Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 29th year — Over 2,900 questions answered
Most recent column here — 17 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 3, 2015

DEAR JERRY: I was living in Hawaii in 1964, and I suspect we heard some British import recordings that folks on the mainland didn't.

K-POI played a version of "September in the Rain," a hit earlier by Dinah Washington, but it was either by Herman's Hermits, or someone similar.

With a rock beat, it sounded more like Jody Miller's "He Walks Like a Man" than previous versions of "September in the Rain."

Can you identify this obscurity?
—Connie Bishop, Sedona, Ariz.

DEAR CONNIE: By knowing the exact year, you made finding the info a snap.

The only 45 of "September in the Rain" in '64 is by the Wedgwoods, who are often shown incorrectly as Wedgewoods, even on the K-poi survey. Their U.S. single (Limelight 3025) came out in June and it was indeed on the K-Poi "Weekly Programming and Record Buyer's Guide," confirming it's the one you ask about.

Other than Honolulu, Gallup, New Mexico and Fort Worth, Texas are two other cities where this tune made someone's regional survey.

A couple of months earlier, "September in the Rain" came out in the UK (Pye 7N,15642), but it failed to make the NME (New Musical Express) chart.

And yes, the music is reminiscent of "He Walks Like a Man."

DEAR JERRY: Thanks to liner notes on album covers I have learned quite a bit about music history.

There is, however, one cover with a comment that has me very curious.

The LP is "Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants" (Prestige 7150), and on the back cover says that "The Man I Love" was previously issued on 16 rpm.

Say what?

I know most phonographs in the 1950s had four speeds, 16, 33, 45, and 78, but, other than giant transcriptions for radio stations, I never saw an ordinary LP that played at 16 rpms.

Is this perhaps a typo?
—Richard Lewison, Lincoln, Neb.

DEAR RICHARD: There is no typo in the portion you provide, but there is a serious shortage of details.

"The Man I Love," a Gershwin standard, was one of four tunes recorded by Miles Davis on Christmas Eve, 1954. Joining him on that session for Prestige Records were Milt Jackson (vibes); Thelonious Monk (piano); Percy Heath (bass); and Kenny Clarke (drums).

Following the first take of "The Man I Love," an alternative was recorded.

Two takes were also made of "Bags' Groove," and one each of "Bemsha Swing" and "Swing Spring."

In 1955, Prestige released "Miles Davis All Stars, Volume 2" (PRLP-200), a 10-inch LP with just two lengthy tracks: "Bemsha Swing" backed with "The Man I Love" [Take 1].

Come January 1957, Prestige took advantage of the only benefit offered by manufacturing 16 rpm albums, and they describe it thusly on their covers:

"16, which actually stands for 16 2/3 rpm, is the modern speed in phonograph records. The equivalent of two twelve inch 33 1/3 rpm recordings on one twelve inch disc is the result."

Instead of an approximate 40 minute audio capacity at the 33 speed, running at 16 accommodates 80 minutes of content on one 12-inch LP.

If that amount of time sounds familiar, it is coincidentally identical to the recommended burn time on a standard compact disc.

The trade off and the ultimate downfall of the 16 speed was lousy fidelity, especially with music.

Anyone familiar with reel-to-reel magnetic tape recordings knows a seven-inch reel holds four hours at 1 7/8 ips (inches per second); two hours at 3 1/4 ips; one hour at 7 1/2 ips; and 30 minutes at 15 ips.

And as with records, the storage capacity is inversely proportional to the speed, whereas the fidelity is directly proportional.

This explains why most of the 16 rpm records made contained either background music or a spoken word presentation.

Jazz aficionados were understandably stunned while asking "what on earth is Prestige thinking?"

Aside from it being the first issue of "The Man I Love [Take 2]," there is another positive for those who bought and retained the Prestige 16 rpm LP, and that is its value now is in the $300 to $500 range

IZ ZAT SO? If you think 16 rpm is a slow spinning record, that would be like greased lightning compared to the world's slowest LP.

In 2012, Jack White and Third Man Records celebrated their third anniversary by producing a various artists compilation LP that plays at 3 rpm. And that's not a typo.

Just three revolutions per minute, and it does of course require a very special (variable speed) turntable.

Titled "The First Three Years of Blue Series Singles (On One LP at 3 rpm)" (TMR 143), this blue vinyl disc contains 56 tracks from both sides of Third Man singles made by 28 different artists.

That's close to 90 minutes per side.

Originally handed out at no charge to those attending a Jack White show (March 8, 2012), the few that popped up in online auctions sold quickly for around $1,500.

I think it's safe to say they were all unplayed.

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