Sunday, September 29, 2013


Was it that long ago that people took pride in having a great stereo system? In owning records? In knowing about "Mobile Fidelity" pressings, and "Living Stereo" from RCA or "Living Presence" from Mercury? Was it that long ago? Yes. It was. Several generations have come along since those vinyl days, and they are perfectly happy with mp3 files.

Here's a column confirming that not only is music so devalued that it's hardly worth buying, most are content hearing it squirted through small computer speakers, or equalized through headphones. BUY a stereo system? That makes no sense, dude!

When was the last time you tried to buy a turntable...needle...cartridge...replacement stereo receiver? Wasn't easy, was it? Not as many choices. What, YOU have RECORDS? What a fogey!

Oh ye generation of Miley Cyrus and Kanye West! Does the quality of the sound matter with today's music? It's thumping beats with either thuggish morons shouting or pitchy bitches mewling. It's for people who think Burger King and Applebees is good eating. For those who pour Coca Cola like it's vintage wine...and don't know Elvis Costello from Lou Costello. Us? We wanted to hear even "bad" voices like Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Neil Young with the best stereo sound possible. You sure as hell wanted the best headphones to get the nuances of classical, jazz or progressive rock.

Times change. Today's "Beliebers" care more about what they can see, not what they hear. They also don't have time to really listen. They've got Grand Theft Auto to play with. Facebook. 3D movies. All songs are, now, is background music for texting or twerking. Do mp3 files give you lyrics? Who cares? Cee-lo is saying "Fuck you!" And it's "Fuck you" to anyone who treasures their stereo system and shelves or records and CDs. Now, as CNN notes, a computer or a tablet is all that's needed.

"Big Bang Theory" boys and girls rule. Go find a VHS-DVD combo player, Fogey, and watch your "Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Monty Python" tapes and discs on a TV while you can! Maybe you'll try and keep up...but it'll be tough. "The Twilight Zone" turns up in a streaming version, and your grand kids show you how to save it via Internet storage? You'll probably have a heart attack shouting haplessly at the hackers, "Hey! You! Get offa my CLOUD!"

Yep, old-timers, them "big box" stores don't have much variety in mid-price receivers or turntables, and there are few "audiophile" stores for the rich and finnicky. Stereo equipment is becoming OBSOLETE. Like you. Listeners today aren't finnicky and don't notice auto-tune or fake drums or synthesized orchestration. Most don't buy compact discs, even if some artistes are stubborn enough to not only go into a real studio and take time for a recording, but issue their music via SACD [a shout out to Eleanor McEvoy!]. No, it's an mp3 world, and getting smaller by the nano second.

This is not a rant. It's just reality. Today's 18 to 40 demographic aren't that discerning about the quality of the music, and those over 40? Well, a lot of them don't have the time to listen to records, and many have hearing loss that make it hard to differentiate vinyl from CD or 320 bit-rate mp3.

The good news: all the broken receivers and turntables, added to the obsolete VHS players and the rest...will make for chunky landfill, which just might help keep the beaches from eroding during the next climate-change hurricane or monsoon. it'll mean is that some old fogey might be killed by a flying Zenith radio rather than drowned.

Now for happier notes. On the right, my signed copy of a Flanders & Swann record. Flanders was the one in the wheel chair, but it's Swann's signature that is less bold and forceful.

"A Song of Reproduction" by Flanders and Swann, chronicles the rise of recorded music from a simple curiosity you played on a hand-cranked turntable to something grand and artistic for that newly evolved homo sapien, the "audiophile." Some of the satire is on the type of person who is in love with the technology more than the music: "I've an opera here, which you shan't escape…on miles and miles of recording tape." Well, today you can't find 4 track stereo tape recorders. Anyone trying to collect reel-to-reel is probably on the verge of hanging himself with his obsolete mylar. Ironically enough the song isn't hurt very much by hearing it in mp3 version rather than the original vinyl or CD reissue.

The song is from the "At the Drop of a Hat" revue, which Flanders and Swann recorded twice. The first record was released in mono (1957). When it was such a smash hit that it was going to come to Broadway, the duo recorded their final London performance in stereo. That 1959 recording would end up being the "original cast album" when it was released in America via Capitol.

Flanders and Swann Song of Reproduction (Mono)

Flanders and Swann Song of Reproduction (Stereo)

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