I have dedicated previous Tech Rap articles to celebrate Birthdays of the Compact Disc, the Mini Disc, the 8-track tape, and the phonograph. Now it is time for the cassette tape to get its due. And please be sure and read to the end for your chance to vote for your favorite Tech Rap.


The anatomy of a cassette. Image from Pinterest.com


In 1964, fifty-six years ago this month, the same year The Beatles invaded America, Philips introduced the US to the recordable cassette tape (trademarked under the name “Compact Cassette”). Though the new plastic fantastic invention was intended for dictation, two years later, prerecorded music tapes hit the market. For the audio enthusiast, the cassette’s size proved much more convenient than 7” diameter reel-to-reel tapes, 12” records, and 8 tracks, with the ability to easily slip a tape in one’s shirt or pant pocket. Pre-recorded reel to reel music tapes were harder to source and the playback machines were expensive, heavy, and required considerably more real estate. Records had been the dominant format, and according to vintagecasettes.com, it took a good twenty years until cassettes finally outsold their vinyl counterparts.


The Advent Model 201

The revolutionary Advent Model 201 home cassette deck (sans its tinted dust cover). Photo from quadraphonicquad.com.

One consumer electronics product to give the fledgling cassette format a shot in the arm was the Model 200 from 1971 which retailed for $260 and was made in Massachusetts by Advent Corp. Advent was founded in Cambridge by Henry Kloss in 1967 and built high-quality loudspeakers. Advent was also the first company to produce a projection television long before home theater ever became part of our lexicon. But I digress. The Model 200 tape deck used a top-loading Nakamichi transport (before Nakamichi started building decks under their own name) that proved unreliable. The 200 was replaced by the Model 201 which used an industrial-strength, commercial-grade 3M Wollensak transport. It had an analog tape counter, a generously-sized analog VU meter, a single rewind/fast forward lever, a removable dust cover, and was housed in real a wood case. These were not the first consumer home tape decks, but the Advent models were the very first high-fidelity home decks to include patented Dolby B noise reduction for recording and playback (reducing tape hiss by 9dB) and CrO2 (chrome) tape support. The importance of the Model 201 to the evolution of recorded music cannot be overstated. From the Model 201’s original user manual: “…the 201 incorporates more than the usual number of user-accessible adjustments to permit the serious recordist to achieve the recording quality, that, just a short time ago, was thought possible only with the best and most expensive open reel recorder.”


Peter Skiera and Bruce Gregory (right) at Como Audio in 2019. Photo by Ben Merberg.

My friend and former colleague, Bruce Gregory, was a young engineer at Advent Corp. in the 1970’s when he was asked by Henry Kloss to handle the electronic design of the Model 201. I spoke with Gregory by phone and asked him about that project:

PS: Advent was your first major engineering gig?

BG: “Yeah. They hired me because they went in production with the Model 100 Dolby [Noise Reduction Unit], then they [found] out [it didn’t] work. So, they hired me to see if I could straighten it out, which I did. Then we did the [Model] 101 Dolby which [was] either record or playback but not both. Ray Dolby did most of that and I did some of it. I probably started the [Model 201] in late 1970. It took nine months before production.”


Advent’s outboard Advocate Model 101 Dolby Noise Reduction Unit. Photo from eBay.

PS: What can you tell me about the design of the Model 201? Was it difficult?

BG: “Well, okay, for me, it was hard. The electronics…I had never designed a low-noise pre-amp before. So, you know, I went to my transistor theory book [from] college and read through it until I found out the tape head impedance [was] a real factor and you [could] pick some transistors that [worked] with that better than others…pick the right transistor to get low noise. When we were done, it was substantially better than the electronics in the Revox…It had a regulated power supply in it so line voltage wouldn’t affect its performance. It had adjustments on the back for bias…trim pots, for regular tape and chromium tape, so if you wanted to you could adjust your own machine to be super flat. The heads came from Michigan Magnetics who [made] all the heads on, like, your Ampex half inch tape. We had a really good quality tape head. The wow and flutter [were] pretty good. Henry did a kind of unusual board layout. When you [went] from record to play, you [had] to switch about a half a dozen-things. So, we put the switches all over the board and Henry made up this, like, spider steel thing that tied them all together, so when you moved the lever on the top it moved all the switches together. And they had little nylon bushings that it ran in. That was kind of unusual.”


