Some YouTube surfing this afternoon led me to:
This was the first version of “Rudolph” in my conscious lifetime. It came off the album whose album art you see, which came out in 1978, not long after I decided to hatch. This also means that every song from this album was the first such version of these songs in my conscious lifetime.
As I listened now, and I haven’t heard it in a very long time, I want to say since I was either nine or ten years old, I wondered two things: First, this version in this YT video is noticeably faster than the one I remember, and also, the version I remember had a hell of a lot more bass.
It only took me a few minutes to figure out why.
When I was listening to this as a kid, I was often listening through my mother’s Tonecrest console stereo. My adventures with that piece of equipment, I wrote about in this space almost a year ago. If you’re a Millennial or younger, you’ve probably never even seen a console stereo, and my Google Image Search, while it didn’t lead me to precisely the particular one she owned, did lead me to a pretty close enough approximation thereof, for you to see what I’m talking about:
This particular console was a Zenith of the 1965 model year. My mother’s Tonecrest, she bought in 1968 (give or take, thanks to her memory). Tonecrest was a registered trademark of the May Corporation, meaning Famous-Barr, and of course, for a lot of years, she had a line of revolving credit from Famous, so that she bought it from Famous (the odds are high that she bought it from the old F-B on Kingshighway and Chippewa), is not a surprise. My bet, looking at some of the Google Image Search results, is that Tonecrest was just the store branding, and that Zenith actually manufactured the units. Similarly, from around the late ’70s to early ’80s, JC Penney sold stereo components under the house brand MCS, but they were actually manufactured by Technics mostly or NEC in a few cases.
Since the first direct drive turntables hit the American market not until 1969, under the Technics label, speaking of, and even then, they were separate component turntables and not part of any console or set, this means that for sure, any turntable sold before then was a belt-drive turntable. One thing we know about belts is that with age and use, they lose their elasticity, and if the belts control a spinning item, over time and with use, the item won’t spin as fast as it did when the belts were new. That we can see with washing machines, though more and more washing machines are direct-drive instead of belt-drive, for that reason. (Replacing a broken belt on a washing machine is no fun.) So, by the time Disney released the Christmas album, and I understood what I was hearing, my mother’s console was well more than a decade old. That means the record was spinning on a turntable that was slowing down, a bit slower than the proscribed 33 1/3 RPM (and all the other RPM settings as well). That means all along I was hearing an artificially slow version. That takes care of the speed issue.
As far as bass, that was easy, too. These consoles were actually very good bass machines, though their appearances and the size of their woofers belied the reality. They didn’t shake the neighborhood or annoy the neighbors, but they gave you very noticeable and accurate mid-low frequency reproduction. In contrast, when I listened to this YT video just a while ago, it was through my desktop computer and its Logitech 2.1-system speakers. Yes, even with a discrete subwoofer, it didn’t crank out the bass that I remember.
So, what I did was rip the audio from this video, convert to MP3, use Audacity to slow down both pitch and tempo by 1%, save that file, and then listen through my Sennheisers. And there you go, just as I remember.
Who the hell knew strolling down memory lane would be such a hassle?