Sunday, May 9, 2010

Technology is astounding.

Over the weekend I transferred some of my favourite Vinyl 45 r.p.m. recordings to MP3 files for play on Swisssh Radio. I have a bunch to go. For those of you who are- less than 30 years old, a bit of history.
A vinyl 45 r.p.m. is a little black piece of plastic with a hole cut in the centre- for a 45 adapter.
See illustration below.

A 45 might look a bit like today’s CD or Blue Ray discs- but bigger and thinner.
There was a song embedded in the vinyl on each side. One side was called the “A Side” and the other the “B Side”. The hit song was usually on the A side of the 45, although groups like the Beach Boys and The Beatles had hits from time to time on each side. Always exciting for the record buyer! Two hits for the price of one!
The letters “r.p.m.” mean revolutions per minute. That’s the number of times the vinyl record went around on a turntable to produce sound- once a needle was placed on its edge and followed the vinyl round and round at 45 revolutions per minutes to produce music. It sounds much more confusing than it really is-trust me. If it were not for the little 45 vinyl discs, there wouldn’t have been the rock and roll revolution that produced millions of hits in the 50’s and 60’s.

Before I bought my first 45 recording in 1959- or thereabouts, you had a choice in many record shops. For instance at Gordon’s Record Bar on Mississaga Street in downtown Orillia- right next to where ‘Sixty-One” is located today, you could often purchase the record in 78 r.p.m. or 45 r.p.m. The 78 was a larger record than the 45 – yet smaller than the 33 1/3 long play disc that came into being a few years later. I remember buying Waterloo by Johnny Horton on a 78. Decca Records. The label was deep reddish-burgundy.

I didn’t get a turntable that played 45’s until Christmas 1962. My first singles arriving from Santa were “Bobby’s Girl” and ‘Telestar”. By noon on Christmas Day, Mum and Dad were ready to pitch the two 45’s and the record player out the window and into a mountainous snowbank! It would be a few days before stores opened “post-Christmas” in those days, so I had to wait to purchase another “single”. In the meantime I had 2 records and four songs!
Play on!

Now here I am in 2010, pulling out my old 45’s from carefully indexed record boxes and changing the vinyl to MP3. The 45 is played on a turntable- with needle and centre adapter, which is connected to a computer- my laptop in this instance. You must listen to the record in “real time”. Transferring music is a slow process. Once each 45 is finished playing, the computer programme that came with the turntable transfers the music and adapts it as an MP3 file. This file is sent to my Swisssh Radio “production computer”.

Next in the production computer, I clean up the beginning of the song- the scratchy part where the needle is approaching the first note of the song. I clean up the end of the song also removing the scratchy, dead air”. Then, I run the song through a hiss and pop eliminator. Finally, I save the new file. I name it and transfer it to the Swisssh Library under “Vinyl to 45”.

I usually “billboard” the song before it plays on Swisssh Radio, telling the radio audience that the following song comes directly from a vinyl 45. When a few scratches, hisses and skips are heard, at least the listener knows why and is forgiving.
Well, occasionally the vinyl has been played so many times that small “blips” or “skips” occur. The song misses a note or two. If it’s really bad- I just don’t transfer the song.
If there’s just one or two tiny skips- I’ll still programme the record.
The little inconsistencies bring back memories for those of us who just had to get used to some 45’s skipping. Even a new pressing of a 45 could skip the first time it was played. The owners of the Hobby and Record Shop in downtown Orillia- a couple of doors lakeside from where P.D. Murphy Jewellers is today, were always good at accepting 45’s being returned. They would play them on their own turntable behind the counter.
Sometimes they played perfectly.
Sometimes they skipped.
It depended on the turntable as well as the company that “pressed” the disc in the first place.

Now, my young children- my under 30 readers, you know what a 45 is all about. When you hear the transferred disc on Swisssh Radio- you will marvel.
I do.

Have a good day!