23 Comments

  1. Sounds like I’m definitely a geezer as the saying “you sound like a broken record” to someone who keep repeating themselves is probably something I’ve said recently.

    I was a little surprised to see it had the CIDU tag.

  2. Karl has it. I almost missed the cast on the record’s “arm”.

    I have to question the Geezer tag too. Vinyl is pretty popular these days.

  3. Oh, a cast. I thought it looked like a tube of something, like glue, so I was looking for a crack or the like.

  4. Mark, thanks! Guy Lombardo’s “The Broken Record” was fun. The song has it. Those old shellac 78s were brittle and cracked easily – thus the endless rep-rep-rep-rep-repetition when the needle hit the crack.

    Vinyl records became established (I think) sometime in the 1940s. A couple of online sources say 1948 and try to harness vinyl and LPs together, but I have a few vinyl 78s that I’m pretty sure predate that.

    Anyway, vinyl’s huge advantage over shellac was that it was essentially unbreakable, as the ads and record sleeves proudly proclaimed.

    But records still developed repeating grooves! Vinyl was much easier to scratch. So was the cheaper polystyrene used for some 45 RPM records. With the high tracking forces of the 1950s (sometimes measured in ounces rather than grams), a little rough handling of the pickup arm could gouge a scratch right through a groove wall. The next time the stylus ran into that spot, pop, it jumped back to the previous groove, playing it over and over and over and over again …

    Hence this romantic little Playmates ditty from 1958 (sorry I don’t know how to imbed it in the post):

    For the record (sorry), I’m an audio guy by (former) profession, and I don’t get the vinyl revival at all.

    To me the best LPs still sound better than the best CDs, but not THAT much better. And the average CD is head and shoulders above the average LP. (Downloadable mp3s and streaming are in a different class entirely.)

    I hope I don’t annoy or upset anyone, but in my view, record playing has become sort of a religion. Notably, it has rituals: the endless cleaning and maintenance, and the fiddly arm/cartridge matching and configuration that’s never 100% right for every record.

    It’s also expensive. A decent turntable and cartridge will bump you into a 4-figure neighborhood before you know it, and it doesn’t take much to get into 5 figures, or even 6.

    Some old recordings have never been issued as CDs, so that can be an argument in favor of record playing. I can’t think of many others, though. I certainly don’t miss those repeating grooves and broken records.

    As for the Daily Drawing comic, I too missed the cast on first glance.

  5. The youth still know what you mean if you say it.

    Meanwhile, I was taught the “broken record” technique for politely but assertively getting a result when asking for a change or an answer or a refund or whatever, and it works. You respond nicely to whatever diversions they throw at you, then just repeat your original question/demand until it wears them down.

  6. @Le Vieux Lapin The huge difference is that they use virgin vinyl now. In the old days it was used vinyl, and to make it worse had “??? black” added to make it look good. There was always a slight hiss that we ignored. In the 80s the high quality virgin vinyl LP pressings from companies were also almost wear-proof, with recommendations to NOT USE ANY VINYL CONDITIONER.

    The releases from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, for example the whole Beatles collection (UK versions) years before the CDs, for the first time had a near silent background, like opening the room to the sky. CDs were to arrive several years later, with their lower dynamic range, but having that wonderful attribute of playing them being almost the only thing that wouldn’t wear them out.

  7. Patrick: my source for the existence of vinyl 78s is personal: I own a few. They’re all classical recordings, but that may be a coincidence.

    I’ve read that vinyl was used for some of the discs sent to WW2 US troops overseas. I didn’t know about a shellac shortage, mentioned on the Yale page. However, vinyl was both unbreakable and lighter than shellac, making it easier to ship long distances. That alone would be reason enough.

    Kevin: Are you thinking of carbon black? I’m not aware of anything about it that would negatively affect the sound. The quantity added is small, less than 1%.

    Carbon black is conductive and adds a bit of antistatic property to a vinyl disc. The black color also makes records easier to cue. At least for me, the spaces between cuts are more difficult to see on white and red vinyl records.

    The main cause of high surface noise in cheap vinyl records is (are?) fillers, added to cut the amount of expensive vinyl required. In the 1970s, when oil prices (and thus vinyl prices) were rising, some companies actually added diatomaceous earth to their mix. I heard rumors that at least one compound contained fine sawdust.

