Picture disc, picture disc on the wall …

Here’s another side item that seems to crop up from time to time in my record collection – picture discs.

Picture discs have been around since the 1930s or maybe even earlier I believe. Most picture discs that were first popular were releases of children’s records but in the 1970s and 80s picture discs made a big comeback with record companies releasing some of the most popular rock and pop albums of the rock era in the picture disc format.

Though I was never a huge fan of picture discs I did enjoy some of the more popular ones that came out in the seventies like The Beatles “Abbey Road” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” discs but I was never one of those avid collectors of the admittedly cool looking discs.

For one thing most picture discs don’t sound as good as regular vinyl issues and another they are usually much more expensive so I tend to only buy the odd shaped and interesting ones or ones that have unique song mixes or stray songs that aren’t available anywhere else.

With the advent of Record Store Day in the last ten years record companies are aiming their greedy little sights on weak aging collectors like me so every now and again I do get suckered, or shall I say tempted, into buying a new one.

Here’s a few I really like. See that Monkees disc from 2016, isn’t it purdy lol:

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OmiGod, Gag Me with a Cassette …

Today my friends let me take you back to a time when the mullet ran free, sweaters were king, hair was big; to the decade where I learned to drive and attended high school – the nineteen eighties!

Seems like the eighties went through a bit of a revival in the last decade or so, and just by listening to oldies radio it still seems to have a gripe. So, I thought this might be a fun post to look into some of my eighties cassettes.

Just as an aside I’ve read recently that cassettes and the Sony Walkman (a popular cassette player for those on the go) are making a slight comeback. Jeesh, I guess everything comes around again!

I went to high school from 1980 to 1984 and if you’ve ever seen the film “The Breakfast Club” that wasn’t far off from what I experienced. The film was set in the Midwest and filmed in 1985 so it’s pretty darn close for me having an acid reflux flashback if you know what I mean.

Anyway, when I was learning to drive my parents car did have a cassette player in it so that’s when I really began a short love affair with cassettes.

It was the age of the mixtape and for teens like me it was a great way to hear what you wanted to hear in the car before the time of portable CD players and Ipods.

I created a ton of mixtapes featuring either full albums I wanted to hear or a selection of great tracks side by side so I could really program my own radio station. Radio wasn’t quite as bad then as far as hearing the same 10 songs over and over but it was the beginning of that automated, DJ-less format that we have now (on free radio anyway).

I did manage to purchase a few store bought cassettes too (naturally lol!). I even have a few cassingles which were a fad in the mid-80s which was basically two songs on a cassette with a cardboard sleeve. These really didn’t last too long which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

I have mostly Beatles and solo Beatles cassettes remaining and a slew of my mixtapes (see  below). Though looking through my cassettes I do see a couple of Beatles cassingles from 1995-96 so they must have been a thing longer than I remember.

Again, here’s another peek at – well I won’t say typical because I really wasn’t the norm lol – a 1980s teen/young adult cassette collection.

OmiGod, like enjoy!

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Have a nice day? Or Chevy vans and that’s alright with me …

Hands up, who out there owned an 8-Track player? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller?

For those young ones who may be reading, 8-Tracks were small cartridges that allowed you to play music in your car (where I’m sure the majority of 8-Track players were used.)

It was the first time many teenagers and young adults could make their music portable besides radio. Think of it as an early Ipod, sort of, but less expensive and with no software updates and breaks in the middle of songs – no, seriously!

Well, funny enough, my family had two Magnavox stereo sets (my dad was an electrical engineer for Magnavox) and I got the bug for 8-Tracks in the mid to late 1970s when I saw tons of them on sale in large bins marked down to $.99 or $1.50 at the local Musicland in the mall. Remember Musicland? Remember malls for that matter?

I knew we had the player and my older brothers played them (I have three older brothers and one sister, yes raised Catholic lol) and I loved the ability to take them in the car as well as the groovy shells. ( I am such a music geek!).

I remember the small yellow, yes yellow, Magnavox console player with the 8-Track player near the top by the turntable. I was introduced to quite a few of the solo Beatles albums through 8-Tracks – Wings “Venus and Mars”, John Lennon’s “Walls and Bridges”, Ringo Starr’s “Ringo” album – because they were inexpensive and readily available.

