Monday, September 26, 2016

At the Circus with Some Nutty Ad-Men

So I opened up the above tape box, and started listening to its contents. And at first, I thought I genuinely had a tape of various companies' attempts to provide an ad for something called "Circus Nuts", as each ad starts with the name of an advertising company. In other words, a series of potential ads for the manufacturer to review and choose from. But that didn't make sense, since the name of the company providing the ads - Donahue and Coe, Inc. - was right on the box.

I'm probably just slow, but it took me until the fourth ad, purported to be from "The British Ad Agency 'Stiff, Upper & Lip'", before it dawned on me that these tracks - including the introductions - were the commercials that ran on the air, and that each "company" named was somehow indicative of the contents of the ad. Ho ho.

There are three minute-long ads and nine 30-second-long ads. A few are fairly funny, all of them are typical of the era (and happily nostalgic for me today, for that reason), and the whole thing is an enjoyable listen.

Here's the entire, eight minute long tape:

Download: Donahue & Coe, Inc. - Twelve Circus Nuts Ads

Monday, August 29, 2016

",,,They've Been Practicing For Over a Month Now..."

I could not have come across this tape at a better time, and I had to race to share it with the little corner of the world which comes here to listen to my collection of ephemera. This ties in perfectly with the recent release of the wonderful film "Florence Foster Jenkins", and with the publication of a book by the same title, by my friend, and fellow blogger, Darryl Bullock.

For what fell into my lap last week (or, more specifically, my speakers), but a spectacularly incompetent performance by a pair of otherwise unknown young men, laughably bad and comically sincere. 

This came about a quarter of the way through an otherwise tedious and nearly unlistenable 90 minute tape of a Pentecostal style church event, date and location unknown. The tape starts with the singing of several hymns, interspersed by prayers and community announcements. After the segment I'm featuring was a lengthy sermon, based on a specific text of scripture, and then, an even lengthier revival speech, by a man who, based on his accent, was clearly Australian - his speech leads to music while people come up to the front of the church to be received and to accept Jesus as their personal savior. 

Ah, but in between the final of the initial hymns and that lengthy sermon, comes this moment of magic, when, as you'll hear, a member of the congregation introduces two young men from the congregation, who have been practicing their song "for over a month now". Clearly, "over a year now" would not have helped, either. I don't know if it would have been appropriate in that setting for people to applaud, but no one does, and only a meek "thank you, fellas" follows the atrocious performance. Perhaps the man who introduced them no longer felt it was the "very special treat" he indicted it would be. 

In the spirit of Florence Foster Jenkins, please enjoy Zac and Arthur, with their rendition of "I'll Tell the World That I'm a Christian": 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Hodgepodge - Three Short, Unrelated Tapes

I'm doing a bit of cleaning out of my "not yet shared" folder today, and offering up three relatively brief tracks, each from a separate tape, and not related to each other in any way I can think of (not from the same family, same genre, similar content), except that each is a home recording.

First up, a tape I've titled "11 Minutes of Chords and Talk, Two Minutes of Singing". I just got a kick of this tape, because these young people are clearly having fun, and interacting happily, and yet the point of recording seems to have been to record a performance - and yet, most of the tape is preparing in different ways for that performance - deciding what to sing, working out the chords, playing bits and pieces, etc. (in addition to multiple people asking "are you recording", or something similar, and a comment that "we've been here two days without getting organized..."), with the actual performance coming during the last 15% of the recording - little more than two minutes of a 13 minute tape.

I enjoy the fact that they mention, or sing lines from, at least four songs (by my count), but then end up doing a number not mentioned until moments before it is performed (and a half-assed performance it is, indeed). Musicians might enjoy one person telling another to play his guitar in "F Flat....or E!" Just a few moments in the lives of a small group of friends. A minor pleasure for sure, but I love stuff like this.

Download: Unknown - 11 Minutes of Chords and Talk, Two Minutes of Singing

A tape I can best describe as "reprehensible" follows, one I've labeled "Badgering a Toddler", although "Dad's a Jamoke" would have worked, too. Please forgive me for the loud noise at the beginning - I should have lowered the volume or edited this out, and didn't....

