Wednesday, November 30, 2011

East of Eden (1971 LP)



Side 1
Wonderful Feeling (6:10)
Goodbye (6:00)
Crazy Daisy (6:54)

Side 2
Here Comes The Day (4:34)
Take What You Need (5:00)
No Time (6:01)
To Mrs. V (5:10)







Discovery
At first glance this record with the rather ordinary cover and vague title (was it the name of the band or the album?) struck me as a possible Christian-rock record or perhaps something an ambitious (but bland) local act had once unleashed upon an unsuspecting tri-state area. After pulling it out for a closer look, it still took a while to get a handle on what sort of record it was. Turning to the back of the jacket, none of the musicians' names rang a bell and the little descriptive blurb that followed didn't help a whole lot either: "They are from the United Kingdom and play rock. Their music knows how to make people happy." OK. I guess the fact that they play rock was encouraging, and I wouldn't complain if they made me happy, but I was still skeptical. Only when I finally saw that the label was Harvest and the cover photo and design was credited to Hipgnosis was it promptly whisked off to the checkout counter without further ado. Harvest and Hipgnosis are both associated with a laundry list of great, iconic albums by artists such as Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Led Zeppelin, and Iron Maiden to name just a few. This was suddenly a very promising and intriguing thrift store record find...

Brief History
1971 Harvest Records SW-806
I found out that East of Eden was formed in Bristol, England in 1967 and the band relocated to London the following year where they were signed to the Deram label. In 1969 they released their first album Mercator Projected. In March of that same year they also appeared at the Actuel Festival — apparently playing after (Noel Redding's) Fat Mattress and before Captain Beefheart and Soft Machine. This 1971 self-titled LP is their third studio album, and the first they recorded for Harvest.

                                  Sounds Like
East of Eden sound like they have firm blues-rock roots from which they branch off into more eclectic prog-rock terrain. Side one starts off reminding me of American West Coast bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service or Jefferson Airplane's more earthbound moments. But before long, their UK progressive pedigree becomes more apparent as the gritty (and abundant) blues riffing gives way to jazzier bursts of tightly played early King Crimsonesque passages — replete with saxophones and flutes. They sometimes play in a gentler English folk-rock style (to good effect) as well. Even though the main verse/chorus parts tend to sound more like the sort of blues-based, rocking numbers that might be found on a Rory Gallagher or Robin Trower LP (especially the vocal delivery), the busier, more experimental parts somehow never seem contrived or out of place as they easily flow in and out of these skillfully constructed compositions.

Trivia: Founding member Dave Arbus performs the violin solo at the end of The Who's classic rock radio staple Baba O'Riley.


Visit East of Eden's official website
Listen to a song from this LP on YouTube.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends



Side 1
Introduction (1:44)
Dracula (2:59)
All About the Monster (1:53)
Frankenstein (3:22)
The Mummy (1:57)

Side 2
The Bride of Frankenstein (3:03)
The Son of Frankenstein (3:37)
The Wolf Man (2:09)
The House of Frankenstein (1:24)
Finale (1:24)





'Twas a dark and dismal day back in the year 2010 when I unearthed this relic from that forbidding, haunted corner of the planet where insatiable shadow-beings feed upon the wretched, dust-shrouded leavings of bygone days (aka the thrift store record department). For many moons, since falling into my possession, this artifact has lain undisturbed, quietly resting in peace, touched not by human hand nor diamond stylus ... until now.
With Halloween drawing near, I figured this would be a perfect record to post, so I gave it a long overdue spin and dug up some info on it. The cover is a bit worn, but surprisingly, the inner sleeve and disc are virtually flawless and the sound is excellent. I would have loved to own this one as a child—when I was heavily into monster movies and other assorted monster-related paraphernalia. Judging by the scuff and fingerprint-free playing surface, I'd wager this particular copy never made it into the hands of any very young monster movie fans.

An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends
1967 Decca Records DL 74833 (stereo)
The subtitle on the cover and label reads: Original Soundtracks from Universal's Greatest Monster Movies Narrated by Boris Karloff, meaning that we get to hear scenes from the original movies interspersed with Boris Karloff talking about the films (over a bed of great, spooky incidental music).

