United Airlines Lacks Musical Sensitivity

31 03 2008

As you know, we live in the least developed country of the so-called developed nations. I write this from the San Francisco airport. I fly domestically, maybe, twice a year. I fly internationally 4 or 5 times a year. I have NEVER had a flight delayed in Europe or Asia, and I have never once, in 10 years, taken off on time in the USA. And UNITED is the worst. Everytime. Two hours delay so far and counting. And I hate them.

BUT, if you are lucky enough to loose your mind at the United Domestic Terminal, there is a wonderful Exhibit of Catalinaware – pottery made in the Arts and Craft / Art Deco style on that tourist isle, from about 1927. This is the ONLY accredited art museum in an American airport. And certainly you have the hours to wile away if you fly United. (who I hate).

The Catalina Collector’s Blog < http://catalinacollectors.org/blog/gallery > says this is the largest exhibition of the material every mounted. So why talk about this in a music blog that hates United Airlines?

Well because of the photo of that gal a-playin’ her flower pots! They are playing ‘tuneful pottery’ in 1932 on the “Island of Romance.” And that’s about all I know.


So the hunt begins to find out more.

For an existing soundtrack, Singles-wise, consider
• The Four Preps, “Twenty-Six Miles (Santa Catalina).” Capitol, 3845, 1957 – this was an actual hit the following year.
• The Four Jokers. “Catalina Leana.” Apollo, 1163, 1950
• The Four Jokers. “We Met In Catalina.” Crystalette,730, 1959.
• Jan Garber Orchestra. “Catalina Bounce.” Capitol, 15468, 1949.
• Gordon Jenkins. “Santa Catalina.” Decca, 27031, 1950.
• The Commanders. “Cat From Catalina.” Decca, 29485, 1950.
• Bert Kaempfert. “Catalina.” Decca, 30866, 1959
• Tret Fure. “Catalina.” MCA, 40029, 1973.
• Freddy Martin. “Santa Catalina.” RCA, 47-3780. 1950.
• Nancy Sherman, Joan Van Armen. “Catalina Honeymoon.” Wanderlust, 1109, 1959.
Orchestra Mambo Rico. “Mambo Con Catalina.” Capitol, 15681, 1950 – this is the one I’m looking for!

There is also another exhibition titled, “30th Anniversary San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival” in another terminal but no one seems to know where that terminal is, and it seems missing from the airport map at the United Terminal, and did I mention I hate United?

The Oldest Playable Phonautogram. Ever.

27 03 2008



The New York Times has a new article about the newly recovered, mid-nineteenth century recordings of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian “tinkerer” who invented a recording device called the Phonautogram YEARS before Edison (that bad bastard) ever even thought about recording.  This phonautogram of “Au Claire de la Lune,” which dates to 1860, is now considered the earliest playable recording in existence:

Scott’s technology – and the technology used to recover it – are amazing.  A really worthwhile read.

ps. the article mentions Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.  It’s a fabulous book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants insight into the history of sound recording and a better understanding of how technology changed the way people listened to the world.  It’s all about the ensoniment, folks!

pps.  the article also mentions Archeophone, an amazing company that preserves, remasters and reissues recordings of the acoustic era of the recording industry.  All of their releases are worth having.  (My favorite is the Billy Murray album, but the Bert Williams releases are mind blowing too.  If you’re into popular music history, this stuff is de rigueur).

Rock Around The Blooper

26 03 2008

Meanwhile, back in the jungle…

Freddie’s really been kicking ass, sorting through mountains of 45s for weeks now. Every once in a while he’ll unearth a comedy single which is my meat! When this beauty bobbed to the surface we had to spin it, like forthwith, no tomorrow-style:


A white label deejay copy, Jubilee 45-5258, Rock Around The Blooper, parts one and two. But dig, students, it’s billed as excerpts from Kermit Schafer‘s milestone Pardon My Blooper LP, (and sports the familiar cartoon imagery from the cover) but it is in the form of Buchanan and Goodman‘s classic break-in masterpiece The Flying Saucer. It’s a break-in blooper record! Does that flip your wig, or is it just me?


It’s a strange concept. Is it an answer record? Hard to parse. It plays just like Flying Saucers; deejay narration cut in with snippets of rock ‘n’ roll and, like the man says, excerpts of Kermit Schafer’s bloopers. The editing is pretty good on the whole, snappier than any of Schafer’s other product which makes me wonder if he didn’t get someone to cut this for him.

Ol’ Kermit took a lot of hits over the years for his authenticity problem. Namely, that many of the hilarious “bloopers, fluffs, slips, boners and goofs” he collected on his records were actually staged by Mr. Blooper himself. Some of the clips were real, some he found it necessary to re-create. But he never indicates when this happens. This means Kermit gets a line on a legendary screw up via one of his radio engineer buddies, and it’s really choice, he’s gotta have it. But there’s a catch – no tape! So he lovingly fakes it and tells none of this to the saps that buy the record. As it turns out, not only did he do this for events where there was no recording extant, but also for shit that never happened. One of the latter was the Sonny Tufts incident which experts agree never happened. Too long to tell the story with any justice here, you’ll have to read about it on Snopes.com. One funny thing about our single here is “Sonny Tufts?!?” becomes a recurring tag line through both sides and with no context to tell us why it’s funny! We have to buy the Pardon My Blooper album to hear the whole (completely phony) joke. Most of the other drop in bloopers are spoonerisms which need no set up.

