14 November 2007

Nightmare in Studio 54

And then there was Ford tape #5. It's an RCA sampler, dated 1980, apparently before Big Corporate Interests acknowledged that, yes, contemporary music was here to stay and wouldn't be going away any time soon.

WARNING: I highly recommend giving any recently-eaten meal ample time for digestion before reading any further. I'm not responsible for any gastric discomfort on a full stomach.

This is so off-the-chart horrible that it should be repackaged by RHINO for a cousin to its Golden Throats anthologies.


PROGRAM ONE: (man, talk about retro!)
NARRATION -- INTRODUCTION (this will be going to MP3 shortly and distributed to the "inner circle" via standard e-mail)


In 1977, Dolly had two of the biggest hits on the country chart.

Read that again. Slowly.

Ahem, no chart action here ... just spare change filler from her 1978 Heartbreaker LP.

ELEANOR RIGBY / Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops Orchestra

It was not about the music. It was about the models on the album covers, and nothing else. Any conductor who would wear a "U.S. Olympic Drinking Team" sweatshirt on an album cover should be expected to do the unexpected. He victimized every artist out there, and even The Beatles had to take their lumps, too.

GREASE / Living Disco
This was the first I'd ever heard of Living Disco. RCA gave us the sound that killed a million cats when they unveiled The Living Strings ... there was also The Living Guitars ... The Living Voices ... and, I guess, Living Disco. Grease is still the word. This is the version I'm sure Principal McGee would've preferred playing in the hallowed halls of Rydell High.

WHAT I FEEL IS YOU / Dave & Sugar
The door is always open ... just hit 'eject' and put in that Styx cassette instead. "What I Feel" was yet another filler cut from what no doubt was a filler LP. From the cut-out bin to your cassette player.

MUSIC BOX DANCER / The Living Strings Plus Two Pianos
As if Frank Mills' original wasn't MOR enough. Oh yeah, that's right -- Mills recorded for POLYDOR, and this was an RCA collection. Best of all, they added two pie-nanners to all the lushness. Bless their 81-key hearts.

By now you're probably wondering, "If this is RCA, then where in bleedin' hay-dees is the Floyd Cramer??" Uh-uh-uh-UH, Nipper -- don't touch that Victrola! We're not halfway through this tape yet.

TRAGEDY / Living Disco
No comment.

SO no comment.

AMAZING GRACE / Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Poops
It's better when played on an E-flat Drano can, a/k/a Your basic set of bagpipes. Or if sung with passion and soul by Rod Stewart (Every Picture Tells a Story, 1971)

UNCLE ALBERT/ADMIRAL HALSEY / Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra
"We're so sorry", indeed.


ROSSINI: WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE / Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Flops
Classical music for people not cultured enough to appreciate real classical music.

One for the youngsters. Odyssey was a black disco act best-known for their one-hit wonder "Native New Yorker." This song? More filler, sucker. Go buy the album.

MORNING HAS BROKEN / The Living Strings Plus Two Pianos
We're sorry, but morning has broken. Therefore, we're substituting afternoon. Hopefully we'll have it fixed by dawn tomorrow.

BOREL-CLERC: LA SORELLA MARCH / Arthur Treacher & The Boston Pisces
More dumbed-down classical. Longhair music with a "Toni" home perm.

What part of "RCA compilation" didn't you get?? Yup, here's Mr. Last Date himself, interpreting a page from the Rod McKuen book of poetry (and I hope that new roof started leaking very quickly!).

ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL / Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass
Yeah, boy. Brass, and, since this is "Nashville", we gotta throw in a banjo or two for credibility. Crank this up in your F-150 and go yee-haw.

Why are the farm animals getting so nervous all of a sudden?

SEND IN THE CLOWNS / The Living Strings

"Send in the cats" -- second violin on the fourth row needs another D-string.

DO YOU WANNA MAKE LOVE / Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius
Out of all the lightweight '70s pop, I would never have expected this one-hit wonder by Peter McCann to be performed in a C&W setting. (Jim Ed Brown, incidentally, hailed from Pine Bluff, Ark, and his family group The Browns started their career at KCLA radio. Talmadge Gleck also started his adult career working at KCLA. Co-winky-dink? Probably not.)

And yes, the song was terrible. I think I'd rather "just fool around"; there's not an Arby's in sight.

I WILL SURVIVE / Living Disco
My vote for best cover of this Gloria Gaynor disco classic goes to the band Cake.

