Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vinyl's Final Fifteen

As I've gone through my old vinyl collection on a nostalgic voyage of rediscovery, I've noticed a few old favorites that are either in such bad condition that they're no longer enjoyable or (even worse) aren't present at all--probably jettisoned in the late 1980s when I presumed I'd never listen to them again. I plan to eventually replace all of them, but rather than just ordering them all through an online collectibles site, I think I'll take a little time to check a few local sources first. Here are the albums I intend to replace in the coming months; those marked MIA are albums that disappeared entirely over the years, while those marked damaged are albums that either have major scratches or are warped due to storage problems.

(1) Thunderball Soundtrack - My copy is a mass of scratches and scuffs since it was played hundreds of times on cheap equipment in 1965 and 1966. I think this was the soundtrack to my life during the summer of 1965, in fact; I recall playing the soundtrack over and over again as Gary Steele, John Ball, and I played the Thunderball board game. (Damaged)

(2) Association's Greatest Hits - I fell in love with this album once Susan introduced me to the joys of the Association; includes a few favorites, most notably "Requiem for the Masses." (MIA)

(3) Tracy by the Cuff Links - Perhaps the finest two sides of pure pop ever. Ron Dante, who did the voices for this as well as for the Archies, is an underappreciated genius. (MIA)

(4) Best of Cream - This album truly lives up to the "best of" name, with nary a bad track on either side. (MIA)

(5) Love Can Make You Happy by Mercy - Another album that I discovered via Susan; it has a few weak tracks on it, but it's another one of my oft-played favorites from 1969 and 1970. (MIA)

(6) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Soundtrack - "Not Going Home Any More" makes this one worth the cost of the whole album, although it also includes the delightful "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." (MIA)

(7) Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have it, but it has a wretched scratch all the way through "Heard it Through the Grapevine." This is the best thing John Fogerty and CCR ever did. (Damaged)

(8) Steppenwolf Live - I like the performances on this disc even better than the studio versions of most of these songs, and that's not something I say very often! (Damaged)

(9) Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Someone (I'm not naming names, my dear sister Kimberly) gouged out the first minute or so of "Carry On" and left a heavy scratch or two on the middle part of "Woodstock." Need to replace it, because it's my favorite CSNY album. (MIA)

(10) - Magic Christian Music by Badfinger - Part of the soundtrack of my life for the summer of 1970, and the finest thing that Badfinger ever did... and that's saying a lot, because I love pretty much every album they did prior to Pete Ham's suicide. (MIA)

(11) Led Zeppelin I - The finest example of everything that made Led Zep great. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is on my short list of all time favorite songs. (MIA)

(12) Led Zeppelin II - Yes, they get two places on this list--but they deserve it. Ida Hutchings introduced me to this album, and it was actually my first Led Zep listen. "Whole Lotta Love" used to be my favorite new stereo demo song. (Damagedd)

(13) Mellow Yellow by Donovan - The title song isn't one of my favorites, but I consider "Young Girl Blues" to be one of the most moving pieces that Donovan ever wrote. Simple, observational, melancholy, insightful--it's the highlight of a most wonderful album. (MIA)

(14) Barabajagal by Donovan - Now this is the best album Donovan ever recorded. The addition of the Jeff Beck Group to the mix gave the album a real energy, and it includes one of my all-time favorites, "Atlantis." (Damaged)

(15) - Blind Faith by Blind Faith - If there was ever an album that should have had only one side, this is it. The second side is an absolute throwaway, but the genius of "Had to Cry Today" and "Presence of the Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home" are indisputable. (Damaged)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Re-Meeting the Beatles...

Just in case all that talk of American Beatles albums like Something New might lead some to doubt my qualifications as a Beatles fan: I should add (to satisfy the Beatles purists) that I also have the British mixes in two formats: I have a complete set of the Japanese red vinyl mono reissues from the early 1980s, as well as the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Boxed Set of the UK Beatles albums (that's a picture of the MFSL box to the left of this paragraph). So I can enjoy the Beatles as originally recorded as well as re-experiencing them on vinyl the way I first heard them in the early and mid-1960s.

I will also confess that I am still not much of a mono fan. Yes, I know all the stories about the laborious hours the Beatles and George Martin spent mixing the albums for mono, and how the stereo mixes of those albums were produced as afterthoughts. Doesn't matter to me: I'm a child of the stereo generation, and I'll always prefer that to the mono mixes.  Don't try to convince me I'm wrong--it's impossible...

Something New About Something New...

