Yikes! There are only a few days left to catch Brian “Friend of the Blog” Sibley’s six-part BBC Radio adaptation of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King”. The King is, of course, King Arthur, and his wizard is the great and grand Merlyn [sic]. “The Sword in the Stone” is part two. Click here to listen.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, are Boston originals. The best comedy duo of brothers since the Smothers, Tom and Ray also happened to fix cars, and they started the Good News Garage in Cambridge before hosting “Car Talk” on WBUR (Boston University Radio), leading to the show being picked up by NPR. The garage was originally a DIY business, and my brother used to go there to learn how to work on his VW Bug.
I genuinely loved listening to “Car Talk”. I realize that some people of a more serious bent didn’t always appreciate the banter and kidding around that Tom and Ray loved to indulge, but I delighted in it and I always looked forward to the Puzzler and, especially, Stump the Chumps. Sadly, Tom Magliozzi has passed away.
Boston radio DJ Dale Dorman has died. He joined WRKO-AM in 1968, the same year that WBCN-FM went from Classical to counter-culture. Dale provided the perfect contrast to the underground sound of ‘BCN. He was a DJ with a distinctive voice and personality that was just right for the Top 40 format — top 30 at ‘RKO — and he was essential to helping ‘RKO become a longtime ratings leader.
Something that Denro and I talk about incessantly is how drastically music changed year-to-year in the 1960’s. The best place to go for a thorough and insightful exploration of Sixties popular music is Andrew Sandoval’s unique and outstanding online show, Come to the Sunshine.
After Pop gave way to the Psychedelic shake-up of 1967, 1968 was the year when underground FM stations started to take over the older teen market. The influence of FM on AM could be heard in records like this one, which became an unlikely top 20 hit.
What made underground, aka Hippie, radio possible in the Sixties? The same thing that was behind other 60’s happenings like NASA, the pre-Internet Arpanet, and the Vietnam War. The United States Government, that’s what.
To promote the adoption of FM stereo radio, on January 1, 1967 an FCC mandate went into effect that required radio broadcasters to no longer simulcast their AM signals over their FM stations. College-aged disc jockeys started to flood the airwaves in major cities, formats changed overnight, and instead of playing the latest singles they played album cuts.
The iconic Boston station, WBCN, had an overnight format change, but it didn’t happen because of the simulcast requirement. What made ‘BCN possible was the desperation of the owner of a failing all-Classical station. Former ‘BCN disc jockey Carter Alan, who is now on WZLX in Boston, has the story in his excellent book, “Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN.”
This 1956 educational film from RCA explains the process of recording, producing, and manufacturing vinyl records. Stereo recording was a very new innovation at the time, and stereo records as we know them weren’t available until 1958. Note that 12″ LP’s were introduced by Columbia, not RCA, which developed the 7″ 45 rpm format for singles.
Another audio technology pioneer has passed away. Ray Dolby started at Ampex, working on magnetic tape recorders that were based on German machines captured at the end of WWII by Jack Mullin. Later, Dolby made major contributions to Ampex’s development of the first video tape recorder. In the 1960’s, when recording studios went from four to eight tracks — leaving less surface area on the tape for each track — hiss was the result, and the Dolby A noise reduction system was developed to alleviate the problem. Dolby B was the consumer version of the circuit. Today, every HDTV has Dolby Digital decoding built in. I know somebody who worked at Dolby Labs. I’ll see if I can pry out a comment about the man.
Addendum: Somebody who worked at Dolby Labs says…
He was a very very nice man, quiet, extremely intelligent, good-natured. The company under his leadership was a marvelous place to work, where engineers had the ability to follow ideas, where the technology was cutting edge. He was also an extremely good businessman, and understood the power of licensing. His engineering contributions to early recording were ground-breaking.
… and the comments at this link are recommended.