Boris Karloff (real name William Henry Pratt), as you may know, was an English actor who made his way to Hollywood, where he appeared in scores of films over a period of about 12 years before eventually finding fame when he took on the role of Frankenstein's Monster in 1931. He acted in more than a dozen films released in 1931 alone! Best remembered for his extensive work in the horror/monster movie genre, he also played in other types of films, but typically still portrayed characters who had rather sinister personalities: an Irish gangster in Scarface (1932); a maniacal doctor in the comedy/drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947); and the voice of the Grinch (as well as the narrator) in the animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), among others.

The credits specify that this record was written and produced by Verne Langdon, Milt Larsen, and Forrest J. Ackerman. Ackerman, who wrote the script that Karloff reads, has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s and was also the original editor and primary writer for Famous Monsters of Filmland  magazine, which is probably familiar to many of you who grew up in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s. Often referred to as sci-fi's number one fan, he spent a lifetime amassing what was possibly the world's largest personal collection of science-fiction, horror, and fantasy memorabilia. In this video on YouTube, the man himself gives a mini-tour of his creature-laden home/museum.

In this interview, Verne Langdon mentions how the record was pulled from the market by Decca/Universal (sometime around or before 1972) due to a lawsuit, which, among other things, prohibited the use of Bela Lugosi's voice on the recording. As far as I can tell, it is still out of print, but an alternate "original" (demo?) version containing different music and editing was made available recently as an mp3 download or CD-R. It can be purchased at Amazon.com where you can also read a couple informative reviews of it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Feature: Slideshow Corner!

If you would kindly divert your eyes to the right and gaze upon the top of the sidebar portion of this blog, you should now notice a pint-sized slideshow in progress. This will be an ongoing, regularly updated feature here.

On display will be things like our latest thrift store record acquisitions or selections from the archives which share a certain cover art theme or go together in some other fun and/or interesting way.

Hovering your cursor over the slideshow will make a control bar appear, allowing you to pause/advance/reverse the photos. Click on any of the pictures and a new window will open in which the photos can be viewed at your own pace, along with any captions that may have been added. Most captions will at least identify the name of the artist, album title, year of release, record label, and catalog number for that specific pressing. You might also find some additional comments.

As always, thank you for visiting Thrift Store Record Report and please stop back again. We hope to become the number one destination for all of your thumbnail-size, super low resolution, record-related, sidebar slideshow needs.

Update - October 2016: Unfortunately Google has now discontinued the Blogger sidebar slideshow gadget. Until I find a good replacement, all slideshow photos and captions can still be viewed by clicking the link provided in the posts for each slideshow (e.g. "Summer Movie Soundtracks").

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1945 Voice Letter


This unique recording was made just before the end of World War II at a USO club in Boston, Massachusetts. The voice heard on the record is that of a U.S. Navy seaman serving aboard a destroyer called the USS MacKenzie. According to this article the ship had returned from Mediterranean waters to Boston for a 30 day overhaul in July of 1945. Apparently, it was during this time that Machinist's Mate 3rd class Jorgensen had the opportunity to record this "voice letter" for his wife back home in Philadelphia.

August 9, 1945 postmark on Voice Letter envelope
The MacKenzie left Boston on August 13 (four days after the record's envelope was postmarked) for training near Cuba to prepare for duty in the Pacific. However, the surrender of Japan two days later prompted a change of plans and after two weeks training, the destroyer was ordered back to the U.S. for duty with the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain. Then on November 3, 1945 the MacKenzie headed to Charleston, South Carolina for decommissioning.

Label of 1945 Voice Letter record
 An article printed in the January, 1946 installment of Audio Record—a newsletter/magazine for recording enthusiasts, published by Audio Devices Inc. (a manufacturer of blank discs)—states that some 350 USO clubs in major cities were equipped with voice recording equipment and that the USO Central Purchasing Dept. had sent out 301,059 blank discs over the past two years, all of which were donated to service personnel.

One amusing story in the same article told of a young man who made a record for his family and after his mother wrote back to tell him how his dog "sent up great bays of delight" upon hearing his voice, the man went back and made another entire recording just for the dog. 

The USO still provides a modern day equivalent of this recording service through programs such as United Through Reading, where military parents are videotaped reading a storybook to their child. Also used are special books containing a digital device that records the voice of the parent as they read the story aloud. Volunteers then mail the books and videos to the families back home.