Yes, I'm still fascinated by my exploration of my old vinyl collection. Tonight's discovery was a copy of the Beatles' Something New, still unopened. I have a well-worn copy, but apparently I bought a second copy sometime in the 1970s; this is on the green Apple label, not the Capitol label that I think of whenever I recall these old Beatles albums. Since it's brand new, the sound is quite good--very clean, no surface noise to speak of, crisp upper end, strong bass, little to no rumble.

Of course, there are those who will argue that every copy of Something New must sound bad, because these are Dave Dexter's Americanized remixes, not the pure British mixes of these songs. Well, these are the mixes I grew up with; the extra reverb adds a richness to the music that I have always missed in the British mixes. Hearing this album again on vinyl makes me acutely aware that Dexter's contributions are unfairly excoriated; I think that, had he not added that extra resonance to the Beatles' songs, they might not have had the AM hook necessary to make the Beatles a musical phenomenon here in the US.

I played around with settings for a while; I tried a few of the THX and Dolby II & III settings to generate surround sound fields out of the stereo mixes, but none of them sounded right. Instruments were muddied, voices seemed distant, and some sounds seemed to fade in an out, as if someone were fumbling with the slider volumes throughout the playback.

I tried standard stereo; it sounded better, but a little bit weak. Then I discovered a setting I had never used on my Pioneer 7-channel amp: 7-Channel Stereo. A more accurate name might be "6.1 channel stereo," because what it does is to play the left channels through the left front, left midfield, and left surround speakers, and the right channels through the right front, right midfield, and right surround speakers. There's no sound at all from the center channel, and the bass is directed to the subwoofer.

Suddenly the Beatles sounded just like they were supposed to sound. No extra processing, no wonky effects--just stereo through three pairs of Infinity speakers, so that wherever I moved in the room the stereo was rich and resonant. The voices were vibrant and lifelike, and I felt like I could hear everyhing that I was supposed to hear. That warmth that so many vinyl fans talk about was clear and everpresent, and the music took on an vitality that was missing from most CD mixes.  This was the Beatles as I heard them back in 1964, only with equipment exponentially better than anything I dreamed of back then.

Turns out I also have unopened copies of Meet the Beatles, the Beatles Second Album, Help, Revolver, Rubber Soul,  Yesterday and Today, The Early Beatles, and Sgt. Pepper's. I'll be opening one each night for the next week, relishing the chance to hear these albums fresh from the shrinkwrap.

Fifty Years Ago in West Rome (The Week of 10/22/62 to 10/28/62)

The entire world was in legitimate crisis mode this week fifty years ago as the Cuban Missile Crisis was on the front page of every paper, including the Rome News-Tribune.  Area grocery stores, including A&P, Big Apple, and Kroger, reported that customers were purchasing extra supplies of canned goods, water purification tablets, transistor radios, and batteries, while stocks in local civil defense shelters (including the one in West Rome High School’s auditorium) were being inspected to make sure they were ready in case of emergency evacuations. (And on a personal note, I can still remember the serious tone that Dad took when he discussed possible evacuation plans, and how I should go where the teachers told me to go, and how he and Mom would find me, no matter what. It was the only time I ever heard that tone in Dad's voice, and it made me very aware of just how significant all this was. Even though I was only nine years old at the time, I knew that nothing had ever made Dad talk that way before.)

West Rome took on the Cartersville Hurricanes at Barron Stadium on Friday, October 26th.  The Chief won in the final 30 seconds, posting a 34-33 victory.  Coach Kennedy was grateful for the win, but in his own outspoken way he added, “I don’t know what’s happened to our defense.” Kennedy praised Chris Warren for his passing game.

Meanwhile, the West Rome JV team beat East Rome’s JV team 14-0 on Thursday, October 25th--the eighth consecutive win for the JV team.  Steve Holland and Donnie Hill were credited with the first touchdown, while Gilbert Espy made the second TD possible with a fubmle recovery.  Coach Namon Wiseman also credited Ken Payne, Robert Graham, Malon Baxley, Ronnie Parker Parker, & Todd Zeiger for their efforts.

West Rome’s cheerleaders made the trek to McEachern High School (and this was in the pre-I75 days, when getting to Cobb County actually took a while!) for a cheerleading clinic; among the attendees were Mary Bryan, Parthenia Chastain, Donita Womack, Angela Howard, Janet Beard, Betty Lewis, Alice Evans, and Judy Wessinger.

John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature this week 50 years ago, only the sixth American to win the award, paving the way for many of us to read Travels With Charley, The Grapes of Wrath, and other Steinbeck classics during our years at West Rome High.