You may debate whether any break-in record is truly funny; accepting the limits of the genre, this is a pretty good one. I think the original Flying Saucer record will always be the best. But if you don’t actually slap you knees, break-ins can have a manic charm that is unique and which evokes the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll deejays which sadly is gone. Except for Rex on WFMU, of course.

The Flying Saucers are REAL! The Flying Saucers are STILL AROUND!


The 45 Adaptor

20 03 2008

Few inventions are as useful or as elegantly simple as the “centering device for phonographic records” or put more plainly, the 45 adaptor.  We have upwards of 200,000 45s here at the ARChive, and since people often just left them in their 45s, we have accumulated a rather nice collection of these little wafers over the years.  What follows is a little gallery of a few that I could put my hands on quickly.

Let’s start, though, where everyone else does, the Wikipedia entry for “Gramophone Record.” It gets into RCA’s development and 1949 release of the 45.  It says the following about the adaptor:

RCA 45s were […] adapted to the smaller spindle of an LP player with a plastic snap-in insert known as a “spider”. These inserts, commissioned by RCA president David Sarnoff and invented by Thomas Hutchison, were prevalent starting in the 1960s, selling in the tens of millions per year during the 45’s heyday.

This may or may not be true – I cannot find any evidence to support the claim.  Given the competition between vinyl formats in the late 1940s, it seems odd that RCA would have marketed a product that essentially encouraged record collectors to buy anything other than RCA-made turntables.  (Who else was manufacturing 45rpm turntables at that time, anyway?)  Wikipedia’s dates seem a bit off as well – a little late.

Below left is what I think was probably the first record adaptor made and marketed in the US (click on the image for a larger view).  It was invented by Frank A. Jansen (the patent, #2585622, was applied for in 1949 and issued in 1952) and marketed by the Webster-Chicago Corporation.  (The reverse side reads “Patent Applied For.)  On the right is the “Snap-It” from the Kay Music Co. of New York.  It says “Pat. Pend.” but I could not find its patent (however, patent #2693364, filed in 1950, issued 1954 for an adaptor invented by Norman Chalfin might be related – I can’t really say):

Webster Chicago Kay Music Co.

Next up are a couple of sort of unusual plastic ones.  The one on the left is marked “KPL 1/2” and “6/3” and because it’s triangular seems sort of similar to the kind that Rudolph Flötgen invented [#2932521, app. 1955; its the one below, middle]); the one on the right with the bicycle spokes (more of a BMX-type mag wheel, really) was made by Morse Manufacturing Co. Inc. :

KPL MST Flotgen_Insert Morse

These are nice and all, but the most famous molded plastic adaptors look like this and are often marked “Recoton”:


This is the kind you see all over t-shirts nowadays – as if it were the only 45 adaptor ever invented!  There’s a pretty good history of the Recoton company here and as business histories go, it’s a fascinating read.  Anyhow, it appears that the molded plastic insert was invented by James L. D. Morrison for the Voice of Music corporation of Benton Harbor, Michigan. (Maybe they had some relationship with RCA?)  The patent (#2712943) was filed in 1951 and issued in 1955.  On the left is the patent image, alongside two later, somewhat similar examples manufactured by others.  The grey one is unmarked, the cool red one (looking like a fireball) was made by Philco:

Morrison Insert Unmarked Philco

That’s it for now.  No, it’s not a comprehensive history, but it is enough information to impress your friends and acquaintances at cocktail parties and what not.


Reason 5446 Why I Love Jamaica

19 03 2008

Calling All Vipers?  Yeah…for a “listening party.”  The “records” (*wink* *wink*)just arrived.

Back From The Dungeon

13 03 2008

The reason I have not blogged more often is that I have been down in the cellar—known here at the ARChive as The Dungeon—sorting through some of the old seven-inch 45 RPM records (from here on just called 45s).  The ARC is the proud owner of about 100,000 45s.  Maybe more.  Maybe a LOT more.

Recently I’ve been going through some previously unsorted boxes and putting the “M” section in order.  I would like to share with you some of the things I found.  Click on the link for the full-sized picture (something’s going on with WordPress and it’s not letting me resize images for some reason, so I’m going to give it a day or so):

MJQ  Ralph

These first two records are the kind of thing one would expect in the ARChive:  a rare, DJ-only record by The Modern Jazz Quartet and a record by fifties big band leader Ralph Marterie.

The former is notable because of the scarcity these DJ-only 45s—the songs were edited for radio airplay and never issued commercially.  Side one is shown.  Side two consists of two albums from an album called The Modern Jazz Quartet & Orchestra.  This kind of item is rarely seen these days.