Text printed on flap of 1945 Voice Letter record mailing envelope


1945 Voice Letter record (plays at 78 rpm)
Developed in the 1930s, this particular type of recording disc, sometimes called an "instantaneous disc," is also often referred to as an "acetate" even though they do not actually contain acetate. They usually consist of a coating of nitrocellulose lacquer on a substrate of metal, glass, or cardboard. It appears (and makes the most sense) that this particular record is made with a cardboard core. I can't imagine that fragile glass would ever be used in discs meant for purposes such as this USO voice letter, and at this time in history when everyone was urged to turn in metal for the war effort, I'm guessing metal would not have been used for manufacturing record blanks. In fact, I've read that even thousands of pre-existing metal-based discs containing unique recordings, such as from radio performance archives were unfortunately lost to the U.S. scrap metal drives during World War II.


1945 Voice Letter mailing envelope
 Instantaneous/lacquer recording discs are not exactly known for their great durability and longevity. I would say this record and its packaging has held up very well these past 65 years and must have been kept in a safe place prior to turning up at the thrift store.
It's fun stumbling upon these amateur recordings, never knowing what random voices from the past you will find waiting in the grooves to fill the air with sound once more...






Visit collectinghistory.net for photos and more information about the USS MacKenzie

A 324 pg. collection of Audio Record magazine is available to view online or download at Archive.org

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meet The Brady Bunch

1972 Meet the Brady Bunch LP cover
Side One
1. We'll Always Be Friends (2:37)
2. Day After Day (3:09)
3. Baby, I'm-A Want You (2:42)
4. I Believe In You (1:56)
5. American Pie (3:39)
6. Time To Change (2:08)

Side Two
1. Me And You And A Dog Named Boo (3:00)
2. I Just Want To Be Your Friend (2:33)
3. Love My Life Away (2:38)
4. Come Run With Me (2:43)
5. Ain't It Crazy (2:07)
6. We Can Make The World A Whole Lot Brighter (2:25)





I found this record at the thrift store about a month ago, and while there was never any doubt that an artifact of such great historical and cultural significance would be featured here, the question of when it would happen was totally up in the air... until news of Brady Bunch creator, Sherwood Schwartz's recent passing prompted us to immediately stop the presses and get busy writing about The Brady Bunch. This report is dedicated to the man most responsible for bringing the Brady family into our living rooms and our lives.

Brady Cool
This cool Brady Bunch LP was released in 1972 by Paramount Records and was the sec... wait, what do you mean the words "Brady Bunch" and "cool" can't exist in the same sentence? Perhaps you're forgetting this is the show that introduced to the world, that hot new recording sensation Johnny Bravo? Come on, he had "all the platter jockeys waiting to freak out" over his new album (and he hadn't even recorded it yet). And how about that time Bobby rescued a classmate's kitten from an abandoned house and messed up his safety monitor uniform... OK, maybe we should just forget about that one, with the whole safety monitor thing and all...

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Cool or not, I've always liked the Bradys (even if I didn't always want to admit it). There is something comforting about the Brady World, where a fair and amusing solution to all of life's problems is just an emergency family meeting away. Sure, they will always be scoffed at by the self-styled too cool for school crowd, but deep down, aren't we all just a little jealous that our own families never erected a giant house of cards to settle a trading stamp dispute? And who among us has ever built an actual working volcano, complete with smoke that comes out ... and real molten lava that oozes all over the place? Uh-huh, that's what I thought. Remember that the next time you think about calling a Brady "square."

The Songs
I am pleasantly surprised at how much I'm actually enjoying many of these songs. The album is off to a strong start with the first three tracks: We'll Always Be Friends is a really nice opener, and dare I say, is even a bit touching *sniff* (no, I am not crying ... I just got done chopping some onions!). It sounds like all six of the kids are singing in unison, but with a mix that emphasizes the girls' voices. I can definitely recognize Marcia and Greg's voices when I listen closely, but it's more difficult for me to separate and pick out the others. 

1972 Paramount Records PAS-6032
The vocal mix sounds much the same on the Badfinger song Day After Day. The musical accompaniment is well done, and overall, it's a good and faithful rendition of the song, but with more sugary sweet vocals, naturally. 

I find the Bread song Baby, I'm-A Want You to be enjoyable, as well. The verse beginning with the line "used to be my life was just emotions passing by" sounds especially good. I think there is a key change there and the vocal mix seems to change up from the previous part.

Things go decidedly downhill from there with the upbeat and cheesy I Believe in You. Conjuring images of an embarrassingly choreographed, awkward song and dance routine, complete with spangled bell-bottomed jumpsuits, I find myself abruptly jolted from my relaxing, Marcia hair brushing daydreams, and into television variety show hell. 