A fashionable Gregory during his Advent days in the 1970’s. Note the tie. Photo provided by Gregory.

PS: In those days, the cassette was not really being taken seriously for music until the Model 201. Did Henry Kloss ever explain why he decided to make a hi-fi tape deck?

BG: “Henry [Kloss] felt you could get open-reel performance on a cassette deck. And our standard demonstration [was], we’d go somewhere and record a song from the record onto the cassette deck and then we’d play them back synched up and nobody could tell which was the record and which was the cassette. It was really good. It was head and shoulders above everything else out there. The Harman Kardon and the Fisher weren’t very good.”


A rare Advent jazz cassette from 1975. Photo from discogs.com

PS: Advent was the first to make and sell their own pre-recorded chromium dioxide cassette tapes. How did that work?

BG: “The cassette tape [came] on, like 7” reels, which is thousands of feet cassette tape, it’s really, really thin. So, the operator would put in an empty cassette, splice the leader to the big reel, record it, and then at the end you would splice the leader on the other end…The classical music, Andy [Kotsatos] and I recorded a lot of that…We did some live recording at Sanders Theater and at Brandeis Theater…we recorded [the Boston Camerata] in the Museum of Fine Arts so it would sound like it was in a castle. We had one tape of Bob Wier from the Grateful Dead…Anyhow, Henry dealt with, I think, Dupont directly on the tape. I mean, chromium tape was pretty new. Nobody else was really doing anything.”


Trivia: In a previous life, Bruce Gregory sold and repaired marine electronics, and was one of the last to be on and off the Andrea Gail before she sailed and was lost at sea with all hands during the Perfect Storm of 1991.


The Bridge, founded by Tom DeVesto (center), was one of Advent’s most successful dealers. Photo provided by DeVesto.

According to Como Audio’s founding CEO, Tom DeVesto, who founded what would become one of Advent’s most successful dealers, The Bridge, and eventually went on to become Advent’s International Sales Manager, Advent’s cassettes actually used video tape. From a vintage Advent advert in Stereo Review magazine: “Although DuPont’s Crolyn tape was being used extensively in video recording applications, and justifying its advance press notices, no one had made the leap to marketing it for audio purposes for home use. We decided to do so because we felt that Crolyn was necessary for the very best in potential cassette performance…and better overall high frequency performance than any other tape we know of.” *


Super Models

My vote for most impressive-looking, single-well tape deck goes to the Marantz SD 9000 DBX from 1980. Runner up is a tie between the Pioneer CT-F1250 from 1979 and Tandberg’s TCD 3014 from 1984. Photo from nl.pinterest.com.

As time went on, the hardware became more sophisticated, offering features like Dolby C, Dolby HX Pro, Dolby S, auto reverse, and multiple motors. One of the better-known manufacturers was Nakamichi. Their top-of-the-line 1000 ZXL sold for almost $4,000, and that was forty years ago. “Nak” as they were affectionately referred to by audiophiles, brought a number of innovations to the table. They were the first to employ three dedicated heads, one each for erasing, recording, and playback. Their transports were so accurate they made the cassette’s pressure pad unnecessary and actually lifted them out of the way. Their head-turning UDAR (UniDirectional Auto Reverse), as used in three models, physically pushed the cassette out and flipped it around to play the other side, thereby saving the listener a trip out of his chair (and eliminating concerns over alignment issues from a constantly reversing playback head). I own one of these models and the flip around feature is very cool indeed.


The beautifully-designed Nakamichi Dragon circa 1983. Photo from yahoo.aleado.com


Nakamichi’s legendary Dragon brought high performance (very low wow and flutter and 20Hz-20kHz frequency response) and a super-sexy style to the consumer tape deck (along with a hefty price tag). I vividly remember drooling over a Dragon at a Tweeter, Etc. store in R.I., knowing I would never be able to afford it. One day I was in the store, my heart sunk as a salesman gave a deal on their Dragon demonstration model to a woman who was buying it as a Christmas present for her boyfriend. What a gift, and what a girlfriend. I bought one used on eBay (a Dragon, not a girlfriend) about two decades later and still own it today. Judging from my success rate, a girlfriend would never have lasted that long.  


