Sergeant Pepper

AM was and is low fidelity if we ignore the few HD AM stations. FM, however, has sufficient broadcast bandwidth to do justice to the theme album market, which was pioneered by Beatles producer George Martin.

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Mike McCarthy
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Sergeant Pepper

Postby Mike McCarthy » Fri May 01, 2015 7:36 pm

When the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album was released in 1967 I tentatively decided it was time for me to join the stereo hi-fi revolution. This decision was made final by the release of Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?" since it contained "Purple Haze", which had grabbed me by the throat with the opening two bars and then shaken me back and forth with the next two.

Setting a budget of ... what ... probably $500, equivalent to $7500 today, I spent the better part of a year researching commercially available components and packaged systems. As best I recall I eventually settled on all-transistor recent design components as follows ...

Scott FM stereo tuner in kit form
Shure? adjustable tracking force turntable with speed control and anti-skate
Pickering stereo magnetic phono cartridge with oval tip sapphire stylus
TEAC stereo 7.5/15 ips reel-to-reel tape deck with speed control
Scott? integrated pre-amp and 2 x 8-band EQ, with headphone jack, also a kit
Scott? 50 watts-per-side power amp, another kit
AR-5 speakers -- woofer, midrange, tweeter, with adjustable crossover resistor network
Decent headphones, I don't remember whose, nominally 20 hz to 22 khz
Attractive cabinet furniture system to house everything except the speakers

Apart from an Aiwa dual cassette drive AM/FM CD stereo bookshelf system used in the Golden MIDI business in the late 80s, this is the only high fidelity music system I have ever owned. It lasted for twenty years of trouble-free operation, finally scrapped not because it wasn't working but because the small footprint Aiwa did everything I needed after I closed Golden MIDI. The Aiwa died ten years ago. I haven't replaced it.

Every component of my late 60s audio system was top of the low end, so to speak -- reasonably flat frequency response, reasonably low Schottky noise, reasonably low harmonic distortion, reasonably low intermodulation distortion. Kits helped hold down the costs, allowing me to put together the best system that $500 would buy at the time. A noticeably better system would have cost ten times as much.

Why the tape deck? Because I wanted to tape the few albums I would buy, wearing out comparatively inexpensive tapes instead of comparatively expensive vinyl albums and phono cartridge styluses. All other music would be captured via the FM tuner, and some of that would be taped on the TEAC. It was a good plan. The albums remained in great shape and my daughter still listens to some of them today on the comparably fancy modern stereo component system she and her husband own. (Which cost much less but performs just as well.)

I had been listening to the Beatles all along, on AM radio. Now that I had the equipment required to do justice to the outro of "A Day In The Life", I purchased all their LPs going back to "Meet the Beatles". Like everyone else I waited impatiently for the 1968 release of the White Album. When I got it I played it once to clean out the manufacturing junk from the microgrooves of the vinyl LPs ... ... and I never played it again.

As far as I was concerned the White Album was appalling garbage. "Revolution" was okay but "Rocky Raccoon" was an embarrassment. I never bought another Beatles recording. I suspected at the time that they must have broken with producer George Martin and I learned a few weeks ago that this is exactly what happened. Martin walked off the project because they would no longer accept direction from him. (Thanks, Yoko.) You can hear the breakup of the Beatles right there in that album, as Paul McCartney later said.

Not only did I stop listening to the Beatles, I stopped listening to music entirely other than for Jimi Hendrix, who also came to disappoint me. "Are You Experienced" revolutionized rock guitar but it was all downhill from there. I would not listen again till 1987, when I started Golden MIDI, and even then my listening would be very selective, mainly driven by business considerations ... ...

... ... Which is why I had no idea my old friend Tom Werman had become the producer king of what would come to be known on FM radio as Classic Rock.

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