Their inappropriately chipper version of Don McClean's American Pie offers no respite for this listener. I don't much care even for the original recording, to be honest, and this brassy, uptempo version does nothing to win me over to the song. In his book Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams even writes: "Worst of all, though, was our extraordinarily awful rendition of 'American Pie.' Ouch!"  

Side one ends with Time to Change; a song originally heard on an episode of the TV series. Absent from this recording are the lines Peter sings with his cracking, out of tune voice so prominently featured on the TV show version. This song also has less full-on, layered chorus vocals and more solo singing parts than any song heard thus far and I actually enjoyed it much more than the previous two tracks.

Back of 1972 Meet the Brady Bunch cover
For some reason, as soon as I saw the title on the back of the cover, I pictured Bobby singing lead on the Lobo song Me and You and a Dog Named Boo, but it's another one with what sounds like all of the kids singing in unison.

The next bunch of songs are not really grabbing me at all. The unrelenting, layered vocal mix/sound with its minimal dynamic changes starts to wear thin and become tiresome by now. I would also say the song selections on this side could have been better. 

We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter closes the album on a positive note, and while I do enjoy this track, it sounds strangely subdued and melancholic, especially considering the optimistic title. It is no Sunshine Day, for sure, but I do agree that the Brady Bunch can (and do) make the world a whole lot brighter! 


Click here to listen to We'll Always Be Friends at Myspace.com
Click here to watch a segment of the Johnny Bravo episode on YouTube

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Black Sabbath - Paranoid EP

Black Sabbath - Paranoid EP
1982 Nems 12NEX01
For the past few weeks, not only has the thrift store record department once again become a virtual wasteland, littered with a stagnant collection of deteriorating boxes, jam-packed with moldy LPs only a dumpster could love, but my timing has been frustratingly out of sync, as well. I always seem to arrive on the scene just in time to witness someone clearing out with the few worthwhile new records that may have actually trickled in. And so it went once again today. But this time, as I was left in the dust to watch another more fortunate record hunter waltz off with his well-timed finds, something surprising happened.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid EP
Limited edition UK release on clear vinyl
With the temperature outside hitting 100˚F, I wasn't in a big rush to leave the air conditioned store only two minutes after arriving by bicycle. So, just to appear busy and not simply be standing around feeling awkward while soaking up the chilled air, I turned to a bin of familiar records I have already examined a few times in the recent past, ran a hand along the top, and picked a spot near the middle of the row to start flipping. I didn't expect to actually find anything good, but when the records were parted, a surprising sight was revealed. A clear vinyl record? Now, that surely wasn't here before and definitely warrants a closer look. Figuring it would probably be a soundtrack for a Broadway musical or one of the many (and ever-present) 101 Strings LPs that had gotten separated from its jacket, I coolly lifted it up to examine the label and ... whoah, it's a Black Sabbath record! One of my very favorite bands! And I never even heard of this particular release before! Spurred on by the miraculous discovery, I quickly rifled through the rest of that bin in search of a cover for it, but found none. I started thinking, since it was an EP/single release, that maybe it originally only came with a generic, white, die-cut, promo type of jacket with a sticker on it or something, so I didn't look too thoroughly in the other bins and boxes and was suddenly struck by an urge to just slip away with my prize. Casting paranoid glances all around and clutching the precious to our chest, we hastily skulked off to the checkout counter, and out into the hot, glaring sunlight that burns and hurts our poor eyes.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid EP
1982 Nems 12NEX01



After returning to headquarters and pulling up all relevant data on the item, I found it definitely did have a very cool cover at one time. This now called for an all-out search and rescue mission. At the next possible opportunity, I returned to the store, and after completing an exhaustive search of the estimated 1,500 or so LPs there, I was able to determine the following:

1. The Black Sabbath cover definitely was not present.

2. You would have to pay me to take any of those terrible records.

3. I really needed to wash my hands.

Despite the missing cover and the fact that three of the most familiar and overplayed songs in the Black Sabbath discography make up the bulk of the material here, I still consider this to be a triumphant thrift store record find and a very welcome and important edition to the TSRR Archives' Black Sabbath section.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Neil Young - Young Man's Fancy



Side 1
1. On the Way Home
2. Tell Me Why
3. Old Man
4. Journey Through the Past
5. Cowgirl in the Sand
6. Heart of Gold
7. A Man Needs a Maid

Side 2
1. Sugar Mountain
2. Don't Let It Bring You Down
3. Love in Mind
4. The Needle and the Damage Done
5. Ohio
6. See the Sky About to Rain 





In my experience, the live bootleg is one of the rarer varieties of thrift store records. But happily, the couple I have managed to find were by favorite artists of mine. I'm a big Neil Young fan and have been really enjoying the string of classic live recordings released in recent years (The Neil Young Archives Performance Series). Of the three I've heard, I think Live at Massey Hall 1971 is my favorite. Comparatively shoddy sound quality aside, this unofficial "Young Man's Fancy" live LP is similar in several ways to that recently released Massey Hall 1971 recording.