And that's it. If anyone's interested, e-mail me and I'll see what I can do.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Living Blogger" Gleck

Ford has a better musical idea

Just when you thought I'd forgotten about my incredible cassetterriffic find last Saturday at the Salvation Army in Bluffton....

There were many Ford "Demonstration Tapes" produced throughout the '80s and into the '90s, most of them 'samplers' put out by the big record label groups, usually part of their 'special products' line. There were even such compilations on 8-track for those leisure-suit'ed souls to shove into that big hole in the dash while driving their new '75 Galaxie Country Squire, faux-woodgrain side panels and all, off the lot.

Five such tapes went home with moi. In addition to the first tape which caught my eye ("Stereo for the '80s" -- which deserves a separate post, just you wait!), there were some later-day compilations. Three of 'em are ARISTA samplers. A 1991-era tape reads like a who's-who of Adult Contemporary oatmeal. Taylor Dayne, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon, and -- "one of these things is not like the other" -- a 1982 Alan Parsons album cut from Eye in the Sky ("Mammagamma").

All of those later-day tape compilations, including the ca. 1985 tape my grandmother had, were on LORAN cassettes. The tape stock wasn't anything to write home about, but Loran's selling point was its "Lexan Thermoplastic" tape housing, supposedly more resistant to extreme hot temperatures in a car.

But -- as always -- I digress. Another of the ARISTA collections, this from 1990, contained Kenny G's "Going Home" (which brought back my own days playing Pine Bluff's midday answer to John Tesh on KOTN) .... plus Lisa Stansfield's "You Can't Deny It." And, in case you can't get enough of Kenny G's house-rockin' saxophone (Delilah and her steely-dan live for it, I'm certain), there's another track: "I'll Never Leave You." That's what I was afraid of.

That tape was from Ford Electronics: Technology With a Purpose. Ya don't say. If there's anything I cannot stand, it's technology without any kind of rationale behind it. On the spine, it reads "Music System Reference Standard." Yeah, sure. Look, people, it wasn't a high-end Nakamichi or Alpine deck you were listening on, it was a stock Ford OEM factory receiver. Stick it there, and listen to the lo-fi sound while running down the battery in your Tempo as you're on the side of the interstate waiting ... patiently ... patiently? ... for AAA. Seriously, Ford could've put their demo tapes on 3-for-99¢ "Concertapes", and the average Joe Schmo listening on his sputtering '91 Tore-Ups--um, Taurus would be none the wiser.

Back to the point at hand, here's another ARISTA tape, circa 1988. This was the kind of eclectic mix I remember from my grandmother's tape. "Back to the Future" by The Outatime Orchestra. And remember the '88 olympics and Twitney Houston's "One Moment in Time"? I wish I could still forget. Well, it's on here. Also, more Kenny G (I'll pause while the soccer-moms all faint and swoon behind the wheels of their minivans -- Ford Aerostars, of course). Other curios: "Jamaica, Jamaica" by Special EFX ... "In the Mood" by The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel (sorry, no chickens) ... Satchmo's "What a Wonderful World" ... and, for the youngsters on our rrrrrrrreally big shew, Swing Out Sister's 1987 fluff-pop hit "Breakout."

Had enough of ARISTA? Me, too. I'll close this post with the lineup from a 1987 Ford demo tape from CBS Special Products.

SOMEWHERE / Barbra Streisand
...is that tow truck. I've counted the number of button-copy reflectors in that big green sign in front of me. Twice.
....thanks to being witnessed by Brother Love. Hal-lay-lew-ah.
Can't go wrong with Tony.
That's what the Tempo kept asking me in 1993, when I was car shopping.
A reliable Tempo? Or in a false sense of security that the jackbooted IRS thugs won't find him?
A true 1984 adult contemporary flashback!

FOREVER / Kenny Loggins
That was Jim Messina's answer when Kenny asked how long he'd keep Kenny's balls?
OH SHERRIE / Steve Perry
No, this does not have baggage. You-know-who d-e-t-e-s-t-e-d this song. All it took to make the woman apoplectic was to say, "Y'shoulda been gooooone!"
VOICES CARRY / Til Tuesday
I've always loved this song. A great '80s piece of power pop.
In an '88 Taurus, broken down on the side of a lonely country road, just think of how much "courtship" can take place. Horsey sauce, anyone?
Thursday night already? Damn, that tow truck is takin' forever......
Ford Audio Systems. The official punch-line of the 1988 Olympics.

