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November 13, 2020:

THE ENIGMA OF THE WARNER BROS. RECORD

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, we had us a real old fashioned enigma last night and today.  Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, we had us a real old fashioned enigma that began on Wednesday night and continued through yesterday and last night.  Here’s what it was about: I was scrolling through iTunes and saw that I’d uploaded/purchased from website a recording I’d loved as a kid of fourteen.  So, I played a bit of it and remembered when I’d downloaded it that it was monophonic in sound.  Now, this album actually came out in 1958 but I got it sometime in early 1962 when I saw it in a record store.  I bought it solely because I had seen West Side Story in December of 1962 and had become obsessed with it, seeing it every Saturday at the matinee showing, but also seeing it several times at other showings, too.  I’m guessing I probably saw it about thirty times at the Chinese.  So, whenever I saw any record that had something to do with West Side Story, no matter how tenuous the connection, I bought it – that included the soundtrack, of course, which I played to death, and also the Broadway cast album.  It also included Stan Kenton’s West Side Story on Capitol, Oscar Peterson’s jazz version, and several other jazz covers and I loved them all because – they were West Side Story.  Then one day, probably at Wallichs Music City on one of my theater visits to the Huntington Hartford, which began in 1961, I found this album with an intriguing cover, the title of which was N.Y. Export: Op. Jazz from Ballets U.S.A. Under that it said, “Choreography by Jerome Robbins.  Well, I certainly knew who he was – he co-directed and choreographed the West Side Story film.  And I loved the photo from the ballet on the cover.  But it was the bottom half of the cover that sold me instantly: Ballet Music from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.  Sale. I fell in love with the album and not only the West Side Story part – I fell in love with Robert Prince’s music for the other piece.  And I loved the ballet music – at that point, I hadn’t heard Leonard Bernstein’s own recording of Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, so this recording was my introduction and I just loved the sound of it and everything about it.

For many years, I’ve craved this album, but it’s never been issued on CD.  And then I finally found that download thing, clearly taken from a worn LP – an overseas site that doesn’t have to worry about copyright – and in mono.  Now, my memory told me that I had a stereo copy of this album.  And as you know, my memory is pretty infallible and not to be messed with.  But in searching on the Internet I found tons of copies of the LP on various sites and in Google images, all of which were mono – not one copy in stereo and I actually began to doubt myself.  I looked for a stereo logo over and over and found none and even the LP label was gray, which was the color for mono records.  But I knew Warner Bros. had done stereo in 1958 because I had both Auntie Mame and John Paul Jones in stereo from that very year.  So, it was very baffling to me.  I carefully went through all the eBay listings a second time, and one I’d passed over because there was no stereo on the cover looked a little odd to me, so I clicked on it and it looked odd because it wasn’t the LP, it was the commercially released reel-to-reel tape in – STEREO.  Clearly, they weren’t releasing mono on reel-to-reel tape at that time.  So, that was very good news that my memory had not failed me.  But what of all those mono LPs and not one in stereo.  That continued to baffle me all day yesterday until dear reader ChasSmith found he had the LP and in stereo.  He posted a photo of the front and back cover and then all became clear: In 1958 through some of 1959, Warner Bros. did not indicate stereo anywhere on the front cover.  What they did is put a little tiny box on the very top of the back cover to the left of center – if it was a gray box it said mono, and if it was a red box it said stereo.  You can barely even see it.  More interesting is that the album number on the back of the stereo was BS 1240, while the cover was B 1240, which was their designation for mono.  I’m guessing they just didn’t want to go to the expense of doing two different front covers in full color, but who knows.  It was still early days for stereo records.  In researching further, I found the 1959 LP for 77 Sunset Strip, which was the same deal – nothing on the front cover.  But by the release of the soundtrack to The Nun’s Story in 1959 stereo finally made the cover and they were now calling their stereo records Vitaphonic Stereo on the back cover so that you couldn’t miss it.  For the older records with no stereo on the cover, I discovered that they made special plastic shrink wraps with a WB logo and STEREO writ large.  So, here’s a photo of the front cover WITH the plastic shrink on it and a photo of the back so you can see the little red box.

Isn’t that fascinating.  I bought the reel-to-reel, as it was very cheap, so that will be coming, but in the meantime, dear readers ChasSmith is making me a copy of his stereo LP so I can at least hear it properly.  I’ll probably have someone transfer the reel-to-reel, too.  But I also e-mailed my contact at Rhino, who licenses the Warner Bros. catalog and with whom I’ve done quite a few licensing deals and asked him about potentially licensing it – it would have to be a good deal as the album is only forty-two minutes long, or they might allow me to pair it with something and I have something in mind if they do, a favorite movie theme album from my youth with Ray Heindorf conduction and if not that, a George Greeley WB album I also loved.  Both would make a fine pairing.  He hasn’t gotten back to me, which is unusual for him, so I’m concerned that they perhaps laid off some people.  I’m hoping he does get back to me because it’s something I’d like to do – it wouldn’t sell that great, but it would just tickle me to have it available.  And there you have the tale of the enigma of the Warner Bros. LP, happily solved thanks to a reel-to-reel tape and dear reader ChasSmith.

