Friday, March 26, 2021

Lacquer Records from the CBC

A few weeks ago at Value Village, I found a huge lot of acetates / lacquers / transcript records (whatever you wanna call them) that came from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC is Canada's national public broadcaster which transmits programs via radio and TV and has separate stations for English and French which are Canada's two official languages. Thankfully, these records are in English.

When I found these, there were two records in the lot that were completely unplayable. All the lacquer containing all the grooves had flaked off, leaving nothing but the aluminium core. However, there were still 8 records that looked playable, so I grabbed them. A couple of them are chipping on the edges which leads me to believe that they have a fairly limited life. 

I'm an absolute sucker for these discs, probably because I'm likely the only person who owns a copy of whatever's recorded on them. I am unsure if the CBC has copies of these or not. It seems like some CBC employee just took these home and stuffed them in his basement to rot over the last 70 years. All of these records date from 1952. I'm only speculating that the guy who took these got fired for stealing company property.

The logo you see above is quite interesting. The lightning bolts have a silver shine on them which doesn't scan accurately. Some of the records play from the inside outward. 

These records were absolutely filthy, so I cleaned them with nothing but distilled water and a record cleaning brush. I figured using any sort of chemicals would likely deteriorate them further. I tried playing them with both a 33 RPM and a 78 RPM stylus. The 33 RPM one sounded better, although I'd probably get better results if it was just a bit thicker. However, I'm not in the market to buy a ton of styli just to transfer 8 records without gaining any kind of profit. You get what you get with these digital transfers.

Anyway, let's begin our audio adventure, going in chronological order. Click on the titles to hear the recordings.

Record 1

Side 1: This Week in B.C. (April 30, 1952)

Farming and weather coverage for the last week in B.C. This was recorded on an Audiodisc record. I'm very unsure why there's a "FLAT" stamp on the record. Did they test these to make sure they were usable? Did recordable records often show up that weren't flat? Could someone shed some light on this?

Side 2: You've Been a Liar

Well, this starts off with the William Tell Overture, followed by some jazz shit, and then we get a performance by Fred Astaire & Jane Powell which is probably the most enjoyable part of this side of the record.

Record 2

Side 1: Farm Item: Potatoes (June 25, 1952)

If you like potatoes, you'll love this record! It appears that Winnipeg's potato shipment has been delayed. Along with learning about where potatoes go and where they come from, we get to find out how much potatoes cost... 10-11 cents per pound, and $105 per tonne. Why would anybody complain about this???

This was recorded on an Audiodisc record.

Side 2: Cecilia

This is a performance of a song originally by Jack Smith. I have no clue who the two people are performing it, but I think it's better than the original version. That dude has a really low voice! Then we get an accordion music break followed by another performance by the same two people.

Record 3

Side 1: CBW Call #1CBW Call #2 (July 20, 1952)

These records were obviously made in Manitoba (more specifically, Winnipeg). These two calls mention a democratic convention that was to be broadcast on July 21, 1952. They were to be used the day before and the day of the convention. It's interesting to note the days in which these records were recorded, the initials of the person who recorded it, and also the "PLAYED" stamp on it. I believe this record, along with all that follow were recorded on Presto blanks.

If you want to read about the actual convention, here's a Wikipedia link. However, I found this piece to be the most relevant and interesting:

The 1952 Democratic convention was the second political convention to be televised live, coast-to-coast (following the Republican Convention weeks earlier).[5] Experiments in regionally broadcasting conventions took place during the Democratic and Republican conventions in 1948, however 1952 was the first year in which networks carried nationwide coverage of political conventions.

Side 2: Tassinari 

An absolutely horrendous opera performance by some guy named Tassinari.

Record 4

Side 1: This Week in Ontario & Quebec (Aug 16, 1952)

Apparently, there was a really bad outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease (I've had it in my adult life which was NOT fun). You also get to learn about cattle and poultry.

Side 2: Piano Playhouse (Aug 30, 1952)

Exactly what it says.

Record 5

Side 1: Family Worship (Sept 3, 1952)

Apparently, the world required a short program called "Family Worship" every morning of the week. With this particular episode, you learn how to get friends.

Side 2: De Styx

I can't make out the first word because the label is all mouldy in that spot, but it's another god awful opera performance. People in the 1950s really enjoyed shitty music.

Record 6

Side 1: Family Worship (Sept 4, 1952)

A word-by-word analysis of the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread". Perhaps one day I should analyze the deepness of a digital camera manual that was poorly translated from Chinese to English and release it on vinyl.

Side 2: Good Old Days

Some piano music for your enjoyment.

Record 7

Side 1: Family Worship (Sept 5, 1952)

You get a story about how a guy failed to measure the depth of an ocean and how the Lord's love is that deep, except more "wordy" in a religious kind of way.

