Storytime

You are currently browsing the archive for the Storytime category.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Uncle Josh on a Bicycle” performed by Cal Stewart.

cal stewartThis was first released as a cylinder by the Columbia Phonograph Company between 1898 and 1900. It was reissued on a 78rpm record as we know them now by the Victor Talking Machine Company seven years later.

Blue guitarist B.B. King passed away today at the age of eighty-nine in his home in Las Vegas. He will be remembered by countless fans and musicians as one of the most influential performers in the history of American music.

lucille LPWe think one of the most inspiring things about King’s life is how much he performed. Even into his seventies the “King of the blues” played 250 shows a year. Audiences could always be counted on to hear about his very special guitar, named Lucille. He often explained how the Gibson ES-355 “saved [his] life two or three times,” attributing extraordinary feats to the guitar.

The origin of the guitar’s name also provided an exciting story for King’s audiences: he would explain how he was playing in a hall in Arkansas in 1949 when a fight between two men knocked over the kerosene barrel which heated the room. After evacuating with everyone else, King ran back in to get his guitar, which had cost him thirty dollars. He was later told the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

“The Raven” kind of loses something in this 1960 interpretation by Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

poe for moderns LP

The 1950 adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ story “Gerald McBoing-Boing” has been entered into the National Film Registry and preserved by the Library of Congress. Animators regard it with reverence as it is one of the first short films to successfully experiment with limited animation, which at the time was more of an aesthetic decision than one driven by financial considerations. Limited animation, which uses as few in-betweens or transitional cells as possible. This became the basis of inexpensively-produced “Saturday morning cartoons” like the ones these record shop owners grew up with (Fat Albert, The Smurfs, etc). Limited animation does not necessarily preclude quality, however, as Gerald McBoing-Boing demonstrated in 1950. At the time this short film was a distinct break from the realism of the Walt Disney features.

Having enjoyed this fun short film, you’re surely wondering why we posted it — it’s because the cartoon was inspired by a record!

gerald mcboinbboingGerald McLoy (ie Gerald McBoing-Boing) first appeared not in one of the good doctor’s forty-six delightful books, but on a record produced the year before by Capitol. Radio personality Harold Peary, known then to listeners as Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve from Fibber McGee and Molly, narrated the story.

The remarkably versatile bandleader Billy May provided the music (his humorous collaborations and swinging arrangements know no bounds: we have previously posted music he produced for comic Stan Freberg, here and here, and singer Peggy Lee, here).

The story was adapted for film by P.D. Eastman (author of Are You My Mother? and the epic Go, Dog, Go! among many other essential reads) and Bill Scott (who we know best as Bullwinkle J. Moose). This little 78rpm record is at the nexus of so much talent!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Folks come in fairly often looking for a “cheap turntable.” Of course, unless you hit on an awesome thrift store or garage sale find, this isn’t really something which exists anymore. We remember the days when box stores like Best Buy sold a fairly decent Technics or Sony, but that’s nearly as distant as the time Tom Petty fought with MCA Records when they wanted to raise the retail price of Hard Promises to $9.98. A good turntable just isn’t cheap anymore and given their popularity, not on the shelves for long.

Historically, Gen Xers like ourselves acquired turntables without much effort. Our parents’ friends often gave us theirs, since it hadn’t been used in years, or we simple went into Mom and Pop’s basement and stole the one they’d forgotten. When one of us used to commute by bicycle we’d find them on the curbs in nice neighborhoods on garbage day, and strap the new prize to a rack on the back. Yep, the coveted turntable was once like the television is today.

There’s a graveyard of turntables here at Hymie’s, from a vintage Brunswick wind-up (which belonged to a friend and is kept on display in the shop as a little tribute) to a couple of those goddamn Crosleys which poop out within weeks of opening the box. The turntables you see stacked in the back room of the shop all need some love of one kind or another. They’re not simply missing belts or needles — they need to be taken apart and fixed. This, along with the fact we sell them far more quickly than we find the time to fix them, is why there’s never a huge selection of working turntables for sale.

We’ve all become so spoiled by the fact there’s three dozen types of ketchup in the grocery store that we expect the same everywhere else we go. It’s just not so with turntables, especially the elusive “cheap turntable.”