Label from unofficial 1971 Neil Young live LP:
Young Man's Fancy/Live on Sugar Mountain
Very little information was included with this record. The only writing to be found was on the title page insert posted above. By utilizing powerful, modern investigational techniques (ie Google search) and noting Young's own between-song banter, however, we can piece together the basic facts: It was an audience recording, made on Feb. 1, 1971 at the Los Angeles Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This means it took place just ten days after the Massey Hall performance/recording, and the set list and performance is similar (and similarly great!). It was the last night of his early 1971 solo tour. Before playing Sugar Mountain (which is the only song on this LP not found on the Massey Hall release), Neil says: "...tonight's the night when the tour ends for me..." (then it sounds like he makes a sad little sniffle and everyone laughs). He goes on to say: "this is my twenty fourth show since January fifth." 

Label from unofficial 1971 Neil Young live LP:
Young Man's Fancy/Live on Sugar Mountain

This recording must have been an extra exciting find back when it first showed up (reportedly, only weeks after the show), as it contains several songs that had not yet been released. It would be another year (Feb. '72) before future classics Heart of Gold, A Man Needs a Maid, The Needle and the Damage Done, and Old Man would be available on the Harvest LP. Journey Through the Past and Love in Mind didn't come out until October, 1973, on the Time Fades Away live album. See the Sky About to Rain would not get an official release until 1974's On the Beach. 

I mainly read about two versions of this recording that have been circulating on vinyl: A two record set containing 15 songs, which has been called "Young Man's Fancy," or alternatively: "I'm Happy That Y'all Came Down." There is also a single LP version with 10 songs, called "Live on Sugar Mountain." The one I own seems to be a hybrid of the two. It has 13 songs on a single disc, with both the Young Man's Fancy, as well as Live on Sugar Mountain titles printed on the insert.

My copy has a small warp that causes a rhythmic whooshing sound during the first song; there are scratches that occasionally add a steady ticking; the needle sticks in one spot; and there is a light & zesty crackle throughout, but it is still a pleasure to hear this performance. The extraneous noises aren't actually too distracting (except when the needle sticks) and, in a way, they even sort of add to the sparse, (mostly) mournful atmosphere created by Young's heartfelt vocals and lone guitar (or piano) accompaniment.
 

Click here to listen to a YouTube clip of Don't Let It Bring You Down

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fixing Unstable Turntable Speed

Technics SL-1300 direct-drive automatic turntable
Am I the only one who finds it odd that in 35 years,
no one ever removed that giant vinyl decal?
The thrift store can be a good place to buy turntables as well as records. You might have to be patient and keep checking, but it's not unusual to find a nice, vintage workhorse capable of outperforming many of the new turntables available today, and for a fraction of the cost.

I once found a beautifully kept Technics SL-D2 that barely needed so much as a light dusting. But most of the time there has been at least one or two things wrong with the thrift store turntables I have encountered. This Technics SL-1300, which I recently picked up, was missing the headshell/cartridge/stylus assembly, and while the sticker on the dust cover states that it has been tested and the "turntable spins," I could see by the wildly fluctuating strobe pattern, when I tried it out in the store, that the sound was going to be wobbly, to say the least. But for the low, low price of only $3.00, it didn't take long for me to decide to grab it. I reasoned that if it couldn't easily be fixed, it was still well worth buying just for the platter mat alone.

Symptoms

The video at right demonstrates the erratic strobe pattern and sound. The speed adjustment controls were extremely touchy. I only had to lightly tap them to make the platter spazz out even worse. There was no way you could stabilize the speed, and the turntable was unusable in this condition—unless you wanted to play background music in a funhouse. Watch the bottom row of dots. Those are the ones that should be appearing stationary.