Side 2: Scarf Dance & Piano Playhouse

A classical music piece, followed by a pretty decent piano medley.

Record 8

Many of these records seemed to come unlabelled and the CBC glued their own label on them. I should have searched a bit more at the thrift store for the label that had likely just fallen off this record. Oh well.

Side 1: Some German Guy

Your guess is as good as mine as to what this guy is talking about. This record played from the inside out.

Side 2: Johnny Standley - Little Bo Peep / Mrs. O'Malley

This was a very famous comedy sketch during the early 1950s. You can find cleaner versions of it floating around. This version has most of the Mrs. O'Malley song chopped off, but there's a little bit of commentary at the end from someone working at the CBC.

Well, that was fun! I absolutely love finding radio station stuff out in the wild. Unfortunately for these records, I don't count on them being playable the next time I come across them. They will likely deteriorate into an unplayable state in the next few years. At least we have digital copies now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

My Oldest Mix Tape

The day my mother showed me how to use a blank cassette and the record button, I was hooked. I have no clue what day that was, but it was pretty early in life. 

Today, I'm diving into my personal collection of junk and sharing one of the first mix tapes I ever recorded. When I was around five or six years old, my mother decided to join a religious cult. Due to this life-changing event, there were certain things I was no longer allowed to have in my life such as Christmas & Birthdays. Other things suddenly became satanic such as certain nursery rhymes & songs that originated from other religions. It's obvious that this cassette pre-dates the cult life because the song "Put Your Hand in the Hand" appears not one, but THREE times on this cassette. Also the nursery rhyme "1,2,3,4,5,6,7, all good children go to heaven" hasn't been cut, and I distinctly remember doing this when recording the record in question to cassette at other times during my youth. There are also no songs from the first Mini Pops album which my parents purchased for me shortly after I recorded this tape. So this cassette is a real place mark in life, and I'm actually very happy to still have it after all this time. My mother generally made a habit of throwing away some of my cassettes, and somehow this one survived every single one of my room cleanings. 

At this point in my life, I was completely illiterate. I only knew what record I was selecting by the pictures on the cover, the logo, or the color of the record label. To get the name of the classical music pieces on side B of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" record (which are included on this tape), I did a Google search and came across the cover for it which terrified the shit out of me. This record was given to me by my aunt who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago.

So now, let's talk about the tape itself. The label folded over the top and the one rusty screw are all that's holding this tape together. By the tiny bit of label left, I can tell that this was a Woolcrest 60 minute cassette. These cassettes were sold at Woolco, three in a bag for one special price. The 60 minute tapes were red, and the 90 minute tapes were yellow. However, what's inside the shell of this one is a very different story.

It became obvious that I transplanted this cassette at some point, possibly because I stepped on the original shell and broke it. This was most likely a K-Mart branded cassette. My surprise came when I transferred it and realized that it was a 120 minute tape. K-Mart tapes had different labels for different lengths: C-60 was red/orange, C-90 was green, and C-120 was blue. I haven't seen a K-Mart branded C-120 in decades. These cassettes were also sold as three in a bag.

The stereo used to record this was a Morse branded floor model unit with a turntable, cassette and 8-track player, kinda like the one pictured above except without the fancy disco decorations. I distinctly remember chewing on the chrome-trimmed rubber that ran along the edge of the fake wood panelling.

So here's some highlights about this cassette:

- It is (currently) 38 years old

- It contains 57 tracks which are mostly children's albums (some of which I've already covered on this blog)

- It's full of splices, dropouts, and twists

- It contains 45 RPM records playing at 33 RPM and vise versa

- There is a song by Alan Alda

- You can hear the record player shut off at the end of Side B

- Contains an Engelbert Humperdinck song which skips repeatedly for a while

In other words, this tape is an absolute mess. Due to this tape being a C-120, it was a real marathon to get through while digitizing it. While I somewhat remember the joy of recording this cassette, there's not as much joy listening to it in my 40s. However, the fact that I could fill a C-120 as a five year old child is a true testament to my addiction to music. This cassette may also be partially the reason why this entire blog exists.

These are the albums I took some of the content from:

- Funtown with Petite & Mayor Bob

- Petite Sings For You

- Elvis' Gold Records Vol. 1

- Engelbert Humperdinck - Sweetheart

- Walt D1sney's Acting Out The ABC's

- Marlo Thomas - Free To Be You & Me

- The Western Union

- Varous 7" records

So now, let's celebrate the content of this cassette! I shall give you some highlights and a download link if you choose to torture yourself for two hours.

Listen to Engelbert skipping

Listen to a portion with a twist in the tape

Listen to the French version of Bunny Beat playing on the wrong speed

Download the whole mess

Yes, I know I've been a bit absent. February is usually my "dead" month due to the winter blahs and there's lots of stressful garbage going on at work. I always come back, and I have another couple of entries in queue which should be fun. See you again shortly!