Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Triple Play Tuesday! Australian Mailbag, Terrible Acting and a Bizarre Little Reel

It's been a busy February, and I haven't been able to get here as often as I'd like. To make up for that, I have three unrelated bits of tape today. (Oh, and I know this is going up on a Wednesday - but I wrote it on Tuesday then couldn't get it to post for the rest of the day. The title doesn't really work with "Wednesday".)

First up is a second sampling of the many tapes I came across somewhere which feature short wave recordings from Australia. Based on a couple of things heard here, particularly a reference to recently born Australian Quintuplets (the ones being mentioned were born on 12/31/67), this tape seems to date from early 1968.

The first section, a local news roundup, is not that interesting to me, but I've kept because I thought maybe others would be more interested. But that second section, for me, is GOLD. It starts at just past the 16 minute mark and lasts 15 minutes. It is called "Listeners Mailbag", and the concept of the show could not be more simple: The host reads cards and letters from listeners in America, complete with their names and addresses. Often, these are little more than reports of how well the Australian Shortwave station was coming in, perhaps a question or two, or descriptions of things or activities from the writer's hometown.

I find this a charming concept and effort, the likes of which have been completely lost in our modern world.

Download: Radio Australia - Australian News and Mailbag from America, 1968

Next, a very short segment from an ancient and clunky TV private eye show, called Martin Kane. I bought a tape some time ago which contained recordings off the air of a dozen episodes of this show, which starred multiple men in the title role over its entire run. An interesting feature of this show was that it used the setting of a local tobacco shop, right within the plot of its episodes, to further the plot and sell the sponsor's product at the same time. Every episode featured two scenes in the tobacco shop, with extensive descriptions of the various products from the sponsoring tobacco company.

On one of these episodes, someone had the wise idea to include a local sports star, a Yankees pitcher who happened to have thrown an excellent game a few days earlier. Tom Morgan may have been a good enough pitcher, but at remembering and delivering lines... well, I'm going to bet this was his only live acting appearance. It is fairly amazingly awful.

Download: Tom Morgan on "Martin Kane, Private Eye"

Finally, a completely inexplicable little three inch reel of tape. Someone went to the trouble to splice together short excerpts from what sounds like at least ten, perhaps 15 different tapes into a quick hodgepodge of sound. Many of the segments are less than 10 seconds long. Among other things, you'll hear someone playing an organ, several short excerpts of music of several styles from the 1930's to the 1940's, a jazz announcer from Chicago's WBBM, people at home talking into the microphone, and, in the longest segment by far (about 75 seconds),  a bit of a court proceedings involving J. Edgar Hoover!

I doubt that many people will give this a second listen, but it's certainly a weird little experience, and I'd love to know what purpose it served.

Download: Bizarre Small Reel of Tape with Many Edits

Friday, February 5, 2016

It's 1952: Bob Bowfinger Leaves for the Army

Anytime I have the chance to buy a reel to reel tape with paper backing (as opposed to the various plastic backings which have been around since at least the early 1950's), I jump at the chance, and I am usually quick to see if the tape contains what such a backing suggests - a tape recorded during the dawn of the reel-to-reel era, more or less from just after World War II through the point that paper reels were phased out, in the early '50's. Presumably, this was due to the fact that they tore so easily, and perhaps because there tends to be white noise behind recordings made on paper reels. Why this is, I don't know. My guess is that people chose the winning format with their wallets, and that paper backing went away.

Anyway, that excitement was present with today's 3 inch reel of paper-backed reel, which contains a friend (and his mother) bidding farewell to one of their own, a fellow named Bob Bowfinger, on May 6th, 1952, as he prepares to leave for the army.

The tape is six minutes long, and simply captures a few moments in time. Bob's lost his voice a bit, but is able to talk about a movie they've just been to see, and chats with his friend's mother for a moment.

The last third of the tape contains someone singing "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen", for a small audience, followed by someone reciting a prayer. Whether or not this was recorded at the same gathering as the Bowfinger segment, or is in any way connected to it, I have no idea.

Please enjoy this tape, sounding remarkably fine for having been recorded nearly 64 years ago.

Download: 5/6/52: Bob Bowfinger Leaves for the Army