Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Static in the Air

Posted to OGR on 08/08/2010

Back in the day, AM radio was king and during the late summer there was usually a thunderstorm around to add a little punctuation to the music on the air. When the storm was close, you could hardly hear the music or your favorite DJ. When it was distant the static merged with the scratches on the record to create a counterpoint to the song. While I kid, late at night, I was usually in my room, listening to the radio and watching the lightning from a distant storm through the screen of the open window as the night came alive in my back yard. I often wondered what that sounded like to the DJ playing the music. When, at last, I was that DJ playing the music, I realized it sounded pretty much the same. Rock and Roll from the 50s through the 70s was recorded with AM radio in mind and sounded better on AM. The static and scratches were part of the experience.

They say that smell is the sense that evokes memories the strongest. Do you remember the smell that came from the record player while you played records? That was the smell of microscopic pieces of vinyl scraped off by the needle of the player as it tracked through the grooves. All that came back to me last Wednesday. I posted on Facebook that I was going to be doing a show at WUSC-FM that morning. A friend and fellow radio DJ who works at a different station posted back that she loved the smell of vinyl there. When I saw that, I went back to the record library and took a deep breath. Yes – there was that old smell. I closed my eyes and I was transported back to the control room of WCOS- AM. I could hear again the slight whir of the turntable mechanism spinning that heavy 16 inch transcription platter, the small “click-click” the old rotary “pots” made as I raised and lowered the volume mixing the music, jingles and commercials, and the little squeak in the “air chair. There was an art to “queuing up a record” and if you were real lucky because the turntable did not come to speed fast enough when started, you had to “slip que” them, that is, hold the edge of the record under your fingertips. You released the record when you wanted to start the music. Try that while talking and operating an audio console! Oh MY! Not too many radio control rooms have turntables in them these days. I miss them.

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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