Thursday, 24 January 2013

Remastered music!!!

The last few weeks have been fairly miserable here at Bramble Cottage except for the batch of red current jelly  we made from frozen summer juice.. Julie has experienced what she calls the worst cold ever coughing like an earthquake. I have tried all her symptoms but concentrated on coughing and tiredness, having insomnia for several weeks too has not helped either. Trying to read a book or watch something I have recorded for the TV has given me a few naps though, but put the book down and try to sleep in bed and I become unnaturally wide awake…

The weather has been miserable too with howling winds and rain sleet, hail, frost and snow following each other at random. Weather from the east always chills this house down so I spend most of the time with my gardening fleece jacket over my normally cosy indoor clothes. Not very glamorous but nor is the rest of me being a month or more overdue a visit to the hair dressers and for my pal Ali to tidy up the increasingly bushy eyebrows. Until the weather calms down I am not going to commit myself to a fixed appointment…

I got bored and rare for me I downloaded Al Stewart’s first three albums as a reduced price package, I still like to hold discs in my hands! I have also been into the ice cold attic to find old LPs from the period, do you remember 12 inch diameter plastic disks, usually black which you could scratch music off with a sharp pointy thing on a stick.

Two things have struck me about music this week. 

Firstly the old LPs have a really different warmer sound, a few crackles because I could not find my disc vacuum and antistatic machine, thankfully when they were packed away some time in the last century the were all pristine. Lps give you a lot of exercise! There is also the ceremony, like a tea ceremony of first removing the outer protective plastic sleeve then withdrawing the inner sleeve with the disc taking care not to touch the surface. After a careful examination for dirt or damage the first side is chosen and sadly skipping the ritual cleaning process it is then offered to the turntable like a precious sacrifice. When I first moved in here my hi fi replaced the existing ultra low fi system but I soon realised that my turntable and delicate pickup arm and hand polished diamond stylus was not going to survive for long since at the end of each side it had to be manually lifted and parked but my fellow hose mates considered the action to be on a par with pulling carrots from the garden and tried to use equivalent force. I replaced it with a deck which could be operated from ten feet away with a remote and it is still spinning happily thirty years later.

Secondly, “remastered” is one of the nastiest words in the language! It means that you have just bought a CD or download of a once loved piece of music and some clown has taken it upon themselves to butcher it. What was once a piece of it’s era looses smoothness and becomes sharp and brittle, alternative takes sometimes get used and the balance changes, even add things which were never there before. For good measure totally inappropriate “bonus” tracks appear. These idiots would restore old master paintings by cleaning with caustic soda then add a few flourishes with felt tip pens!! You can imagine what I think about colourised old B & W films, not seen a good clip yet…

So my ears are not as bad as I thought, though perhaps it would be better if they were. My enthusiasm to rediscover Al’s music and other from the period like Jimmie Spheeris, Nick Drake, Michael Chapman, John Renbourn and Pentangle was somewhat diminished the more I played. If I had only thought about why I buried this period of my late teenage years…

I had escaped an overpowering colourless family home life for one of a poor student but free at last to discover myself. Music played it’s part hinting at possible lives which others had lived sharing intimate relationships. The music at once offered hope and also triggered deep despair. Nobody wanted to  or would want to be with such a strange creature as me. All my beliefs about who and what I was became confirmed as did the fact that it was perfectly possible to correct the problem but I was also told that I would not get help in this lifetime! 

I would have been happy to just cut off the testosterone supply but got a rant about how how it was important to breed with an equally bright girl to help maintain some kind of superior lineage! I would soon forget all my nonsense!!! The music became a taunt. Folksy guitar gave way to loud hypnotic rock and body throbbing concerts…

You would have thought I should have learned by now, Led Zeppelin”s first LP was transferred to disc without extras but remastered and unbearable to listen to, think I will use it as a spinning bird scarer in the vegetable garden before it annoys me again. I have found the original LP and look forward to a chance to try it at 11 on the volume control.


  1. Sacrificing the old so that the new can live

    Story of my life

  2. I went through quite a period of purism of sound and still have valve pre and power amps knocking about. Well they are big beasts so not exactly knocking - I have trouble lifting the power amp these days. The sound they produced with vinyl was something to behold (although my eclectic taste won't suit many). These days though convenience always wins - my ears are not so discerning and waiting 30+ minutes for it to warm up properly to get the best sound is way too long.

    It's now MP3 (high bit rate though) with smaller and neater speakers. If I had the money I would go electrostatic but who has that kind of money. Not me for sure.

    I do still have a fondness for my vinyl collection but they don't get much light these days, There was far more reverence to music in the past. I can still recall my first introduction to music - an old gramophone my parents had on which I endlessly played my parents 78's. Black and White flag a particular favourite. Happy times.


    PS Do ladies of leisure have a number 11 on the volume dial?

  3. LeAnne & Becca. At occasional moments of madness or is it joy I blow the dust off the speakers with some old rock music and feel the room move and base notes shake my body as 350 wpc gets to warm the room...Not the pair of stacked Quad electrostatics I thought I would have... The old Quad system is now just in the bedroom.

    I was never averse to spending absolutely everything I had on a good music machine, The silvery towers were cast offs when my friend's father died, he did not want them when his mother threw them out...

    Now I do feel like a dinosaur when I see the toy like things which produce music these days. A little pink button plugs into the car with hours of music playing at random... I even listen to music on Youtube though that is being ruined by 30 second ads, life is too short to watch those!

    Thank goodness not all music does not have bad associations though now a few days later I am glad that part of "searching for lost time" came out and got laid to rest so that I can once more admire a wizened older Michael Chapman still playing his guitar.

    Even Julie has discovered the joys of the volume control playing her favourite Wagner at about 9...

  4. The good ol' days of vinyl and proper amps. Hi fidelity really was high then with valve amps producing sound faithful to the original, including harmonics. You'll always get that with analogue reproduction. The only advantage with digital is the ability to manipulate, something you really don't want in music such as 're-mastering'. It just spoils it for me. All my vinyls, singles and LP's are in pristine condition too which is surprising for the amount of playing they got but that is due to the care and attention that was demanded if you wanted to maintain the quality. Real enthusiasts didn't mind the care and attention required.

    Shirley Anne x


Many thanks to all who ever joined in the conversation and to those who took the time to follow my zig zag to a new life..

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