DSC07136

Consider, for instance, the time which went into a Technics 1900 which came with a large collection we bought last summer. Its tone arm lifter didn’t function, meaning its auto-start also would not function, and more importantly that when it reached the end of the album the auto-return would drag the needle across the surface of the album.

Vrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooomp! You know the sound.

What happens with a turntable sits for a decade or several is that its lubricants turn to sticky goo, sort of like pine sap. On other machines this freeze the platter in place. This is especially common with the classic BSR “stackers,” which at one time were about the most common record players in the world and when cleaned can be very durable. On these classic direct-drive Technics, which are no longer in production, the sappy gunk most often seizes up that tiny, essential little plastic rest.

DSC07133

The rest is raised and lowered by a piston inside a metal shaft and a spring, and its connection to the auto-start, auto-return and cue switch functions are controlled by a plastic cam. Cleaning these parts requires a tedious deconstruction of the turntable. First one turns it over and removes the screws which hold the tone arm assembly and basic casing in place. When loosened you can remove the switches and cover plate seen in the first photograph, and you can work the casing carefully around the tone arm, as in the picture just below.

DSC07135

Now you’ve nearly there You have to remove the remaining screws holding the turntable assembly to the rest of the mechanical parts and lift it up carefully. You must be gentle so you don’t damage the tiny leads which carry the signal from your stylus through the tone arm, and eventually out to your amplifier, your speaker and your ears (otherwise you’ll double your work). You also have to raise the tone arm assembly carefully so it remains properly connected to the levers and gears which control the various automatic functions (auto-start, auto-return, repeat, etc).

While you’ve got the machine disassembled, its a good idea to give everything a quick tidying, too. If you have a can of compressed air its nice to get any junk out of there, and its a good idea to clean the pitch control contacts with a de-oxidizing solution. If this isn’t something you do every week, the ten dollars you’ll spend on those couple cans will be an investment to last you half a lifetime.

DSC07130

DSC07134

DSC07131

Finally you’re there. The white plastic piece you see below is the lifter cam, and its your culprit. Remember the Vroooooooooooomp! sound? Its all this guy’s fault. In the picture the spring which holds him taut has already been removed, but he was so stuck in place the spring was stretched to its limit. You remove a screw which holds the lifter cam in place and the tiny c-clip holding the spring over the piston. All of these parts, and all of the washers installed with them, need to be scrubbed with rubbing alcohol,using Q-tips and a tiny flathead screwdriver, until they’re free from the sticky lubricant. When this stuff is really stubborn, especially on older players, you may have to use a soldering iron or a hair dryer to heat the area up before you can make any progress. The piece onto which the lifter cam is covered with a tiny metal sheathing, and that has to be scrubbed too. One finally clean and dry they’re all re-lubed, this time with a dry lubricant which can be silicon- or graphite-based (meaning you won’t have to make this repair again for a couple more decades, ideally). Then the entire works needs to be re-assembled without disrupting the other functions, all of which were working when you started.

DSC07132

Afterwards, the lifter rest needs to be adjusted to the proper height, so it neither disrupts play nor fails to raise the arm high enough to protect the stylus and records during auto-start and auto-return. Once assembled and adjusted, the turntable has to be tested for an afternoon, so you’re sure one of your customers won’t get home and find something else has been damaged in the disassembly and reassembly process. Most turntables have a damaged stylus by the time they make it to the record shop as well, so there’s the job of properly balancing and aligning the replacement.

We have always said we fall in love with most turntables which come through the shop — this is in part because we often spend half an afternoon performing surgery on them. When you think about the intricacy of the interlocking parts of a machine like this Technics 1900, they’re remarkably elegant. The many articles we’ve seen in recent years about the ‘resurgence of vinyl’ often cite the physical appeal of albums and the larger artwork on their jackets as a factor which distinguishes them from digital media, but seldom recognize how much ore enjoyable owning a turntable can be. We have many favorite models, and enjoying the beauty of them isn’t really so different than enjoying a classic car show or building a boat inside a bottle.

