as. This was just what the lunch ladies themselves called it.

The slop itself varied in colour from a pinkish beige to a gelatinous brown substance, both with bits of an unknown meat by-product.

An Edmonds School District lunch lady making slop......
 - Cheese Pizza

- Hot Dog (This was infamously called on the menus - are you ready for this? A "Wiener Wink".)

- Sloppy Joe: Ubiquitous on EVERY school lunch menu in America to this day

- Fish Sticks

-  Burrito

-  Taco

- Spaghetti

And the list went on.

I found a very disturbing web site recently. One that's actually quite shocking, considering we should be feeding our kids (who've committed NO crimes) better than THIS.....


Edison Disc Records

Check out THIS beauty! An Edison Disc Phonograph from 1912! And it STILL sounds GORGEOUS! Edison's Disc Records were very advanced for their time, using a diamond stylus (instead of a steel needle) and a floating diaphragm, things that wouldn't be seen again until the Hi-Fi age of the early '50s.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Perfection and Superfection

The missing piece here is probably STILL under somebody's couch or bed somewhere.......

Perfection and Superfection were games made by Lakeside in the '70s

Perfection was a game where you put the shaped game pieces into their matching slots on the game board before a one minute timer expires and the board ejects everything. If you can complete it, you can stop the timer. If you couldn't, you were left picking up game pieces everywhere for 10 minutes.

Superfection had a two minute timer and puzzle piece blocks..

Somehow, I could never complete either of them before timer blew everything up.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Mister Hot Rod" The Scramblers (1964)

"Mister Hot Rod" The Scramblers (1964)

Like most of the budget record labels of the '60s, Wyncote produced a lot of cheesy low budget knockoff material. They were the budget subsidiary of the Cameo-Parkway label, one of the larger independents of the '60s.

This album is mostly your average Beach Boys/Jan & Dean knockoff - except for this strange offering. This track, which also appears on the Incredibly Strange Music, Vol. 1 CD compilation is by The Scramblers, another anonymous group of session musicians that recorded for a budget label.

(I just can't imagine the crowd going wild over this one. Maybe staring.......)

Stretch Armstrong

When these were introduced, my 7 year old mind thought he was based on a cousin of Louis Armstrong. I remember watching a TV show and how big Louis Armstrong puffed out his cheeks when playing the trumpet. They HAD to be related somehow......


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Montgomery Ward

A ghost from the past arrived in my mailbox the other day.

A Montgomery Ward catalog.

Needless to say, I was puzzled.

Montgomery Ward (or simply "Ward's") went out of business in 2001.


From it's beginnings in 1872 as a mail-order catalog.....

At the Sno-Isle Library in Lynnwood, this reproduction of the 1922 Montgomery Ward catalog was actually one of my all time favourite books there when I was growing up......
......to it's early-mid 20th century heyday as one of the big three chain department stores (along with Sears and JCPenney) Ward's was iconic. As both a catalog and a department store retailer.

Fall/Winter 1968. These bi-annual catalogs were HUGE and weighed nearly six pounds EACH!

LONG defunct former mall anchor store
But beginning in the '70s, it became a victim of a succession of several bad executive decisions and changing tastes (Ward's was an old school department store in the age of the box store. They had a very minimal online presence at the end of their life and were considered an anachronism in the new millennium.)

Timewarp to today.

After a little investigating, I finally found the reason why after 10 years defunct, Ward's was back - The intellectual property of Montgomery Ward had been sold. The original company itself was dead for at least 10 years. This was an entirely new operation using the still valuable name of Montgomery Ward.


This new catalog, is ummm.....a heck of a lot THINNER than the bi-annual behemoth books that used to be a staple of Ward's until 1985 that I remember (well over 2,000 pages thick!) Even stranger, I also received catalogs from Seventh Avenue and Ginny's and the products in these catalogs as well as the new Montgomery Ward catalog are exactly the same. Right down to the corporate colour scheme and type fonts of the catalogs. So I'm guessing it's all just one company under several different names.


RIP Neil Armstrong

Remember The Future - Nektar (1973)

Nektar was a German progressive rock band from the late '60s and '70s. And a criminally underrated one. Amongst all the bands of the prog rock genre, I actually like these guys better than Yes. This concept album was their biggest American release in 1973.

I bought this album in the late '90s for a buck at Goodwill. I never heard of Nektar up to that point. But the record was in excellent shape and for a buck, there wasn't much to lose.

It's become a favourite of mine ever since......

Here it is in it's entirety:


Friday, August 24, 2012

RIP Jerry Nelson a.k.a The Count

The History of The 45 RPM Record

In the late 1940s, record sales were great. The Depression and the war had passed and America was entering a new period of comfort and affluence. Just sit back and relax, Truman was going to take care of everything.

But there WAS one little problem......the records themselves.

Recording technology had changed tremendously since Emile Berliner's first gramophone records in the 1890s. We had gone from unresponsive acoustic recording horns and direct to disc master recording to full electrical recording and tape masters.

But very little had changed with the records themselves. They still rotated at 78 RPM, still made of noisy shellac and extremely fragile.

Berliner Gramophone Record, 1897
RCA Victor 78 RPM Record, 1948

In 1948, Columbia Records unveiled the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record. It played for about 20 minutes per side and made of thick and much quieter vinyl.

