My younger son recently produced a full length album of his electronic music entirely on his iPad and has some of it on SoundCloud. It is an amazing, all-digital process that is a world away from what was possible just a decade ago. When I took a few classes in music as an undergraduate, we were still splicing tape and dealing with ground loops and finicky pre-MIDI timing woes. It is amazing to think about how recording techniques have changed since the early days of the LP. There are plenty of written records, but now we have a fun video of the process!
Today I found a cool video via JazzWax. It is a promotional video that takes the viewer from the record store all the way back through the recording and mastering process down to making the pressings. It is a fascinating look inside the process and technology of putting together a musical recording … 60 years ago!
Here is some info:
Filmed in wonderful color, this special promotional film was made in 1951 , it is 35 minutes long & is of perfect quality! This lost gem was never shown to the public & was used for promotional use only among record executives! It hasn’t been seen in over 55 years!! What’s on it? well, we get to see lots of great color footage of Hollywood landmarks first up.
Mel plays a record dealer who is desperately trying to sell anyone a record at the corner of Sunset & Vine streets in Hollywood, California. While pestering several people, (including Yogi Yorgeson!!), Billy May approaches playing a regular guy walking down the street, Mel takes him into his record store, (Wallichs Music City) & proceeds to pitch everything in the store to him.
In the end Billy won’t pay the 85 cents for a record & Mel decides to show him exactly how records are made! They go over to the Capitol Records recording studios on Melrose Avenue & meet with Alan Livingston who takes them on a tour, here is where they run into several famous folks while getting into a little bit of mischief along the way! We get to see rare footage of Dean Martin in the studio actually recording one of his hit records! they run into Les Paul and Mary Ford, a vocal group, a country & western singer (Merle Travis?), and even Bozo the clown!
Some background – after World War II, record companies were looking to move away from the old hard and fragile 78RPM records (like the one broken when May first enters the store), and a ‘format war’ had just ended with the 33-1/3RPM LP standard winning out. However, at that point nobody was buying records – they were happy with 78s, didn’t want to buy new equipment or invest too much in an obsolete format, so sales of both LPs and 78s were extremely slow – as shown with Mel Blanc taking to the street to try to lure in customers.
It is interesting to note the amazing array of people seen: the record store owner is Mel Blanc (no coincidence he is hawking Bugs Bunny records!), and the customer is Billy May, who was one of the great all-time arrangers working with big bands and singers like Frank Sinatra, and the ‘Mr. Livingston’ who gave the tour signed Frank Sinatra to Capitol and later recorded the Beatles for EMI (not by choice, apparently!), guitar innovator and legend Les Paul, an actual session with Dean Martin, and Bozo the Clown!
The video is rather long – 30 minutes! But it is amazing to watch and see this elaborate process used to make 33-1/3RPM albums for so many years. And it is highly entertaining – with a few rather sexist moments that would be entirely unacceptable today!