Diagnosis
What can happen is, the components that allow you to control the speed get dust and crud gunking up their internal contacts, causing them to work erratically. It's the same thing that causes crackly, touchy, volume controls. Eventually, the potentiometers ("pots") and switches need to be cleaned with a good electronic parts cleaning fluid. Often, this is all that is necessary to get things working properly again. I was able to fix this problem without buying or installing anything. The only tools needed were basic Phillips-head and flat-head screwdrivers.

Solution
CRC QD Electronic Cleaner
There are several brands of cleaning fluids available that should do the trick. DeoxIT® by Caig Laboratories has a very good reputation, and is pretty much universally endorsed. I already had this can of CRC QD Electronic Cleaner hanging around, so that is what I used. Make sure whatever you use, that the label states it is safe on plastics. I should mention that a lubricant is recommended (if not essential) when/after cleaning potentiometers to keep them operating smoothly and to protect against premature wear. DeoxIT® already has a lubricant mixed with the cleaner. The CRC is a very effective cleaner, but contains no lubricant. Now that this turntable is spinning properly again, I plan to replace its audio cables. At that time, I'll probably go ahead and lubricate the pots I just cleaned.


CAUTION: Always be sure the power plug of any electrical device is disconnected from power source before working inside device. Always follow standard safety guidelines for working with electrical devices. We at Thrift Store Record Report are not responsible for any damage to persons or property that may arise as a result of unqualified service personnel attempting turntable repairs after viewing the materials posted to this site.

Disassembly

Tonearm locked and platter removed
Before turning the unit over, lock down the tonearm, remove the mat, and carefully remove the platter. Some turntables may have screws on the platter, or a retaining ring or clip of some sort around the spindle that will need to be removed first. With this Technics, and many of the other turntables I have encountered, you only need to lift the platter. It might be a little stuck at first. You can lock your thumbs in the holes and push downward with your fingers on the base if you need a little extra leverage. Try to pull up with equal pressure on each side. You have to be especially careful not to damage the magnet assembly attached to the underside of the platter on these direct-drive turntables.

Inside view of Technics SL-1300 turntable
The main speed pots and speed selector switch
are in the upper-left corner
I left the dust cover on and flipped the unit upside down on a large, folded bath towel. I know this leaves a chance of cracking the dust cover, but I've not broken one yet, and it is easier for me this way, so I continue to take my chances. If you rig something up to support it without the dustcover, just make sure it is stable enough and that nothing can touch the tonearm assembly. Next, I removed the screws from the base. The feet did not need to come off, as on some turntables. There were two screw lengths. The shorter ones went around the perimeter; the longer ones closer to the middle. I pulled all the screws out (a magnetic tip screwdriver comes in handy here) and put them aside where they wouldn't get lost. Some people like to only loosen them, so they lift out with the base, still sitting in their respective holes.

Getting Down to Business

The primary targets are the main speed/pitch adjustment pots. I cleaned only those at first, then did a quick test, and found that the speed looked greatly stabilized just from those parts getting cleaned. However, to be thorough, I went ahead and cleaned the speed selector switch and the more hidden set of speed control trimpots. I also oiled the motor shaft while I was at it.






The video above illustrates, step-by-step, all of the work that was done, and is a live-motion companion to this written article. It even has a pretty snappy soundtrack—so check it out!


The main speed control potentiometers
Spray the cleaner in any openings you find in the components. The pots should have sizable openings where the three connection tabs are attached, as well as another small one around the outside of the case. After spraying fluid inside the housing, the pot shafts need to be fully rotated back and forth many times, then repeat the spray/rotation procedure at least once or twice more.




Spraying speed selector switch
Next, I cleaned the speed selector switch by spraying into the cracks where the plastic plunger piece comes out of the housing, and in some adjacent slots, as well. The switch should then also be worked back and forth several times and sprayed again. This fluid dries very quickly and doesn't seem to harm anything it gets on, so I don't usually worry too much about over-spray, but you can always surround the parts you're spraying with a rag or paper towel to catch the excess.




To get at the second, less accessible set of speed controls, the circuit board located next to the main speed pots must be removed. It was only a matter of taking out three Phillips-head screws and then lifting the board straight up while wiggling it a little bit to free its connecting pins from the holes they mate with on the motor board.

Variable resistors 1 & 2
aka VR1 & VR2
Once the circuit board is unscrewed and flipped over, it's an easy job cleaning these parts, as they are not sealed in housings and their track and wiper contacts are more exposed. Spray, fully rotate shaft back and forth, and repeat the cycle, just like with the first pots. After everything is reassembled, these trimpots will need to be adjusted first, to give the topside speed controls the range necessary to get the platter rotating at the right speed.