Yesterday was okay, I think.  I only got five hours of sleep, arising at nine.  I forwarded orders, answered e-mails and got another track to a singer, chose one of the three songs I had to choose, then around noon I got back in bed and slept another hour, so six hours that felt like five.  Once back up, I moseyed on over to the mail place and picked up packages and an important envelope.  On the way home, I stopped at the local branch of my bank and attempted to make a deposit in the ATM, but it’s the last time I will ever use the machines there.  Two weeks ago I tried the same and it not only wouldn’t process the deposit, it didn’t return the check, so I had to call and jump through hoops to get it credited. This time it verified the amount of the check but instead of getting to the next step it said it was returning the check, which couldn’t be processed, and they couldn’t help with this account.  Thankfully, the check did come back out.  I immediately called the bank and told them they had to get someone out to service these lame ATMs – I’ve never had a problem with any ATM anywhere ever but here.  And I said when it gives you a message like that it makes the account holder think something has gone awry with the account and that’s not good to do to people where there is, in fact, nothing wrong with the account.  She assured me she would put through a report.  I then went inside the bank and deposited with a teller and I told her the same story.  Ridiculous.  After that, I came home.

By this time, I was super hungry, so I ordered from California Pizza Kitchen, my beloved roasted garlic chicken pizza.  The order went through at 1:55 and would be delivered between 2:25 and 2:35, which is what it usually takes.  But in tracking the order I could see the driver didn’t even get there until 2:35, which means my pizza had already been sitting there for at least fifteen minutes.  It then took said driver another twenty minutes to get to me – a full hour after I ordered, and then said driver left it at the front door without texting me that it was there or ringing the doorbell – both of those instructions are in my order.  It’s the second time this has happened.  So, the food sat out there for an additional five minutes getting even colder.  I only found out it was there because I tracked again, and it said delivered.  I was furious.  I had to put the slices in the microwave, and the problem there is the pizza just isn’t as good when you have to heat it like that.  And it wasn’t.  I did eat it all up, but it just wasn’t as tasty as it usually is.  I then called Grubhub and complained and they credited the meal, so that was good.

After that, I did a few other things that needed doing, listened to the last of the Entremont albums, so I’m through with that set now.  I also had several people ask about my groundbreaking One from Column A – I knew it was all archived over at the Stephen Sondheim Stage, so I found it and posted the link on the discussion board.  I wrote this thing weekly for over two years and it’s most interesting for detailing all of my New York trips during those years.  But there’s a whole lot o’ stuff that’s interesting.  You can see me struggling through the first few columns trying to find the balance and tone and it’s clear when that all clicks in and what sections I got rid of quickly.  I can also see how popular we were – over 1,000 readers a week, which in those days was really something.  And you can see by the letters section that the readership grew and grew, with so many fun folks.  So, for anyone out there in the dark who’s interested, here’s the link.  I do warn that it might be like going down a rabbit hole.  There are MANY parodies there that I’ve never done anything with, some of which are really amusing.  Then I sat on my couch like so much fish.

http://www.sondheim.com/comedy/columna/past/

Last night, I watched the new Indicator Blu and Ray of Sweet Charity.  This was supposed to originally be the full roadshow thing – overture, entr’acte, and exit music included – the latter two items were missing from Kino’s release because I don’t think anyone at Kino actually knows anything about the films they release.  They’re in the bulk business and will either take whatever transfer they’re given and not ask questions, or, in the case of Sweet Charity, they actually paid Universal to do a new transfer.  But Kino really screwed up by not realizing the entr’acte and exit music were missing until fans pointed it out.  They never addressed it, of course, which is the way they do things.  Then Indicator licensed it for the UK and got Universal to agree to give them the entr’acte and exit music.  But then the release kept getting pushed back and pushed back and we all knew something was up and they finally admitted that they couldn’t get the entr’acte and exit music and the release would be the same as the Kino release, albeit with new extras and the ability to play the overture as part of the film.

Well, I immediately made a guess, not that I have any direct knowledge, just a guess, that Kino had called Universal and whined that they’d paid for the transfer and that it would probably hurt their sales if Indicator had this extra material.  And Universal said okay and reneged with Indicator. And I was not silent about this supposition because I knew if I was wrong (and many folks over at the Home Theatre Forum completely agreed with me that it was the only scenario that made sense) that Kino would speak right up and deny it.  And yet, they didn’t.  And the supposition hasn’t gone away, and everyone pretty much guesses the same now. If Kino hadn’t screwed up in the first place it wouldn’t be an issue.  But that wasn’t the only problem with the Kino – the sound level was about 9db lower than any other Blu-ray I own – I literally had to put my amp as loud as it would go to get any semblance of correct sound, which is absolutely ridiculous, but again, I don’t think anyone there has a clew.  That, too, is just a guess, of course.  When I put in the Indicator disc and chose play film with overture, I was instantly dismayed that the overture was that same low level BS.  I’d read that they’d fixed the sound, but this wasn’t fixed at all.  Happily, as soon as the film proper began the sound went up about 9db and all was well with the world.  So, at least that’s right, and I also think the disc is authored better and therefore looks a bit better.  I wish Indicator nothing but happy sales because they fixed the sound issue and they tried to do the right thing.  I like the movie more every time I watch it.

After that, I did a Ralph’s run, got some more of those Healthy Choice frozen dinner things, some apples and grapes, and a few other little things.  I came home, listened to some music and the rest you know.  My goodness, these are LONG notes.

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’ll choose the final two songs, hopefully pick up some packages, eat, and then at some point watch, listen, and relax.

The weekend will be getting tracks to people, and I’m happy to say the final guest I was waiting on will indeed join us so it’s a very stellar line up.  I’ll try to get some ME time in, too.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up when I’m up, do whatever needs doing, choose the final two songs, hopefully pick up packages, eat, and then watch, listen, and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player and your DVD/Blu and Ray player?  I’ll start – CD, for once, nothing.  Blu-ray, the cult film Dementia.  Your turn.  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy that the enigma of the Warner Bros. records was solved.

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