 

Load ‘em up: My Pioneer CT-M66R “Multi-play” tape deck changer with motorized carriage. Photo by Peter Skiera.

In addition to the Nakamichi Dragon, I also own a Pioneer CT-M66R circa 1990, a kind of cassette juke box accepting up to six tapes that can be played in order or randomly shuffled. Never to be out done, Sony came out with the TC-C05 in 1992 which housed an internal carousel that accepted up to five cassettes. The very first consumer multi-play cassette machine came out in 1970. Denon’s “Cassematic 12” supported up to twelve tapes, had a wood cabinet base, and prominent mechanical push button controls typical of the 70’s.  


Round and round she goes: The amazing Panasonic RS-296. Photo from pinterest.com.

The mother of all multi-cassette players was the Panasonic RS-296 from 1972 which held a whopping twenty cassette tapes in its sleek, rotating aluminum carousel. It is a rare treat indeed to see one of these babies in action. The push buttons on the right were used to directly select the cassette you wanted to listen to or to program the playback in a specific order. Once selected, the tape would disappear below the carousel to play and then pop back up again when it was finished playing or was stopped and ejected by the user.

You can still find decent professional cassette decks being manufactured today by Teac and Tascam, but most others are inexpensive, low-end affairs.


The pedestrian-looking but now legendary Sony TPS-L2 Walkman. Photo from Pinterest.it.

Another huge boost for the cassette’s acceptance by music enthusiasts was the legendary Sony Walkman, introduced in the US in 1980. With the Walkman, which was powered by a couple of standard AA batteries, cassettes were no longer limited to home or studio use, but could now be enjoyed while jogging, at the beach, riding the bus, lying on the sofa, or rollerblading (it was a thing back then)…just about anywhere you wanted to take your music. Over the course of three decades, Sony sold about 200 million Walkmans (Walkmen?) worldwide according to Wikipedia. Today, originals sell on eBay anywhere from several hundred dollars to upwards of $3,000 apiece. Nostalgia is fun, but not cheap.

Aoshima,a Japanese company, began releasing plastic model kits of planes, cars, and space craft starting in the 1960s. This is my unused kit for a Pioneer boombox from their Audio Series circa the 1980s.

In the early 1980’s, the boombox took cassette tape portability to the extreme. As time went on, boomboxes grew bigger, louder, and heavier. With lighted VU meters, dual cassette decks for dubbing, multiple input jacks (including dedicated phono and microphone inputs), equalization controls, Dolby noise reduction, AM/FM tuner (some models included shortwave!), and dedicated tweeters and woofers, the boombox became a full-fledged, shoulder-mounted, hi-fi stereo system. The Conion C-100f, for instance, was a monstrous, 3-way system that took ten D cell batteries! You cannot truly appreciate the sheer scale of this model without being in its presence. It even had an alarm that, when set, would activate if the unit was moved. I bought a used C-100f on eBay but later sold it because it had too many issues.

My rare “Disco Lite Personal Component System” boombox with fully working light show.

One reason for the boomboxes longevity was their ability to adapt to different technologies. The JVC 3090EN had a built-in TV. The Sharp VZ-2000 included an integrated vertical turntable that played the other side of the record without having to “flip” the record over. The Dynasty “Disco Lite” housed lights behind the woofers’ translucent-colored dust caps which flashed to the beat of the music being played. Some models even came with remote controls. When CDs became popular, boombox CD players emerged. A word of warning- if you go searching for some of these classic vintage boxes on eBay, have your heart medication close by unless you are prepared to knock over a bank. Sorry, but my budget does not include a comma.


Image from New Wave Toys’ Kickstarter campaign.

I supported New Wave Toys’ Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for a 40% scale working boombox, which was much more in line with my limited budget.

A few boomboxes are still available today like the “Brooklyn” by GPO Retro for $260, but they pale in comparison to their predecessors.


“Over the course of three decades, Sony sold about 200 million Walkmans…”


A classic from days gone by: The Alpine 7281M radio/cassette head unit. Photo from pinterest.com

Music formats have a greater chance of success if they can be enjoyed in vehicles. Accordingly, cassettes got out of our dreams and got into our cars thanks to a plethora of aftermarket head units. Philips was the first to come out with a car radio/cassette combo back in 1968.