Oiling motor shaft on Technics SL-1300
As long as the platter was off, I figured it was a good idea to also oil the motor shaft—especially since this is something else that can affect the speed. Technics recommends doing this after every 2,000 hours of service. Since I bought this turntable used, several decades after it was made (and while it's in pretty good shape, it doesn't exactly look like it's been babied), I think it is probably overdue by now. The owner's manual and the sticker on the platter insist you use only the specially formulated Technics oil, but I doubt it is necessary. I would certainly use it if I had some, but since I don't, I'm inclined to just make-do with an acceptable substitute when working on a broken-down, three dollar turntable. I think a good light oil, such as sewing machine oil is fine for this task. If you would like to get the official Technics oil, you can find some available for purchase at the Kab Electro Acoustics website. I used something called Lubit-8. I like the precision needlepoint applicator and the fact that it is supposed to be compatible with all oils and greases, so it should mix well with any other oil that has been applied in the past. No matter what kind you use, you are only supposed to apply two to three drops.

These are basically "set and forget" trimpots
I didn't note the positions of VR1 & 2 before commencing to vigorously rotate them, so I reset them to the midway/twelve o'clock position. After trying out the turntable, I found they needed to be moved to the one o'clock position. VR1 and VR2 must be set correctly before the topside controls will have the range needed to get the platter spinning at the right speed.






Results
The video below shows how the turntable is running very smoothly now.



A nice Technics turntable database can be found at Vintage Technics 
 

A great library of free turntable user manuals, service manuals, schematics, brochures, and technical documents is located at Vinylengine

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Cautionary Tale

The Incident:
There I was, on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, performing routine record cleaning duties (when I probably should have been outside playing stickball or frolicking with a puppy or something), and as I get to work on the final disc, I start to think: tee-hee I like that funny parrot on this label. Then I realize that none of the records I picked out to clean were on the Parrot Records label ... in fact, I don't think I've ever owned a record on the Parrot label...
 
Continuing to spread the cleaning solution, I start scanning the text on the label... Egads man, you're cleaning an Engelbert Humperdinck album!

This can only mean that a wanted record which I thought I bought has been displaced by this perennial thrift bin dweller that is of no use to me. Quickly suppressing the sinking feeling that begins to take hold, I remain calm, and like a mindless automaton, finish cleaning it—though it left me feeling somewhat like the hapless sparrow caring for a cuckoo bird's egg, covertly deposited in its nest. 

The Investigation:
After looking through the stack of covers that were in the other room, I found that the interloper had been concealed inside this Bee Gees jacket.

Bee Gees - Peace of Mind
"Circa '64 Australian Sessions"
1978 Pickwick Records BAN-90041


Taking a closer look, I now notice some clues, which, had I been more alert during my pre-purchase inspection, may have raised a red flag or two...

Sure, in hindsight, it might be obvious what is going on here, but if you only give it a cursory glance (as one is apt to do in the heat of a fast-paced thrift-binge), it just sort of looks like a former owner has signed their name on the front cover, as people often do (sigh). And even if I had read the name, well, there must be thousands of Engelberts out there who own Bee Gees records, right? And the scribble marks could have simply been a testament to this Engelbert's changing tastes and was a way of expressing his newfound dislike of the Bee Gees. 

Take Heed:
Lame excuses for my own carelessness aside, I write these words now, as a simple cautionary tale to remind you all (and myself), to be ever vigilant in checking the labels on those thrift store records to make sure the covers and discs definitely match up. Usually, it is the records with missing inner sleeves you really have to watch out for, but this disc had been stowed away inside a good condition inner sleeve that was placed neatly inside of the jacket; lulling me into a false sense of security, and I got sloppy. Don't let this happen to you.

It Gets Worse:
After I started on this article, I remembered there was another, similar LP of early Bee Gees material sitting on the shelf that probably came from the same lot. I go have a look at it to find...

Suspicion confirmed: a second defaced Bee Gees cover,
complete with Engelbert Humperdinck stowaway.

Now that's just pure evil! What kind of maniac repeatedly does something like this to protect scuffed-up Engelbert Humperdinck vinyl? I wonder if the Bee Gees LPs were taken out and discarded just to make room for the E.H. discs? I realize the Bee Gees are no strangers to the thrift bins, and not everone's cup of tea either, but in my book, they deserve better than this. What next, using Jethro Tull covers to store your precious, scratchy, Sing Along with Mitch LPs? 