Comin' up ... a long distance dedication from Harvey, in a stalled Mercury Topaz outside of Inez, Kentucky, to Reuben at Wildcat Texaco in Paintsville ... "put down that ALE-8-1 and come give me a tow!"

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Tempo Tapeworm" Gleck

10 November 2007

Talmadge's Thrifty Treasure Trawl - Two

Ahhhhh, Saturday. What to do?

Easy. Seraphim and I made a sojourn across the river to Hardeeville to get Kitt's oil changed (the dealer does the first one free). Hard to believe it's already been nearly 4,000 miles we've traveled in her ... no, wait. That's about normal. We put lots of miles on our two carriages.

Well, after Kitt's crankcase enema, we took advantage of our proximity to Bluffton's Golden Corral -- far better than the mediocre GC we have in Savannah. There's rumor of Rincon getting one. We can only hope. Now, if only we can get a @#$%ing IHOP in our neighborhood. Please?

And after a most satisfying lunch, the two of us made a little side trip to the Salvation Army thrift store just down 278 from the 'Corral. Not much to speak of here, except for some curios I found in a cassette rack. For one:
It spoke to me. And I heard its voice. It said "Taaaaaaalmadge. Saaaaave me. Rescue me from this salvatory purgatory."

I looked further. And I found a total of five (5) such Ford cassette (pronounce: CASS-ette) tapes.
You remember cassettes ... don't you? They were about the size of your average iPod, except for being analog, storing far less amounts of music, and its uncanny ability to occasionally puke brown ribbons of retarded silly string whenever they got sick.

Somebody from the area (could it have been that goat from the O.C. Welch commercials?) dropped off these "demonstration" tapes at the Salvation Army. And I decided, at the price of 25 cents per each, they were all going home with Talmadge. (PS to Bolivar: "That one's going home with Franklin!")

Ford included these tapes with all new cars which had cassette decks installed. I remember one which Gran Lera had in her '86 Crown Vic station wagon (a/k/a "The Q.E. II"). Evidently other automakers did the same thing. Seraphim told me one came with her Hyundai Excel years ago. What I remember about the one GL had was that it contained samples of everything from classical to hard rock.

So, what about the cassette-equipped Ford head units? You know, the contraption containing the rectangular orifice into which you inserted the tape.........

Above is Ford's basic stereo radio/cassette deck, circa 1984-1992. A/K/A "KICKIN' SOUND SYSTEM!" And, having experienced this very model on a couple of different occasions, I can tell you that were you to have pulled it out and replaced it with the cheapest aftermarket unit you could find (rhymes with "Craig"), you'd be making a dramatic improvement in your sound experience.

And the frequency display on Mom's '86 T-bird and Dad's '87 Bronco -- both with the same type of factory unit seen above -- eventually burned out!

"So what station are we listenin' to again, Bubba?"

"I dunno. Our luck, it's that commie NPR stuff."

The tape deck's range was pathetic ... middling high-end, and hardly any bass. Trust me. I bought LPs back then (CDs beginning in 1986), and dubbed 'em onto TDK "SA" or Maxell "XL-II" chrome tapes, the Coke & Pepsi dual standard, for listening while in the car. Both tapes offered far superior dynamic range, even recording with a budget-line Realistic component tape deck, to the laughably horrid tape stock found on prerecorded tape albums.

The TDK and Maxell tapes (I leaned Maxell) shined in my car's Pioneer SuperTuner-III deck. Boy, that thing was a beauty. Great radio reception, too.

But those same tapes didn't sound so well when played in my mother's Thunderbird. Dad, though, was driving an '84 GMC Jimmy prior to buying the Bronco. The Delco tape deck in the Jimmy was quite good. GM radios, in general, could hold their own. Dunno about Chrysler. But Ford's radios from the late '70s into the 1990s were awful.

Fortunately, it appears that FoMoCo got on the ball. I rather like the audio system in our '08 Escape.

Oh, and look what else I bought!

The original price tag for this two-pack of BASF tapes: $1.90.

Salvation Army Value Price: 25 cents.

Net savings from circa-1992 asking price: $1.65.

The confidence I'll sleep with tonight, knowing that my ass is covered just in case CD/Rs go out of style and the cassette tape becomes the in thing again: Priceless.

Hey, you never know when you'll need old-school blank recording media!

I'll dig into those Ford tapes and give the lowdown on the rundown in a future post, or two.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Have you listened to a cassette ... lately?" Gleck