The second disc is by a guy who led one of the last successful big bands.  Marterie was a trumpet player who was a manufacturer of “innocuous pop instrumentals,” as All Music Guide puts it.  However, he actually cut some very credible R&B records, including this one from 1956—a cover of Roy Montrell’s “That Mellow Saxophone.”  Here, the saxophone playing is anything but mellow.  For those keeping score, during the eighties neo-rockabilly group The Stray Cats covered the song, but called it “That Wild Saxophone” because the meaning of “mellow” had changed quite a bit in a post-Olivia Newton-John world.

Kraut Two Dean

I often get asked if the ARChive deals with punk records or indie releases.  The fact is that the ARChive started with about a hundred boxes of punk and new wave records more than 20 years ago.

Shown above is a 45 by Kraut, one of New York City’s finest hard core punk bands of the early eightes.

The Two Dean Crew 45 shows a true independent spirit.  The song titles are hand-written on the white label.  The picture sleeve, such as it is, is made of what appears to be a piece of a polka dot shopping bag, cut out and taped together, with a hand-drawn happy face graphic.  The only identifying marking is a photocopy insert.  We haven’t listened to the record, but we love the creative work that went into it.

Gable  Lemonheads

A truly boss discovery in the ARChive is the great “Cool, Calm, Collected” by Guitar Gable.  It states on the label, “Rhythm-Blues.”  Don’t be fooled.  This is a rock’n’roll record made the way only African Americans could do it back during the fifties.  This thing just wails, baby.  And here we have it, in next to mint condition!!!

Another independent rock release is what must be the first ever release by The Lemonheads—“Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners” EP.  For some reason, two labels are listed as having issued this—Amory Arms and Huh-Bag Records. The back cover shows a photo of a trio, including an impossibly young Evan Dando.  Our copy includes an insert with lyrics to the songs.

MC5 (1)  MC5 (2)

Speaking of Dando, wasn’t he the guy who sang with the re-formed MC5?  I saw that gig and all I can say is this:  He may be talented, but he ain’t no Rob Tyner—who can be heard on these two impossibly rare MC5 singles.  The 5’s version of “I Can Only Give You Everything” is the best ever—better than Them, The Troggs and The Heroes, even Richard Hell.  The song has been re-issued on albums, but the original single is extremely hard to find.

Equally if not harder to find is the picture sleeve to The MC5’s next single, “Looking at You.”  Word is only a few hundred or so were made.  Note that the sleeve is made of hard, card stock and not the flimsy paper most American picture sleeves.  Both of these MC5 items came to The ARChive via the Jeep Holland Collection…but that’s another blog.

– this post was brought to you by the letter N, the number 4 and a grant from the Phast Phreddie Patterson Boogaloo Foundation.

We Knew That

7 03 2008

Sarah Lyall, in The New York Times, 3/4/08, reported:

“A plot by the Hells Angels, … in 1969, to kill Mr. Jagger nearly 40 years ago failed when the would-be assassins, traveling by boat, encountered a storm and were thrown overboard, according to a new BBC radio series. In one episode of the series, ‘The F.B.I. at 100,’ a former F.B.I. agent, Mark Young, said that Angels became enraged in the aftermath of the Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont. During the concert a fan was stabbed and killed by the Angels, who had been providing security for the Stones. The Stones then distanced themselves from the Angels, which made the Angels angry with Mr. Jagger, the program said. “They were going to kill him in retribution for his firing their security forces,” Mr. Young said in the program, the BBC reported on its Web site. “Their plan involved making entry into his Long Island property, going by boat. As they gathered the weaponry and their forces to go out on Long Island Sound, a storm rolled up, which nearly sunk the watercraft they were in, and they escaped with their own lives.” Mr. Young told the program that the botched plot came to life much later, in the course of a wider investigation into the Angels’ activities… A spokesman for Mr. Jagger said he would have no comment.”

We could have saved them a lot of trouble in uncovering this plot, if only they had done some research at the ARC first!


One of the many rock pulp paperbacks, this from 1977, at the ARC.

Bell Biv DeVoe

3 03 2008

While riding the 7 train into work today, I found a pair of business cards wedged into the plastic liner above the doors. You know the spot – it’s where you’d usually see fliers telling you either how to lose/gain 30 lbs in 30 days or how to make $2,000/wk working from home. Normally I don’t pay too much attention to the stuff that’s up there, but when I saw the words “never trust a big butt and a smile” – that bit of advice from Bell Biv DeVoe’s 1990 hit “Poison” – my interest was piqued. Here ’tis:

Big Butt and a Smile

Brilliant. When I got to work, Jon reminded me that the phrase on the other card – “Whole Lotta Milka!” – is yet another BBV reference, via a Kids in the Hall sketch.

Whole Lotta Milka

Best morning subway find ever.


Edit:  My friend Lissi from Splendidcorp told me that these cards were done by this guy, a rogue taxidermist.  Why, she’s even met him!  Thanks Lissi!

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