Romans could witness “the personal story behind the sex survey... for the controversial best-selling novel” if they bought a ticket to The Chapman Report, showing at the Desoto Theatre 50 years ago (but you had better be 16 years old or they weren't letting you in!).  The First Avenue was offering more family-friendly fare: Lad—A Dog was showing, accompanied by "The Adventures of the Road Runner: A Brand New Cartoon Featurette!"  The West Rome Drive-in offered up The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with John Wayne & James Stewart.

National City Bank was advertising a very competitive 4% interest rate on savings accounts (if only we could get that high a rate today!), with a minimum deposit of $5.00.

Don Kennedy, better known to 1962’s children as Officer Don, paid a visit to Rome on October 27th, making an appearance at Kessler’s Toy Department from 9am until 11am.  Anyone recall if he re-enacted his famous Oooey Gooey Bag bit while he was there?

Elm Street Elementary held its annual Fall Festival on Friday, October 26th, with supper served in the lunch room, followed by movies and a visit to the “country store,” along with a fortune teller, a clown, pony rides, and more. (Remember when these elementary school Fall Festivals were a big thing, and many of us insisted on dragging our parents to them?)

I must confess that I didn't even know that Rome had a Rambler dealer!...   Kirkland Motor Company on West 3rd Street was proudly promoting the Rambler American as the newest model for the fall of 1962. Meanwhile, Andrews Motor Company was advertising their full line of 1963 Plymouths that had arrived, complete with a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty.

Just in time for Christmas savings stamp redemptions, the “Bright New S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center” opened on October 25th in the Fahy Store in downtown Rome.  If your family bought groceries at Big Apple or shopped at Enloe’s Rexall Drug Store, you may remember them diligently sticking these stamps into savings booklets that they could redeem for a wide array of merchandise.

The Rome Radio Company was advertising a bit of cutting-edge entertainment technology: the “tape cartridge recorder” from RCA Victor.  Neither an 8-track or a cassette, it was much larger than either--think of it as a reel-to-reel in an oversized cartridge.  Big surprise: it didn’t catch on, so if you took advantage of the special $99 holiday 1962 sale, you got to invest in a bit of abandoned entertainment technology (you can put it next to the cassette deck, the 8-track player, the Betamax, the VHS recorder, the Laserdisc player, and all those other entertainment media that faded away over the years).

If you wanted to invest your entertainment money in something a little less cutting-edge, there was the Silvertone Stereo Console with AM-FM and record player for only $118.00 at Sears, or the 19” Silvertone TV with handy roll-about cart for $128.00. (I don't think we ever owned anything with the Silvertone brand name on it, but the ads make it clear that Silvertone was a respected name in entertainment in 1962, with multiple retailers promoting the Silvertone line.)

If your family’s budget didn’t allow for Encyclopedia Britannica, then perhaps your family took advantage of Kroger’s offer of The New Masters Encyclopedia for $3.99 for the entire eight-volume set. While they were there, they could get a 10 ounce box of Post Corn Flakes for 30 cents, 10 pounds of Domino Sugar for 89 cents, Gorton’s Frozen Fish Sticks for 59 cents a pound, or Oscar Mayer Franks  for 65 cents a pound.
Head over to Big Apple, and your family could add sliced beef liver to the menu for 19 cents a pound, with onions going for an addition 10 cents per pound (anyone else have meals of liver and onions when they were growing up?).  Those 1960s junk-food staples of Vienna Sausage and Potted Meat could be had at a price of 5/$1 and 8/$1 respectively, while chicken breasts were available for 47 cents a pound.

One of West Rome’s most fondly remembered locally owned grocers, Couch’s on Shorter Avenue, was offering chuck steak for 59 cents a pound, sliced bacon for 49 cents a pound, grapefruits for a nickel each, and 10 pounds of potatoes for 29 cents.

For those young enough to go trick or treating, Goodyear had you covered, with over 200 costumes available for only 98 cents each, including a vinyl mask and a costume made from the latest in flame-retardant fabrics.

A home for only $9100? You got it!  Quality Homes of Rome would build a 3 bedroom 1 1/2 bath home on your lot for only $63.38 per month (12 years of payments) fully finished, or a bargain $8500 cash.  And if you wanted something a little more customized, the builders of Paris Heights in West Rome were advertising new houses for sale for $10,200 to $14,000. (Yes, our parents really could buy an entire house for less than we’d have to pay today for the cheapest new car...)