All of this glorious hardware gave rise to the “mix tape”. This was a homemade compilation of the listener’s favorite songs culled from other tapes and records. When you got tired of the songs, you simply recorded a new mix on top of the previous set, and presto, you had yourself a whole new playlist. You could trade your tapes with friends and hear what songs they were listening to. These were personal playlists well before playlists were a thing.



Trivia: A C60 cassette (30 minutes each side) contains a total of 279 feet of audio tape.


A curated collection of cassettes of homemade Dead recordings listed for sale on eBay.


Another unique activity that stemmed directly from the cassette was the “Tapers’ Section”. This was a designated area at Grateful Dead concerts where fans were actually allowed to bring in recording equipment and record the live performance. While almost all other bands prohibited recording of their live concerts, The Dead welcomed it. Fans would trade their tapes with fellow tapers. Many “Deadheads” have since digitized their recordings and posted them on the web. Archive.org has nearly 15,000 live “Dead” recordings.


“When you got tired of the songs, you simply recorded a new mix on top of the previous set, and presto, you had yourself a whole new playlist.”


Audiobooks

An audiobook for the holidays. Image from Amazon.com

Over about a ten-year span, from the mid-1980’s to mid-1990’s, publishers released books on cassette tape, with many read by the authors. At its peak, the audiobook market swelled to $1.5 billion annually according to Wikipedia. “Readers” could hear a book on tape when it was not practical to actually read one, such as when in the car or riding public transportation, jogging, cooking, or doing housework. They were also embraced by the blind and those with learning disabilities. Audiobooks could be purchased at traditional bookstores, music stores, and were lent out by public libraries. Even the Book-of-the-Month Club and Time-Life got in on the act. Like used music tapes, used audiobooks can be found at thrift stores and on the web. According to a 2020 press release by the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks remain very popular, with sales up 16% last year from 2018 at $1.2 billion. The release identified Mysteries as the most popular genre. Over 60,000 new audiobook titles were released last year.


The Panasonic RS-DC10 DCC player/recorder with high gloss wood side panels. Photo from eBay.

In 1992, Philips took the cassette tape to the next level with a new format called DCC (Digital Compact Cassette), not to be confused with Sony’s Digital Audio Tape (DAT). Do not feel bad if you do not remember it or never heard of it. It all but vanished a mere four years later. DCC touted better sound quality since the tapes stored the music digitally like CDs and were 18- bit vs. CD’s 16-bit. The hardware was backward compatible with analog tapes for playback only, not for recording- a rather significant drawback. Tapes were loaded into a slide-out tray, not a pop open door like analog tape decks. Another cool feature lacking from its analog cousin was meta data…the playback machine’s display could show the artist, track number, and song information embedded in the DCC’s auxiliary track of the playing tape, something even many CDs did not do at the time.


My Pioneer Elite CT-05D connected to my Como Audio Musica. Photo by Peter Skiera.

The DCC was not the tape deck’s last gasp, however. In 1996, as the cassette was preparing to meet its maker, Pioneer brought out several new models featuring a 20-bit digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converter which digitized and processed the cassette’s analog audio and then converted the digital signal back to analog for superior sound. These decks also had Pioneer’s proprietary Digital Noise Reduction which virtually eliminated all tape hiss. Finally, Pioneer included what it called Digital FLEX which measured the tape’s frequency response and automatically “filled in” any missing high frequencies. With Dolby C engaged, these Pioneer decks could achieve a signal-to-noise ratio of 90dB, approaching CD-quality. Unlike the DCC format, Pioneer’s new technology was designed to work with standard cassette tapes. I have a gently used Pioneer Elite CT-05D I bought on eBay which has the same suite of digital features. The Digital Noise Reduction feature is quite remarkable. I well remember selling these Pioneer decks when I was the Assistant Manager at Cambridge SoundWorks in Portland, ME. We did not sell many, but kudos to Pioneer for having dug deep into their bag of tricks to try to rescue the cassette deck. Unfortunately, it was too late for the tape. 


