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Music & Media Formats Commercial poor quality/faulty recordings

 
Sundog
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Every now and then I play an old record (or file) and notice how poor the thing is. This is exemplified by possibly the worst one I've come across: Angel Jones by Michael Cox:

Although this is only a Youtube recording it sounds like almost all of them. I've heard it broadcast by the BBC and heard the sibilance has been tweaked down a bit but the distortion remains.

My best guess is that bias on the mix tape was wrongly set - low. Why no one picked it up I don't know. It sold quite well, getting to #7 in the UK charts in 1960.

 

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Topic starter Posted : 25/02/2022 9:45 am
Nuvistor
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@sundog 

Was this recorded like many hits in Joe Meeks Home studio. Meek liked to improvise with the sound so may have been a deliberate ploy to sound different. It could also have been just not the best equipment and studio that caused the sound.

 

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Posted : 25/02/2022 10:49 pm
Doghouse
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I have a copy of a Candy Staton, "double A side"

"Young hearts Run Free," sounds OK.

"Nights on Broadway," sounds a bit rough, so do examples on YouTube.

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Posted : 26/02/2022 12:22 am
Sundog
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@nuvistor That's interesting. I wonder if he unknowingly tweaked things to produce the effect. Unfortunately in doing so he added artefacts that sound like mis-alignment, so it's particularly grating to engineers who strived to make analogue magnetic tape as transparent as possible. Yes I've done my stint at setting up 8 and 24 track machines. Hopefully no one will spot my setups.

So the production quality could be forgiven, since it was an amateur production, but what about the record label who bought it? They must surely be culpable for not re-mastering or rejecting it?

I suppose the bottom line is that I'm glad it got released because it's a great tune but sad about the quality.

 

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Topic starter Posted : 26/02/2022 9:40 pm
Nuvistor
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@sundog 

From what I have read he liked to create new sounds such as Telstar by the Tornados in 1962, lots of distortion on that. I think he was a trouble soul in some ways and his demise has been documented.

Appreciate sound engineers want it as good as it can be, I think Meek classed himself as a record producer who liked to control everything. 

The record companies thought it would sell so they backed him, for a time until he fell out of favour and into led to his problems. A lot of 45rpm listening was done on single valve high output cartridges, enough distortion after a few plays, they were not meant last very long before the next top ten hit was bought and played. 

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Posted : 26/02/2022 11:03 pm
ntscuser
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Another recording from Joe Meek's (short-lived) record label:

The recording was re-released by Top Rank and PYE after the collapse of Triumph.

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Posted : 27/02/2022 11:12 pm
Marconi_MPT4
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Many of the 7" vinyl releases from the late fifties to early seventies were produced to serve in the Loudness War. I guess Phil Specters Wall of Sound also fits the description. Many techniques were used such as instrument doubling and reverberation, but one I recall reading about is subtle cutting head overdrive during the mastering process. This led to a cheap way of compressing with distortion to increase apparent sound level, making the recording particularly useful when played on a jukebox or listening in a car environment. Sometimes switching a lower spec cartridge with a spherical tip such as a Shure 75-6SM reduced some problems with mono discs together with judicious use of the mono button. Stereo releases were just plain horrid.

I was surprised though to find later examples such as the 1978 USA pressing (CHE-2266) Hanging On The Telephone by Blondie has an excruciating amount of distortion. Hmm it is not unknown for record manufacturers to use a set of stampers long past their best!

Rich

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Posted : 28/02/2022 1:36 pm
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sideband
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Some distortion I've heard on Mono singles seems to be when they are played with a stereo cartridge. Pressing the MONO button sometimes brings an improvement but presumably the distortion is still there, just less noticeable. Now is that sort of distortion caused by mistracking of the stereo cartridge (so it doesn't sit in the groove properly) or is it something else? My Marantz record deck may not be up there with the best but I do know that it tracks pretty well at 1.5g (using the SME test record) and it's only on the very highest modulated tracks that there is a hint of a crackle. I spent some time adjusting the tracking to get the best I could. Even so there are some early 60's singles that have the above mentioned distortion until the mono button is pressed.

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Posted : 28/02/2022 3:19 pm
Doghouse
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I'd think that with pop singles in the fifties and sixties, the record companies were aware that most would be played by teenagers on relatively cheap equipment, like the Dansette range.

They sold over a million of them in the fifties and sixties.

Unlike albums of various genres, many of which would have a much longer life, I would imagine quality  came second to rate of production when it came to 78s and later 45s. It was important to get them into the record shops whilst they were heading up the charts. Late deliveries lead to unsold records.

These records were likely to be played for a few weeks and then rarely, as new recordings took their place.