And finally, we all got to enjoy an hour’s extra sleep as daylight saving time came to an end on Sunday, October 28th.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

50 Years Ago This Week in West Rome (10/15/62 to 10/21/62)

 (This installment of Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome appeared in Deb Joyner Denneman's Drumbeat newsletter for 10/16/12; I'm posting it here for people who don't see the newsletter but might be interested. If you didn't grow up in West Rome, odds are this will have no appeal whatsoever, so just move along... nothing to see here...)

The Chieftains varsity football team faced off against Dalton in an away game on Friday, October 19th. Alas, they may have wished they had stayed away, since Dalton won the game 21-7. "We just weren't ready for them," Paul Kennedy told the Rome News-Tribune's Don Biggers. "The coaches didn't work hard enough and the players didn't work hard enough." Coach Kennedy never was one to mince words, was he?

The JV team was having a much better week, defeating the Darlington Tigers 25-6 for their seventh straight victory, putting them in good standing for the next week's JV season-ender against East Rome. Steve Holland and Donnie Hill were the outstanding players in this game, with Holland scoring two touchdowns and Hill scoring one.

Ready for a large-screen 23" console TV with a deluxe 8" full fidelity speaker?  It'd set you back $249.00 at B&L Appliances on West 3rd Street for this week only (and they gave S&H Green Stamps, too!). If your budget didn't allow for a full-sized black and white TV, you could have a Quality FM tabletop radio for only $29.95, courtesy of the Rome Radio Company.

Rome held Satellite Days in from October 19th through 22nd. They had parachutists from the United Sates Army Parachute Teamdropping onto Russell Field, along with musical performances and missiles on display (no, we're not making this up!).

We didn't know how good we had it: Citizen's Federal Bank was paying 4% interest on savings accounts, while Rome Bank and Trust was paying 4.25%.  And you could open a new account with as little as $5!

Hardee's was holding a Treasure Chest contest this week in 1962; even if you lost, you got a free soft drink (and you could add a Hardee's Charco-Broiled hamburger for only 15 cents, with fries an extra 10 cents).

Owens Hardware was selling West Rome 100% all-wool fully lined jackets with leather inserts for only $15.96.  If you wanted to add full leather sleeves instead, the cost went up to $17.95.

IF you wanted to catch a movie, you'd had a couple of scary choices: for the weekend The DeSoto was showing Night Creatures with Peter Cushing, along with the short feature The Race to Space; the First Avenue brought in The Phantom of the Opera; and the West Rome Drive-In was running a horror double feature with Hand of Death along with 20,000 Eyes. And since kids were out of school on Friday 10/19/62 because of the Seventh District Teachers Annual Convention being held in Rome, the DeSoto Theater presented a special Friday morning "No School Today" show starting at 9:45 am, with a Bugs Bunny Revue and The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. Midweek movies included The World of Suzie Wong and Elvis Presley's GI Blues at the DeSoto; Jessica and Hell Is for Heroes at the West Rome Drive-In, and Phantom of the Opera held over at the First Avenue.

The West End Enloe's Rexall Drug Store made sure we didn't run out of school supplies: a twelve-pack of No. 2 pencils was on sale for 27 cents, while a 59-count pack of notebook paper was marked down to 37 cents.  In case you needed it, St. Joseph's Aspirin was on sale for 24 cents, while Rexall Aspirin could be had for 11 cents per 100-count bottle, and Tums were only 9 cents.  One of those trendy new Scripto Ball Pens was on sale for only 33 cents--"Just Press the Top and Write!" the ad touts.

If you wanted to dine out on a budget, Redford 5 & 10 Cent Store was offering a Friday Chicken Breast dinner with three vegetables and rolls for only 50 cents; alas, the West Rome Redfords didn't offer this fine dining special, so we'd have to head to Broad Street to take advantage of the four-bit feast.

Nancy Ryer of 100 Coosawattee Avenue competed in the Rome Junior Miss pageant on Saturday, 10/20/62.

Rome Printing Company was taking orders for your 1962 Christmas Cards; orders had to be placed by the end of October in order for you to get your customized cards by Thanksgiving.

The Big Apple Supermarket had a special on Hormel Ham for 29 cents a pound, while "US Good Heavy Beef Steaks" (can't find that cut in today's grocery store, can you?) were on sale for 99 cents a pound.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome

My friend Debbi Joyner does a wonderful weekly newsletter, The Drumbeat, devoted to my alma mater, West Rome High School (as I've mentioned here previously, the school no longer exists--it was replaced by a WalMart parking lot a couple of decades ago, when Rome City Schools decided to abandon the idea of two accessible neighborhood/community high schools and replace them both with a single school on the edge of nowhere, near no one). Since I've been enjoying perusing the Rome News-Tribune's archives, I decided to gather news tidbits of interest to former West Romans like myself and submit those highlights to Debbi; she was interested in running them starting next week, so Drumbeat readers will see them there.