What’s even more strange is that Musicland stocked several imported 8-Tracks from the UK, several of which I still own (see photo below).

I believe I even got a few 8-Tracks from a Stuckey’s on I-69 along with a Partridge Family “Crossword Puzzle” album but that’s story for a different day.

I had quite a few 8-Tracks at one time and not surprisingly I still have a few – shocker (fellow hoarders take a bow!).

One of the most distinct memories I have was playing several of those 8-Tracks in my garage in 1979 while putting together a leaf collection for school. No wonder I always get the urge for wax paper, iron and glue every time I see a photo of an 8-Track!

Someday I’d love to get a small player and see if these babies would still work. The old Magnavox consoles went to the electronic graveyard several years ago.

Anyway, feast your eyes on some of the ones I have left.

Behold, the 1970s:

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Ahhh, Sugar, Sugar …

Let me take you back, those old enough to be back that is, to a time of Saturday morning cartoons, three TV channels, no TV remotes, shag carpet, riding in large hunks of metal that looked like station wagons where hardly anyone wore seat belts and those sugary cereals that inundated Saturday morning television with commercials featuring all sorts of cool surprises buried inside and outside of various cereal boxes.

I was only 3 or 4 at the time, and yes I do remember those commercials (barely), but I most certainly remember that in 1969/1970 cardboard records were made available on the back of certain cereals featuring my faves The Monkees as well as Bobby Sherman, The Archies, The Jackson Five and maybe others. Okay, okay, I still have regular vinyl issues of all of the above but I digress …

Now I know that I may be featured on some future episode of one of those hoarders shows but I still own several of these cardboard delights that I, or my mom or brothers or sister, cut off the back of these cereal boxes and played on my portable record player (usually with a coin taped on) for fun.

I vaguely remember badgering my poor mother to buy these. Can you imagine a 3 year old obsessed with music and getting records for birthdays at that age – err, gulp sure do.

I do remember loving seeing these on the back of cereal boxes and even going to a friends house and trying to trade some of these records and play them so certainly others out there over the age of 45 remember these records and had some themselves.

There was even a regular 33 vinyl Monkees album released featuring all the songs on the cardboard records called “The Monkees Golden Hits” that could be mail ordered from the back of the cereal boxes as well. Of course I have that too and will feature it on a later post! (Sigh, really folks I have some semblance of a life, not much, but I do).

Not much to add about these but they’re a great time machine and certainly one of my favorite music memories and physical music collectibles! Try and find some of these nowadays is certainly a challenge.

Though kids, don’t try playing these at home!

Check them out (Monkees are bigger photo of course, lol. Note the groovy bedspread in the photos, Brady Bunch eat your hearts out!):

 

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Simon and Garfunkel “Bookends” mono pressing

“And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson …”

Good things come to those who wait – or so they say.

Last week, I was on vacation and in my usual round of record store hunting (sorry Doug! lol) I found a vinyl album that I have been searching for for over twenty – yes twenty – years. Okay, you have to be a record fan or you might have a bit of a queasy stomach about now.

BUT, I happened upon a mono pressing of Simon and Garfunkel’s best (in my opinion) album called “Bookends”. To say this album in mono is rare is a major understatement. It was released in April 1968 at a time when mono records were being phased out. Thank goodness this copy was under $40 as it tends to go for well over $150 to upwards of $300 if you can even locate a copy. This is the first copy I’ve found out in the wild as they say and not on ebay.

Okay, lesson time: In the 1960’s, pop music was available in either mono or stereo versions or mixes. Mono (one channel) had the sound dead center (all instruments and vocals coming out of the center if you listen on a two speaker stereo system) and stereo had two channels with the instruments and vocals spread out across the two speakers.

Modern stereo includes surround sound with sound coming out of your ears, under your seat and every direction known to man but in the 60’s it was either one or two channels.

Now, readers who aren’t music geeks – gee I’m wondering if you’re still even reading lol – need to know that most pop/rock music before 1968 was produced to be heard on tiny AM radios or small record players with tiny speakers and was predominately mixed in mono.

