BillyRadd Music

Monday, January 23, 2012

Old Technology, New Vibe

Records?  Yeah, I've heard of them.

When I met my wife, Anita, in Hollywood in the early 1970's we began our relationship with much in common, not the least of which was our mutual love of pop music and the preferred method of music distribution in those days, the 33 1/3rd LP record album.  We already had a fair amount of these fragile vinyl discs between us when we first met. I had brought about 100 of my favorites with me when I drove to California to attend film school while Anita had several jobs within the recording industry and actually had a very nice career at Capitol Records when I came into her life.  She had already collected probably twice as many as I had. 

We were in our middle 20's and like most of those of our Viet Nam "conflict" generation, we spent a fair amount of money on phonograph records and the means to fill our living spaces with music from the great pop sensations of the day like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, etc. (the list goes on and on).

The best thing about using the LP (Long Playing) records was the stereo/hi-fi sound that could be attained if the record was cranked up on a quality turntable, through a quality amplifier, and out of speakers with at least a woofer and tweeter.  So, logically, if you'd spent all of that hard-earned cash on the LPs, you would try to get the best quality reproduction gear you could afford to play them.

Enter the Empire Turntable.

After our marriage in Salt Lake City in 1973, and before we began having children, I might add, Anita and I, since we had moved most of our collection of LP's with us to Utah, decided to buy the foundation of any audio system in those days, a good turntable.  After asking advise from some of our friends who were "audiophiles", the very best we could find in Salt Lake City was an Empire Model 598 Troubadour III, which cost us $325 in 1975 (or $1,358 in today's dollars).  Expensive for young marrieds for sure. But, what a beautiful thing it was and the sound it reproduced from our well-protected collection of LPs was impressive.  As the owners manual stated proudly, "This instrument, in conjunction with other equally high calibre components, will allow you with the press of a button, to hear the full sound of music so akin to the actual performance that only the most expert ear can detect the difference".

To make a long story short, as we began having children, the importance of keeping up with our LP record collecting waned over the years until we rarely pulled the black discs from their cardboard sleeves to listen to our favorite tunes.  We just couldn't justify the cost of the LP records, which did not get cheaper as time went on.  Plus, with the advent of audio CDs, we began investing into this new replacement technology.  And, so the beautiful Empire turntable sat on a shelf collecting dust and was very seldom put to work.
But, we kept it along with the speakers and amplifier we'd used with it.  We packed them, along with all the LP records, very carefully every time we moved and hauled them along with us, from Salt Lake City, to Spokane, WA, then back to central Utah, and more recently, to Asheville, NC where we now reside.

But, this story has a happy ending.

This week I replaced the aging, slipping rubber drive belt that turns the table and bought a new diamond stylus (needle), powered the old turntable up and cranked it through a new Sherwood tuner/amplifier with the old speaker cabs from long ago and our life in California.
The old LPs sound as good as new since most of them have not been played for over 30 years.  So, our new home is now rockin' to the oldies.

And, I guess the lesson here is simple.  It pays to buy good stuff because it really might stand the test of time.  

The trick is living long enough to prove it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Finally Jammin'

Party of the Year

As I predicted, it took me almost a full year to finally get my music chops back up to the point that I would allow myself to subject others to my newly renewed electric bass skills.

My good friends, dancer Marta Martin and her beau, singer-songwriter Neil Laurence invited me to play at her annual Planet MartaNeil's gathering this past holiday at their home in Asheville.  Neil entreated me to jam with him and some of his other friends in his "man-cave" studio during the party.  I accepted without much trepidation since I felt I was ready to face the music (and an audience, albeit a small one).

And, I am very pleased that I did.

The other folks at the party were an eclectic collection of Marta and Neil's closest friends and they made me feel right at home.  So, when it came time to play some live music, many of them filed into Neil's studio ready to boogie.  Most of them also participated in the music-making since many of them are musicians.

With Neil on his uke and singing, me on my little Kala bass, Forrest Green on keyboard and melodica (yes, that's his real name), and a wonderful selection of others on digeridoo, djembe, other percussive impliments, and even some other singers, spontaneous dancing broke out several times during our three sets for a truly communal experience and a wonderful time.

All in all, a great time was had by all, especially me since I was able to make good on my intention to play in front of strangers here in Asheville before a year has passed since Anita and I moved here.

Onward into the New Year.  And now, the best part is, I need a new musical goal!