Not much description needed here - an adult man repeatedly tries to get a child to talk into the microphone, becoming fairly abusive in tone at times. Both the sound of the child, and a brief reference to his age, make it clear that this is a toddler, and the man berates him for having nothing to say, and for not following his instructions. For nearly ten minutes. Obnoxious and exceptionally irritating.

Download: Unknown - Badgering a Toddler

Finally, something that's getting to be an old standby of this site already, an audio letter. In this case, a stultifying set of conversations from a man (unnamed) and a woman (Jean) to some recipients named Dorothy and Bea. This tape features weirdly echoing sound for the first two-thirds of its 14 minute length.

And the tape seemingly starts up in the middle of a conversation, making me think maybe the tape is on side two as it starts - there are clearly references to things that have already been discussed, and we jump right into some exceptionally dull talk about research and theoretical issues. However, there is nothing on the flip side of this tape, so... either the flip side was erased, or there was another tape, or, this is all there was. I dunno.

After the man speaks, Jean comes in, and her discussion is nearly as mind-numbing, as she talks about teaching a chemistry course for "girls who are not going on to college" - it's a science course, but sounds more like a home-ec course. She finishes the tape by talking about some day to day events in her life (including her teaching experiences) and responses to things said/asked by the recipient of this tape.

Download: Unknown - Audio Letter

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Greetings from Germany, 1960

I love the audio letters that come across. They always reflect the time and place in which they were recorded, and since new ones simply aren't made anymore, they always capture a very different era in communication.

Here's twenty minutes of tape from a German friend (Roland? - he says his name at about 19:05) to a friend in America (Larry , in Maine), recorded in the year I was born, 1960, specifically, October 14th of that year. It starts and ends with some German music, but aside from those three minutes, the rest of the tape is the sender's message.

This is a lovely little recording, the charms of which I'll leave you to discover. Hearing the speaker's voice, I was reminded of an older German neighbor, who lived a half block away from us, and whose lawn I cut every summer, during my late teens. The speaker struggles with English syntax here and there, but has no problem expressing himself in what is clearly a second language.

Whatever he was saying at the end of side one (just past the ten minute point) is lost, due to the end of the being mangled over the years. The rest of the tape is pretty much pristine.


Download: Unknown - Audio Letter from Stuttgart, 1960

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Earl Nightingale Sells A Load of BS to Salesmen and their Wives

Here's a fascinating, if also obnoxious and at times cretinous, recording, featuring the once well-known radio personality, writer and motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale.

This tape is a professional recording, banded with leader between the tracks and recorded at 15 inches per second (one of two speeds usually found on professionally made tapes). Based on his text, it's clear that these two tracks were used as the two sides of a record.

In this case, that record was one which was to be distributed to salesmen working for the Liberty Investors Life Insurance brand - with a focus on those were fairly new to the company - with the b-side of the record directed at the wives of those salesmen.

I've heard quite a few of Nightingale's records, and I'll say that his worldview, opinion of what is important and general outlook were very different than mine are. But then, the idea of wanting or needing to listen to a motivational speaker - let alone being one - is about as far outside of my wheelhouse as one can get.

This record, being quite a bit shorter (two six minute blasts) and much more focused (on a specific job) than his other recordings, rises to a level on the bullshit meter many notches higher than that found in his typical speeches.

I mean, seriously, did he just say that the life insurance man might be the most important person who will ever walk into another person's place of business?. Is it possible he actually expressed the view that being a life insurance salesman is a calling "second in service only to the ministry"? Really?

But no matter, he quickly moves on to what really matters, and which is the focus of the remaining four minutes: How Much Money You Can Make. Whoopee.

I dunno - maybe some of you really dig this stuff, even in a non-ironic way. For me, this is one key example of what was so very wrong about the 1950's American mindset.

Download: Earl Nightingale - Message to Liberty Investors Life Salesmen

Thank you, Johnson.

Here is the message to the wives. Please note that, after saying on the first side that her salesman is doing a job "second in service" only those in the clergy (many of whom, of course, don't marry), he spews forth the wisdom that a man is not complete without a wife. Literally: "A man without a woman to love is not a complete man", he tells us. Make up your mind, dude.