Mono generally is more in your face, louder and more shall I say it ballsy then stereo especially pre-1965 as stereo was a newer format and producers weren’t used to mixing in stereo. The mono mixes tended to sound more alive and cleaner and were meant to cut over the din of the tiny speakers people were using.

Anyway, back to “Bookends”, the mono mix of this landmark Simon and Garfunkel album is really quite lovely sounding. In fact any young readers out there (or anyone interested in vinyl frankly) should check out the first five Simon and Garfunkel albums which are available in mono (“Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.”, “Sounds of Silence”, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, “The Graduate” (another really rare mono Lp) and “Bookends”.

The only way to get these albums in mono is to track down the original 60’s vinyl pressings and it’s well worth it. For some reason it’s rumored that Paul Simon won’t allow the Simon and Garfunkel mono versions to be reissued which is a shame if true.

Simon and Garfunkel in mono sound superb. They are punchier, the instruments – especially Paul Simon’s guitar work –  really pop out at you as if you are in the recording studio with them. The stereo vinyl isn’t bad at all mind you. In fact the stereo mixes are great too it’s just that I have a preference for the mono mixes of these albums.

Another note, Columbia Records who own and release Simon and Garfunkel recordings had a practice in the 60’s and 70’s I’ve read in which they used the original master tapes (used to make the vinyl pressings) over and over again instead of making a dub thus wearing out the original tapes.

So if you want to hear Simon and Garfunkel closest to how the masters sounded when they were released, track down original stereo or mono pressings if you can find them in decent shape.

As for this pressing  I just found last week, the cover is kind of worn but the vinyl is in nice shape thank goodness. The album is here in all it’s analog glory.

For those downloaders or streamers out there, you hear in analog and I think the reason some people are attracted to vinyl again is that the analog mixes are much easier on the ears and nervous system.

Instead of the one version available to download, each pressing of an album is unique and can sound different depending on the part of the country it was pressed in, the plant, the engineer, etc. It’s like a treasure hunt finding the best sounding version (okay, okay a tad obsessive I know but that’s what makes collecting fun!).

The mono mix, which I first heard on a bootleg CD and which can probably be tracked down on YouTube, is really the way to hear this album. The opening song “Save the Life of My Child” sounds much more urgent and exciting and the female voices cry out as if from some pit of agony.

“A Hazy Shade of Winter” has much more bite and “Fakin’ It” has a more three dimensional sound if you can believe it and the English interlude has a much different feel than the stereo version. Every song has noticeable differences to their stereo counterparts with vocals and instruments popping up in different levels and places throughout the songs.

If you’re lucky enough to come across a mono copy of this album grab it! I’ve read the promo copy of this album in mono may be a tad more common than the stock mono copy which I bought. Though either would be a treasure in any record collection.

Well, that’s it for now kids. If you’ve made it this far, tune in next time (same Bat Channel, same Bat Blog) for some Rice Crispy records? No really, pass the milk …

Until then, check out some photos of this copy of “Bookends” below:

 

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Welcome! Living in the Physical World

Do you stream music on your phone? Are you one of those people who download songs to your Ipod and have never stepped foot inside a record store? What’s a record store you say? Yikes! Well, this blog may give you a headache or hives but I will try to show you some of my collection of old fart physical media (CDs, vinyl, 8-Tracks) featuring some of my favorite artists.

Seriously, any music fan is welcome but this blog will celebrate music in it’s physical form be it vinyl, CD, cassette, 8-Track or even those long forgotten Playtapes from the late 1960s’ (more about those in a future post!).

I may from time to time also talk about something current in the music scene or share some of my interviews with musicians.

I’m a freelance writer part-time and have interviewed people such as Gene Simmons of Kiss, Rick Springfield, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, Steely Dan and the group America among many, many others for newspaper articles.

I may also highlight stereo equipment, yes there are other ways of playing music besides the phone or computer!

So sit back, slap on a set of headphones (not my personal choice as I hate headphones) or lean against those aging but still oh so nice pair of Pioneer speakers and as someone whose music I admire greatly said – Roll up for the mystery tour, step right this way …