    That era also saw a rise in the use of recycled vinyl. Unsold cutouts were shredded and remelted. Inevitably bits of the paper labels made their way into the mix, with audible consequences you can imagine. I ran into many such records – Vox/Turnabout were some of the worst. And don’t get me started on RCA Dynaflex, another response to high vinyl costs.

    I didn’t and don’t own any Mobile Fidelity records, but I have several late 1970s – early 1980s direct to disc (no tape masters) LPs from Sheffield Lab, Gale, and RVC. All still sound stunning. The Telarc LPs (Soundstream digital) were exemplary too.

    Teldec Germany (Telefunken/Decca) mastered discs were outstanding when new, but there was something about their compounding that made them rapidly develop noise (crackle) even when played carefully. An application of Sound Guard or Last – basically microscopic PTFE lubricants, I think – reduced this appreciably.

    My favorite pressings were Wakefields. Their engineering and mastering were tops. The discs were clean, quiet, and long-wearing, at only a slight price premium. Wakefield (Phoenix AZ) shut down in the late 1980s, alas.

    The years around 1980 are exactly representative of what I said above – the best vinyl was stunning, but the average major label LP was abominable. In those days, a CD remastering was almost always head and shoulders above its LP grandpa.

    That may be less true with today’s vinyl. However, consider that some of it costs about as much (after adjusting for inflation) as I paid for those Sheffields.

    BTW, there’s no reason for a CD to have a narrower dynamic range than an LP. That was down to the cretins producing the remasters, and what they thought listeners wanted.. I won’t speak further of what I’d like to see done to those producers.

    Ack. Sorry for wandering so far off topic. See how I am?

  8. Kevin A – I have a number of 1950s-early 60s yellow or red vinyl children’s records – 45 rpm. I had a children’s record player (monaural) that I used to play them on.

    Separate part of post – My dad had an extensive record collection with some cast “albums” being, also, 78s and the “album: was on several records.

    I am, unfortunately (especially for Robert as I like to sing) tone deaf – it runs in both sides of the family. We may not have sing well – but we could sing along with great spirit. When I started junior high I signed up for the chorus class for music class, having belonged to the chorus club in elementary school and not realizing this was a serious music class. After a week or so of the teacher rearranging everyone to figure out what the problem was – it turned out it was me – and I was sent off to general music class instead.

    (About two weeks ago Robert was excited – I sang something and was almost on key. )

  9. Separate part of post – My dad had an extensive record collection with some cast “albums” being, also, 78s and the “album: was on several records.

    Meryl, I’m not sure if you mean “scare quotes” around album, or just using them to cite the term. But I think that was indeed the original sense of record album – a binder or folio containing several related but physically / numerically distinct items. As in photo album. Only much later did it become standard to call a single LP in its envelope an album.

  10. I was using them to mean it was the set of the various separate records in one holder which had a envelope slot for each separate record, the several records comprising the album instead of a single 33 1/3 record being the album in its entirety.

    I had never before (your comment) thought of the fact that those several separate records in a common holder were in album of records similar to an album of photographs. Now I will never forget that idea. Thank you.

  11. @ Le Vieux Lapin

    Next thing you’ll be telling us is that solid state is as good as valve…

  12. Is this a British strip? “You kids mind me!” doesn’t sound American at all to me.

  13. larK, I don’t know much about Mt Pleasant; but the “You kids mind me!” line does sound unproblematically American to me.

  14. I did not grow up with “mind” meaning “listen to” or “pay attention to” (except maybe as a calcified part of the phrase “Mind your manners”); “mind” meant “to take exception to” (“Do you mind?”) or “to look after” (“Mind the store”). When I first went to London at 19 or so, I simply couldn’t process what the hell “Mind the gap” was supposed to mean — take exception to it? Yes, I DO mind that there is a gap between platform and train that i could fall into and be trapped and die as the train moves and grinds me to a pulp! Take care of the gap? Yes, pamper that gap, make sure it is the bestest, most deadly gap of all the engineered shortcomings of this small, narrow, ancient subway system! (Wait, underground? Then what’s a subway? Oh, an underground passage? Really?? And what’s with this “way out” stuff, are you all just stoned or something?)
    I would have gone with “Beware the gap!”, the jaws that bite, the claws that snatch!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. And vice versa.

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