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Posted : 28/02/2022 6:35 pm
Sundog
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Deliberately bad recordings aside, as a lad in the early to mid 60s I strived to get better sounding equipment. The improved reproduction of LPs was quantifiable, each new deck, arm and cartridge gave an audible improvement. Not so with the 45s, they barely sounded any better, until I decided they were a waste of time. I'd wait for the LP or EP.

Were the groves that much wider? Perhaps I should have tried a 78 stylus.

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Topic starter Posted : 28/02/2022 9:33 pm
RichardFromMarple
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@doghouse My Mum used to often get old singles from one of her older cousins once he was bored with playing them.

Similarly my Dad used to off-load his least favourite singles to my Aunt, especially the Embassy ones from Woolworths not by the original artists!

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Posted : 28/02/2022 11:34 pm
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Doghouse
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@richardfrommarple The grooves on 45 were wider than those on LPs.

If you've an EP, where there are two tracks on each side of the 45rpm record, they have to be narrower to be accommodated in the space available, so probably similar to LPs.

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Posted : 01/03/2022 12:05 am
Nuvistor
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@doghouse 
Found the RIAA specification for records, the grooves for 45 and mono LP’s are the same, stereo I think have a variable width. Groove width 45 and mono LP’s 0.0022-0.0032 inch and stereo an instantaneous width of 0.001 inch minimum.

I don’t suppose it mattered too much in the 50’s and early 60’s, I could be wrong but I think most records would be played on auto changers even in a decent radio gram and would be mono records. When stereo LP’s came along in any number, middle/late 60’s, a new cartridge and most would not notice any problem. 

The 70’s saw better quality audio units available at more reasonable prices, Mid Fi was a term, from what I saw these better units rarely saw a 45, single player intended for Stereo LP’s.

First paragraph is from the article and hopefully correct, the rest my ramblings and open for fading memory.

http://aardvarkmastering.com/riaa.htm

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Posted : 01/03/2022 8:44 am
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Doghouse
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Still on the subject of records. I know as late as 1957 some pop records were available on both 45rpm and 78rpm. There still must have been a lot of people who had pre-war equipment.

I remember in around 1955 my dad bought a record player with a BSR auto-changer for my younger sister and I to share.

 

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Posted : 01/03/2022 10:48 am
Nuvistor
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@doghouse 

Interesting article, appears that Parlophone UK stopped producing 78’s in 1963 and shipped the plant to India where they continued produced for their home market until circa 1968.

http://www.yokono.co.uk/collection/beatles/india/78rpm/india_single_parlo_78.html

 

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Posted : 01/03/2022 12:06 pm
sideband
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I'm sure there are many Beatle fans who would like to get hold of some of those 78's! I wonder what they would fetch in auction?

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Posted : 01/03/2022 3:27 pm
RichardFromMarple
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I've got a book called Record Hunter by Tony Rees that lists a lot of rare releases by major artists.

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Posted : 01/03/2022 11:35 pm
Pye Man
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In the early days of Beatles recordings John Lennon complained that the Parlophone/EMI singles weren’t loud enough and was told that they could not be made any louder. Lennon then produced an American import 45 – perhaps one of the early Motown recordings they were covering at the time – and said “Well, they can!”.

Perhaps this was a trade-off between loudness and distortion. Let’s face it: most kids (and I was one) wanted noise. We only bothered about distortion if it was really bad. I remember the old radiogram with an autochanger BSR deck tracking at about 1/2lb in the school common room playing old Rolling Stones singles being cranked for full output. Of course, as you mature you become more discerning and this also coincides with a steady decrease in buying singles in favour of LPs.

In some respects it is amazing that we are discussing a sixty year-old record that was only ever intended to have a duration of a few weeks.

Joe Meek used many innovative techniques. The one I remember hearing about is the thump-thump-thump beat in the chorus of The Honeycombs’ ‘Have I the Right’ which was produced by a couple of chaps jumping up and down on a box of gravel in the stairwell of the Holloway building where he had his recording studio.

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Posted : 07/03/2022 12:09 pm
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Nuvistor
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Many rock guitarists strive for some distortion, moving closer to the speakers then moving away to get some feedback into the mix. They probably use other techniques as well.

 

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Posted : 07/03/2022 12:43 pm
Sundog
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Well this thread turned out a lot of good information and interesting facts, thank you to all contributors.

Of course I know that artists stretch their equipment to produce interesting sounds, and I have enjoyed many songs thus created.

My original gripe with that track was that the artefacts pointed to a particular mis-alignment, which to an engineer rings alarm bells.

I don't see the need to introduce the other tracks that I had in mind, except to recount a time when I was installing a sound dubbing theatre in London's Soho. I had stopped working to eat some lunch when I heard the distinctive rumble of an underground train. There was no line beneath my location but there was a classical CD playing. I repeated the track and there it was again.

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Topic starter Posted : 08/03/2022 9:12 pm