Long Live Rock: Musical Musings

The other day I was listening to the local radio station (which is pretty much the only station in my town) and they play a mix of new pop and classic pop/rock that can sometimes be enjoyable and other times -depending on the mix- downright annoying like the blackflies here in the summer. At any rate, they played a song by the 70’s Canadian group Trooper called “The Boys in the Bright White Sportscar” which was released back in 1979, my final year of High School.

Where were you in ’79?

Call me crazy, but I can remember where I was when I first heard that song, and now, over 40 years later here it is still on the radio. It made me think about the endurance of Rock ‘n Roll. I thought of my parents and what songs were popular when they were 19. So I did an Internet search and found an album on Amazon.com called Hit Parade 1939. It includes songs like Moonlight Serenade, Cherokee, Over the Rainbow, Bubbles in the Wine and many others. Now, be honest, when is the last time you heard Bubbles in the Wine on a broadcast radio station? I thought so.

Then I began to wonder: forty years from now, will we be hearing the Black Eyed Peas, the Dave Matthews Band or Taylor Swift on the radio? I suppose they will be played on an ‘Oldies’ station on the Internet or on satellite radio somewhere and most likely broadcast radio will be dead by then. (No more little transistor radios under the sheets at night, listening to your favourite DJ, I guess!)

Long Live Rock!

Yes, Rock has endured for 60+ years and through many different formats: acetate 78’s, vinyl LP’s and 45’s, reel-to-reel, 8-tracks, compact cassettes, DAT cassettes (briefly), CDs, and even as digital computer files, whether they be MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, or MPEG to name a few of the more popular ones. And the devices we listen to music has changed too. My first exposure to music was on a “portable” record player my older sister used. I listened to her play the Monkees on that. Then we came along the console type stereo that was more furniture than a sound system (see right). I can still recall playing Elton John’s “Don’t Shoot Me, I am Only the Piano Player” on it. Then, Dad purchased a turntable/tuner/8-track unit with separate speakers. My best memory of that is listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” LP on headphones on it.

Get a job!

Then I got a job, and just a few stores down in the mall was an audio/video/camera store where, for a few dollars down, the salesman would let me pay on installments and take the component home before it was paid off. Sweet, eh? He would even let me take items home to test out, like speakers to see how they sounded in my room. Sadly, I no longer have any of those components now, but I learned a lot in those days about sonics and the art of critical listening.

Woofer and tweeters and amps, oh my!

Presently, I have a component stereo system made up of ‘vintage’ items from the 70’s and early 80’s before the age of BPC (Black Plastic Crap). I still love the sound of a good set of speakers (that’s an actual photo of a Snell 10″ woofer I refoamed above) powered through a decent amplifier. The digital age has only made me appreciate music all the more, although the pops and clicks of an LP on my Dual turntable (don’t call it a record player!) and the background hiss of a cassette tape are old friends that I can live with now and then, if you are old enough to know what I am talking about. However, cassette tapes are prone to ‘print through’ being a magnetic medium and over time will lose sound quality. Every play of an LP wears it down due to friction of the stylus in the record’s groove. For now, a CD is the best long-term storage, and it looks like that will not change anytime soon. So, long live rock (and jazz, blues, classical, world……)!

UPDATE (Aug. 24, 2012): since posting this a little over a year ago, a lot has changed with my stereo components. I still have the Snell speakers I reconditioned and the Yamaha cassette deck (in fact I have two different models), but I have replaced my vintage amp with a Pioneer Elite receiver and its matching SACD/CD player:
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I have about a dozen SACDs and i must say that overall, they are a great improvement over the standard ‘Redbook” CD. It is too bad they didn’t catch on with the market outside of the audiophile arena. Most SACDs released these days are either Classical or Jazz reissues. The site SA-CD.net is a good source of information about SACDs.

With my present setup, I can finally say I have acheived the Holy Grail of listening perfection; for my ears, anyway. It is a goal many fail to find and they spend more time and money than they do enjoying the music. To each his own, I guess. The only change I have made to the above setup is the addition of Inakustik speaker cables which have further refined and defined the sound produced by the Pioneers.

What are your musical memories? How has the way you listen to music changed over the years? Or not changed? Please leave a comment below.