The remainder of the message to the little women is the familiar claptrap that was peddled everywhere in those days - be the little woman, let your man decide what's best, smile at him, and for God's sake don't give him chores to do! There is a lot more I could say - I really can't stand many things this recording stands for - but I'll stop now.

Download: Earl Nightingale - Message to Wives of Liberty Investors Life Salesmen

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Big Midwestern Hayride! PLUS, A Special Request

Here's a wonderful recording made in the early days of home-use reel to reel recording, taped directly off someone's TV some time during .

The show in question is something called "The Big Midwestern Hayride", which you can read about in a few different sites, and see short clips of on Youtube. This sounds like a pretty wonderful slice of down-home entertainment from a time and place very different from today.

But this is an entire half-hour episode, featuring a remarkable number of groups and performances for a 30 minute show. I don't recognize any of these artists' names, but perhaps someone more familiar with the country, square dance and related sounds of the era might know some of them.

It's unclear to me when exactly this would have been recorded. The show ran on both ABC and NBC at various points during the '50's, but the show which comes on afterwards (heard for about two minutes) is "Topper", which ran on CBS. So I'm guessing the airing of "Topper" was a rerun, showing on another network, at some point after its 1953-55 run. But who can be sure.

Oh, and one more thing - fans of Negativland - and in my view, everyone should be a fan of Negativland - are sure to get a kick out of the sponsor of "The Big Midwestern Hayride".

Download: Various Artists - The Big Midwestern Hayride

Okay, now here's the bonus (sic). After I posted a single excerpt from a tape of a somewhat tone-deaf  someone singing along with a country song (at the bottom of this post from one month ago), I had a request to provide the entire tape.

So... here it is! I hope you enjoy it a LOT more than I do!

Download: Unknown - Singing Along with the Country Hits

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Just a Group of Guys Seeing the Old Year Out in 1958

Here's something pretty special, I think.

What we have here are a group of young men - four or five of them, I think, joking around, singing, telling stories and generally just watching the last few minutes of the year tick away, in 1958.

The tape is just over 30 minutes long. I initially had derisively considered titling this post with a phrase having to do with "a bunch of jamokes", but quickly decided that that was complete unfair. I think, instead, that this tape just reflects a different, more innocent time (for lack of a better word). I don't know at what point a New Year's Eve tape would have ceased even the possibility of sounding like this, but I doubt anything found from even the late '60's or early '70's would have the feel of this tape. It's very much of a particular time period in America. Or so it seems to me.

After some introductory comments - the names of the participants are mentioned, but are both slurred and, in some cases, covered up by other noises - there is some fairly awful piano and harmonica playing. If you want to skip this fairly painful bit of noise, it ends at about 4:20, although if you do that, you'll miss some Lawrence Welk references and fart jokes (which I supposed are not mutually exclusive).

The flounder around for a bit, before one guy does his Ed Sullivan impression, another guy talks repeatedly way too loudly into the microphone, and they stumble into a version of a Christmas Carol. Several references to then-current commercials and other cultural touchstones of the moment also float by.

Then, at the nine minute mark, we get to the meat of the tape - a bunch of stories, both true-life and, mostly, fairy tales. One guy starts by telling a story that happened at a drive-in theatre, followed by another car story.

Then we get a lengthy rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood". There's not really much of a payoff - although the storyteller clearly thinks he's on a roll, repeatedly telling his peers to shut up. But what he lacks in originality, he more than makes up for with enthusiasm.

Then the whole group gets into the act, doing a group performance of "Little Red Riding Hood", interrupted many times by product slogans, other asides and general silliness. For my money, this is the best section of the tape.

The story ends suddenly, and incompletely, and now it's 11:45 PM - an updated version of Hansel and Gretel - involving a Corvette and marijuana - is attempted, but the overlap with the original story is minimal, and what's more, the tape is running out. An end to the story is quickly constructed.

We never reach 1959, but we do hear the very end of what these young man had been erasing, which plays on the very last few feet of tape - it's "Alvin's Harmonica" by David Seville and the Chipmunk. (Interestingly, it appears that this record came out in the last days of 1958, so whenever it was recorded, it must have been brand new.)


Download: A Group of Friends - December 31, 1958