The first LP Record, 1948
RCA Victor, Columbia's long time rival was also working on a newer and better record at the same time as Columbia. When Columbia came out with the LP record, RCA scrambled on it's own project and in 1949, unveiled the 45 RPM record.

""Texarkana Baby" Eddy Arnold (1949), the world's first commercially released 45 RPM record.

The RCA 7" inch 45 RPM record was cute, VERY small, and RCA's very colourful vinyl (each genre of music had it's own colour of vinyl!) made it an instant hit with younger people. Popular releases were on standard black vinyl. Country releases were on green vinyl, Children's records were on yellow vinyl, Classical releases were on red vinyl, "Race" (or R&B and Gospel) records were on orange vinyl, Blue vinyl/blue label was used for semi-classical instrumental music and blue vinyl/black label for international recordings

Eventually, RCA soon ended it's coloured vinyl lines due to the price of the coloured vinyl compared to the standard black.
It also employed "The World's Fastest Record Changer"

Here's the demonstration record that came with one of these players......

But the 45 RPM record and RCA 45 players DID have a few problems. First, the players could only play 45 RPM records. Nothing else. Second, classical music fans still had to put up with the same mid-movement breaks that plagued symphonic fans since the dawn of classical recording. Something the 33 1/3 RPM record rarely had.

This era in the turn of the '50s was called "The Battle of The Speeds" Some people preferred the 33 1/3 RPM LP, others the new 45 RPM players and old timers who insisted on the 78 RPM speed. The other major labels mostly aligned with the 33 1/3 RPM LP for albums (Capitol however released albums in all three speeds) and 45 and 78 RPM for singles. The 78 RPM single began disappearing in the early '50s and the 78 RPM speed regulated to children's records through hand-me-down phonographs from their parents. The last American commercially released 78 RPM singles appeared in 1959, however they were still made for children's records and older jukeboxes until 1964.

And thus began the era of the 45s. An era that lasted 40 wonderful years. Before the cassette tape, CD and MP3 player, 45s were the perfect portable personal music medium.

Remember these?
And the 45s themselves were super cheap too, less than a dollar each. Fun to collect, share and trade with friends. While some kids had baseball cards and comic books, others had 45s. Portable battery operated phonographs were also made for taking your music anywhere.

Check this little baby out!

 And another one.....

And who could forget THESE?

Also known as "spiders"
The very first Stereo 45 RPM record was introduced by Bel Canto Records in June of 1958.

 In the UK, Japan and some European countries 45s were pressed with detachable centres. In other European countries, 45s were pressed with a standard 45 spindle hole. The reason there were detachable centres was for compatibility with some foreign record changers (like the early RCA changer, which was extremely popular) and jukeboxes.

US 45
UK 45
Japanese 45
Greek 45

Italian 45
Turkish 45
In Australia, most 45s had standard LP spindle holes.
German 45
Thai 45
Lebonese 45
45s also had the B-side. Most were a second, non-single track from the parent album. But sometimes, it would be a live track, an instrumental version of the A-Side song, an outtake from the parent album session. Or sometimes, a completely original song. Most of the B-sides of Elton John's 45s had songs recorded just for them, as Elton John felt it gave his fans better value for their money. And they did. Most of them are collector's items and many were never released to CD.

There's also been the question of how long can one side of a 45 play. Most 45s run from 2-5 minutes. John Lennon once asked this to George Martin in 1968 and George Martin, after some experimenting, found the answer - 7 minutes, 11 seconds. And thus the playing time of "Hey Jude".

But bear in mind he was also taking into account standard groove width and the automatic record changer, which was very popular in those days. If he went any longer, he risked tripping the automatic changing mechanism of many of these record changers (this record did on many of them regardless.)

(UPDATE: Thanks to John Cerra for reminding me that "Hey Jude" was actually the SECOND longest pop 45 of the '60s and that "MacArthur Park" Richard Harris was actually LONGER than "Hey Jude" by 9 seconds (7:20) and was released earlier than "Hey Jude". My brain isn't what it used to be. - Larry)

However, this wasn't the longest 45 side ever. That distinction belongs to Bruce Springsteen on the B-side of his 1987 single "Fire", a live version of "Incident of 57th Street". It clocked in at just over 10 minutes (10:03)

I'm sure there could have been longer. But I haven't seen any.

(UPDATE 4/30/15 - Wayne Whitehorne says "Longest one I've ever seen is "Lunar Sea" by Camel, Janus J-262 (B side) 10:27. Shortest one I've seen is "Beside" by The Fastest Group Alive, Valiant V-754 (B side) :35". Both have been verified.)

"Little Boxes" The Womenfolk (1964) at 1:03 actually charted in the Billboard Hot 100!
But that's the fun of record collecting. Just when you think you've seen and heard it all.....Surprise!

By the beginning of the '80s, sales of 45s were beginning to gradually slip as sales of cassettes and blank tape began ushering the "mixtape" era. CBS noticed this and test marketed the one sided single. In 1987, A&M released the first cassette single and other record companies quickly followed suit. By 1990 however, record companies began discontinuing the 45, except for jukebox releases and collector's items. However with the vinyl resurrection of the last few years, many companies are back to pressing vinyl.

But there's something about the 45 that an MP3 simply can't mimic. It's REAL. Just the right size. Something you can hold.

And no matter what next big thing comes along, they'll NEVER go out of style.