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How Records Were Made – JazzWax

How Records Were Made – JazzWax


How Records Were Made


Back before Spotify and clouds and downloads and iTunes and CDs, there were things called records, which today are making something of a comeback. First came single-song sides spinning at 78rpm, followed by the 10-inch album, the 7-inch 45rpm and the 12-inch LP. Turntables came with a tonearm and a stylus needle attached. When you placed the needle on one of those records, music magically emerged from the speakers.


The whole concept was ingenious and baffling—a durable platter with music hidden in its grooves, music that could only be revealed when the tonearm needle rode the disc. The average record-buyer didn't really know how the technology worked, but it didn't matter. As you watched the record spin, something electronically nifty took place between the silvery needle, the shiny disc and the speakers. Sounds of musicians playing emerged, sounds that were the same over and over again, no matter how many times you played the record.


At different points in time, record companies created films to tout the recording and record-pressing process and to promote the marvel of recorded music and new advances in fidelity. I found five of these films on YouTube:

Here's RCA's Command Performance, which in 1942 showed viewers how records were recorded and made. The film came on the eve of the first American Federation of Musicians' recording ban that began in August of that year…


Here's Capitol's 1951 film Wanna Buy a Record?, a whimsical promotional short starring Mel Blanc and Billy May. The film came at a moment in time when record-industry sales were falling due to consumer confusion over the speed war between Columbia's new 33 1/3 LP format and RCA's 45rpm. People stopped buying records until the format battle was resolved in '52. That's when RCA threw in the towel and begin producing LPs while Columbia and the rest of the industry embraced the 45 as a more durable and convenient replacement for the 78 single…  


Here's RCA's The Sound and the Story. It was released in 1956, when the 12-inch LP began replacing the 10-inch album as the industry standard for all forms of music…


Here's RCA's New Dimensions in Sound, a 1957 film to educate buyers about a new technological advance—stereo…


And here, in 1958, RCA chimed in again with its Living Stereo film…




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