Category Archives: Radio

Click to his brother’s Clack

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.

Dale Dorman, the voice of Boston Top 40 radio

Dale Dorman, 1943-2014

Dale Dorman, 1943-2014

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.

Come to the Sunshine

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.

Andrew Sandoval, "Come to the Sunshine"

Andrew Sandoval, “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.”

The glory of vinyl

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.

Ray Dolby, 1933-2013

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.

The Bose Wall of Sound

Amar Bose has died. I drive past the Bose headquarters almost every day, and I felt obliged to buy a Bose Wave Music System after having the porch remodeled. There really is no other product that does what the Wave does for its size.

Bose 901 Series II loudpspeaker

Bose 901 Series II loudspeaker

In high school, when I was bitten by the stereo bug, the Bose 901 speakers were a big deal. It became a joke that if you walked into a stereo store you were guaranteed to hear Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein played full blast on a pair of Bose 901’s.

Personally, I never cared for the sound of the heavily-equalized Bose 901, preferring instead the designs of Roy Allison, but I have to admire Amar Bose for his marketing savvy and his profit margins. He had the vision to lead the home audio trend away from ever-bigger box speakers by introducing tiny stereo satellites that were coupled with a dedicated bass unit that could be hidden under an end table. The innovative and imitated Bose noise-cancelling headphones are very successful.

Greater Boston has a great and grand tradition in audio, but now it’s mostly in the past. Acoustic Research, KLH, Advent, H.H. Scott, EPI, Genesis, Allison, Snell, ADS, Cizek, Avid and Apt are long gone. Boston Acoustics was sold years ago and NAD is in Canada. Only the Bose Corporation endures with its name and heritage intact, and that is a testament to the leadership of Amar Bose.

Addendum: In 1971 Bose sued Consumer Reports for libel, because its review of the 901 Series I loudspeaker stated that the stereo image “wandered around the room.” Not yet knowing of the CU lawsuit, but having read the review at the library, I had the exact same impression of the Series I when I heard it in early 1972. A year later the 901 Series II was introduced and the “ten feet tall violin” effect had been tamed. I assumed Bose had taken the criticism to heart and fixed the problem, which can also be affected by speaker placement, so I was surprised when I learned of the lawsuit in one of the hi-fi magazines I devoured in those days. Bose should have dropped the case, but it dragged on for over ten years and went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Bose lost.

Addendum 2: Atlantic Technology is still in business, in Norwood, MA.