But they often require knowledge, patience and skill to repair. There is also often an investment in parts and supplies. This is why there aren’t always “cheap turntables.” When choosing which project to work on next, we try and get at least a couple record players repaired each month which will cost under fifty dollars, but many like this Technics 1900 go for more than that online in ‘as is’ condition. Even at a fair price, it was gone within a day or so, and the customer who brought it home has told us it performs fantastically and sounds great. We have meanwhile moved on to the next project, which yesterday was a Sony linear tracking turntable (what’s this?) which has a problem with the tone-arm motor.

If you enjoy looking at beautiful turntables, or if you’re looking for a fully-restored classic console stereo of quality turntable, you should really visit our friends at Vintage Music Company. They also have the largest selection of 78rpm records you’ll find anywhere, and they are where we most often by needles for our own records players here at Hymie’s.

So there’s an explanation of the turntable graveyard here in the shop. Some may never be fix-able, and others are being kept so they can one day donate a part or two to another. Others are on the ‘donor list,’ waiting patiently for a part. Most are just waiting until the day we have the time and resolve to get in there and fix something like a tone-arm lifter.

There’s no school in Minneapolis today because its too cold. Seems like a great day to stay inside as long as we can and watch Star Wars with the kids. And while we’re at it to revisit one of our favorite posts in the Hymie’s archives. By the way, did you know there are 1,500 posts on this site? It reminds us of the moment near the end of “Alice’s Restaurant” when Arlo says, “I’ve been singing this song now for twenty-five minutes. I could sing it for another twenty five minutes. I’m not proud… or tired.”

Anyway, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was…

Amateur Star Wars

This is a Buena Vista Records production of Star Wars for which the music, sound effects and images were licensed but not the actors’ voices.  The result?  Star Wars performed by a cast of understudies!  To make it even, uh, more exciting they seem to be making up some of their lines.

We would love to see an entire film starring this Han Solo instead.

Here’s three minutes of “highlights”:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Enjoy Amateur Star Wars? There’s two more episodes here.

We’ll be open this Christmas eve from 1-5pm, if you need to get a last minute album for someone special, or if you just need to get away from that someone special for an hour.

“A Visit from Saint Nick” (or as it is more commonly known, “The Night Before Christmas”) was published anonymously in 1823. There are two claims to the authorship of what is possibly the most widely recited work of American poetry.

The poem has appeared on hundreds of records over the years. Perry Como and Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians produced sophisticated, tasteful renditions in the 50s, around the same time many of the most popular holiday songs were written. Novelty producer Ross Bagdasarian (ie David Seville) produced a fun version featuring Alvin & the Chipmunks in 1963, which was a favorite of ours growing up and which our kids found hilarious.

In 1980, Anthony Daniels (ie C-3PO) recorded the absolutely worst reading of the poem ever, on the worst record in the entire history of the holiday, Christmas in the Stars. We posted his equally horrible “What do you get for a Wookie (When he already owns a Comb)?” yesterday. If you can find a copy of this album it will make the perfect gag gift for the record collector in your life.

Louis Armstrong’s last commercial recording was a reading of the poem produced in his home in Corona, New York. You can visit the Louis Armstrong Museum to stand in the very same room and hear the unedited tape. According to their website, candy canes are provided.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“The Night Before Christmas” read by Louis Armstrong

The last recording of Louis Armstrong was sold in drug stores and gas stations as a promotion for Kent, True, Old Gold and Newport cigarettes.

There’s a history of jazzy readings of the poem, going back to as early as 1955, when poet and singer Babs Gonzalez wrote his fun interpretation. Our favorite, however, is from 1975, and was read by Northern Calloway, better known as David from Sesame Street. Lets remember David this way, and not from the long and tragic decline of his health. Also presented for your enjoyment are recordings by Ed Byrnes, who you may recall as the dance show host from Grease, and by Wynton Marsalis who seems to us unlikely to be much fun around the holidays but provides a fun performance anyway.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Bebop Santa Claus” by Babs Gonzalez

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“The Night Before Christmas” by Wynton Marsalis

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Yulesville” by Ed “Kookie” Byrnes

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“The Night Before Christmas on Sesame Street” by David (Northern Calloway)

sesame street

« Older entries

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.