While I have no illusions that many of my readers are going to be interested, I figure I'll post the pieces here after they run in the Drumbeat. This week's piece, done as a tryout, will not appear in the Drumbeat because the issue was already assembled, so it's appearing here as a sort of dry run.)

•A West Rome crime spree was halted when three boys--ages 11, 13, & 14--were arrested for burglaries and vandalism in West Rome. Rome Pipe Company, Johnston Sheet Metal Works, Johnson Service Station, Sealtest Milk Co, and the Tom's Warehouse, all in the area of Shorter Avenue and Hanks Street, were the targets of the burglaries. They were reportedly caught when they ran their stolen getaway truck into a pile of building supplies. (If anyone reading this wants to 'fess up to the crime, here's your chance!)

•A "battered West Rome team" (as my dad, Don Biggers of the Rome News-Tribune, called the team in his column) faced off against Rockmart in Friday night football. Dickie Sapp (then a sophomore) was chosen outstanding offensive lineman of the week for his three touchdowns that led the Chieftains to a victory. That was probably a relief to Coach Paul Kennedy, who was quoted two days before the game as saying "We're worried about our offense." No need to worry, Coach Kennedy!

•West Romans could add a GIANT-SIZED 23" television to their family living rooms for only $199.95, thanks to the friendly folks at the Economy Auto Store on Broad Street--and Economy Auto would throw in a free roll-about table to hold the television. (Adjusted for inflation, that would put the 23" television at just over $1500.00 today!)

•Piggly Wiggly was running several specials at their West Rome location, including a case of cokes for 79 cents, a pound of bacon for 49 cents, or a pound of bananas for 9 cents. And to make it easier for West Romans to shop, Piggly Wiggly had begun to stay open until 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday nights!

•Meanwhile, those willing to drive across town to Kroger could get a pound of boneless sirloin steak for 99 cents and a pound of coffee for 49 cents. Ten pounds of potatoes would set you back a whopping 39 cents--but to help make up for it, Kroger was offering double Top Value stamps every week leading up to Christmas.

•Barber shop roulette: Mrs. Alice Lacey moved to Clay Barber Shop on Shorter Avenue this week in 1962, while Ralph Carter relocated to the West End Barber Shop--and yes, those moves did indeed make the news in 1962! (How many people have any memories of precisely who cut their hair way back then? I never really thought about having barber preferences--I didn't even know we could have barber preferences!)

•Showing at the theater this week fifty years ago: The Notorious Landlady with Kim Novack, Jack Lemmon, & Fred Astaire was at the DeSoto; the First Avenue Theater was running a double feature of Son of Samson and Last of the Vikings; while our favorite, the West Rome Drive-In, was running The Girl He Left Behind with Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood as well as Top Secret Affair with Susan Hayward & Kirk Douglas.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Drive to Succeed

Last week the 480gb SSD (that's a 480 gigabyte solid state drive, for those of you not acronymically aware) in my Macbook Pro gave up the ghost. I tried getting Apple to remedy the problem, but I forgot until the Apple Store Genius opened it up that the computer has an Other World Computing SSD, not an Apple SSD--and once Apple's techs saw a non-Apple drive, they washed their hands of the problem.

Thankfully, the folks at OWC stand behind their product, and they rushed me a replacement SSD once we verified that the old drive was dead beyond repair. They also post a series of very helpful instructional clips demonstrating how to change a drive--and that was something I definitely needed, since I have a real aversion to doing any work on my own computer.

With the video in front of me, it turned out to be an easy procedure (once I secured the proper equipment--one very small Phillips head screwdriver, one very small torx screwdriver). I remembered earlier experiences with ribbon cables, multiple pins, mounting brackets, and so on. This was nothing like that; everything was easily accessible, the screws were right where they were supposed to be, everything was removed with no glitches, and the new drive went right in.

Just to be safe, though, I'm getting a replacement 750gb Apple hard drive; that's the drive that was originally installed in the computer. That way, if a problem does occur, I can just pop that drive into the machine and take it to the Apple store. I'll also clone my current system to that drive using Time Machine and an OWC Voyager unit (it lets you treat any SATA drive as if it were an external drive). That way, I not only have a working backup, but I have the OEM drive that Apple expects to see when they open up the computer!

Meanwhile, I'm pretty pleased with myself for opening up a computer, replacing a drive, and reinstalling the system without destroying the machine in the process. If you knew how very unskilled I am with electronics repair, you'd understand that this was quite an accomplishment for me!