I still like that funny parrot, anyway. I only wish it was attached to something in the Parrot discography I might have liked better, such as The Zombies or Them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Smoke - My Friend Jack

1976 Intercord - INT 128.301 (stereo)
      Side 1

   1. My Friend Jack (3:04)
   2. Waterfall (2:37)
   3. You Can't Catch Me (3:13)
   4. High In A Room (2:56)
   5. Wake Up Cherylina (2:15)
   6. Don't Lead Me On (2:12)  
          Side 2

       1. We Can Take It (2:40)
       2. If The Weather's Sunny (2:50)
       3. I Wanna Make It With You (3:04)
       4. It's Getting Closer (2:37)
       5. It's Just Your Way Of Loving (2:23)
       6. I Would If I Could But I Can't (2:10)

        I know April is not quite over yet, but I'm going to go ahead and declare this record the official Thrift Store Record Report Find of the Month.

        Let me tell you, it has been a very slow month down at the thrift mines. Day after day of picking at the same stagnating (but always reshuffled) crates of junk LPs had taken its toll on me. I was losing faith in the system and began growing paranoid. The large as life, grimacing cover shots of Manilow and Streisand were mocking me. Tormented by thoughts of an inside man intercepting the good stuff before it could hit the floor, or of one of the local record dealers being tipped off about new arrivals, it was high time I take action to counter these threats to the supply chain ... yes, I'm sure they are all working against me now, and something needs to be done about it... but then, finally, before I had a chance to do anything drastic that could've ultimately caused the thrift store workers to speak of me in hushed tones (and possibly giggle) whenever I showed up, I caught a lucky break that ended the maddening dry spell...

        Immediately upon entering the store, cat-like senses on high alert, I detected a 
grocery bag full of records someone had just dropped off near the checkout counter. Now, being the first to root through an untouched, freshly donated batch of records is always an exciting prospect, full of wondrous possibilities, but when a bunch of Statler Brothers, a Kenny Rogers, and a battered John Philip Souza record were the first to come out, the excitement began to wane. Then, amazingly, this rather obscure, garage-psych-pop gem by The Smoke revealed itself—and in excellent condition! Although, appropriately enough, it does reek badly of (cigarette) smoke residue. Some other decent finds were LPs by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Ventures, a 1958 Elvis compilation, and a couple other interesting, oddball records that will be the subject of their own reports at a later date. It turned out to be a very strange mix of records in that bag.

        I had previously heard just two songs by this band: High in a Room, and My Friend Jack, but after reading an article on them in the March issue of Record Collector magazine a couple weeks ago, I started thinking about them again and wanted to hear more, so it was perfect timing finding this right now.

        The record has a Gull label, but note the Intercord
        catalog number. The back of the cover states:
        (c)(p)1966 Morgan Music Productions
        Manufactured by Intercord Ton GmbH from master
        recordings owned or controlled by Gull Records
        It is a German release from 1976, put out by Intercord Records, as part of their "Star Power" series of reissues and compilations. It has the same track listing as the band's first and only long player: ...It's Smoke Time (1967), which was a German-only pressing that wasn't distributed in the UK until the Gull label reissued it with a different cover in 1975. 

        Though hailing from Yorkshire, England, the band was most successful on the European mainland. My Friend Jack, their biggest single, reached the top 50, but stalled at number 45 in the UK charts. This was likely due, in no small part, to the lyrics about how friend Jack "eats sugar lumps" and "travels everywhere." These references to LSD earned the song some bad press and it was banned from BBC airwaves in the UK before it had a chance to ride the charts for very long. The single became a chart-topping hit in places like Germany, France, and Switzerland—securing the band an appearance alongside The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who on Germany's Beat-Club TV show, as well as a tour with The Beach Boys and The Small Faces. 

        I believe High in a Room and My Friend Jack are often considered to be the best songs by The Smoke, and they are indeed good ones, but my new favorites are: Waterfall, which is a beautifully dreamy, melancholy ballad that reminds me of something Peter & Gordon might have recorded, and Wake Up Cherylina, another slower, less acid-tinged, pop ballad. Both songs have more of a timeless quality about them than some of their others, and I don't think it would really be a stretch if they were mentioned in the same breath as songs by The Zombies or The Beatles.


        Click here to see The Smoke perform My Friend Jack on Beat-Club