A tape deck’s inner workings. Image from tapesponding.wordpress.com

As much as an advancement as cassettes were, the format was far from perfect. Almost every cassette- user had experienced a time when, without warning, the tape spooled out inside the tape deck. If you were fortunate enough to catch it in time you could extract the tape and wind it back into the cassette housing by sticking a pencil in one of the reel holes and rotating it. The nightmare scenario was the tape getting mangled around the pinch roller and/or capstan, “eating” the tape and thus relegating the cassette to the dust bin. Tape decks had to be cleaned and demagnetized regularly to maintain good performance, and sometimes required head re-alignment and bias adjustment. Cassette owners also had to be careful to keep their tapes away from magnets which could erase tapes (never a concern with records or CDs).


My Allsop cassette deck cleaning kit. Photo by Peter Skiera.

In the musical words of former Beatle George Harrison, all things must pass. When the compact disc burst onto the scene in the early 1980’s in all its shiny, futuristic glory, it was the nail in the cassette’s coffin, metaphorically speaking. I have been in therapy for PTSD ever since. Analog tapes had a warmer sound compared to the CD’s colder, digital sound, and made recording uber easy. But let us face the inconvenient truth- the cassette did not stand a ghost of a chance against the CD. By 2003, the cassette tape had all but vanished from the major music labels’ catalogs.


Trivia: According to bands.co.uk, if every cassette sold from day one until today were placed end-to-end, they would stretch from the earth to the moon and back again four times. Houston, we have a resurgence.


New Cassette Releases

My Billie Eilish “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” cassette (in limited edition transparent red plastic) from Urban Outfitters, and Madonna’s “Madame X”.

Like records, the cassette tape has been making a comeback of late, albeit on a considerably smaller scale. As the saying goes, everything old is new again. According to Nielsen Music, 219,000 cassette tapes were sold in 2018 in the USA, up from 178,000 from the year prior. There is even a Cassette Store Day (CSD), though it has not enjoyed nearly the same traction in the USA as Record Store Day has. The UK’s Sam Fender made his latest album available on cassette, as did Jenny Lewis. Naturally, you can source used tapes on eBay, at your local thrift store, and on-line from web shops like 3rdfloortapes.com, tapeheadcity.com, and Etsy.com, but some vendors actually sell new cassette releases. Urban Outfitters sells titles from Billie Eilish, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, and a Guardians of the Galaxy mix tape among others. UO’s limited edition (now out of print) cassette of Lover by Taylor Swift sells for big bucks on eBay. Newbury Comics has a few cassette titles as well. Popmarket.com and Burgerrecords.com offer hundreds of new cassette titles on their respective websites (though I will be darned if I recognize any of the artists). You will find cassettes at Walmart.com. Surveying Amazon, I found tapes for Eminem, Nirvana, Dr. Dre, Metallica, Def Leppard, and others. Links to all of these sites are provided at the end of this article. Some lesser-known artists on Bandcamp offer their music on cassette. In a sadistic twist, almost all new cassette titles are not recorded with Dolby noise reduction because most new tape players made today lack Dolby decoding. Call me old school, but new cassette releases without Dolby is like Vegas without gambling.

Be that as it may, tapes are like acoustic comfort food, and a tape collection will occupy less space than records. They also require less cash, as most new titles retail for less than new vinyl records. That is because cassettes are inexpensive to make, even in short runs, making them a “reel” deal. Used tapes are the ultimate bargain. I bought a half dozen used tapes at a Salvation Army thrift store for $1 apiece.

Trying to find current hard numbers on US cassette sales proved challenging. The best I could come up with was a top ten list from 2018 published on statista.com:

POSTITLE  ARTIST
1GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 1  VARIOUS
2GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2  VARIOUS
3TWENTY ONE PILOTS  TRENCH
4STRANGER THINGS  VARIOUS
5BRITNEY SPEARS  …BABY ONE MORE TIME
6GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY COSMIC MIX  VARIOUS
7GUNS N’ ROSES  APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
8METALLICA  GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED EP
9ELVIS PRESLEY  WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE
10WU-TANG CLAN  ENTER THE WU-TANG

This list from officialcharts.com ranks the top 15 selling cassettes of 2020 so far in the UK:

POSTITLEARTIST
1CALM5 SECONDS OF SUMMER
2CHROMATICALADY GAGA
3NOTES ON A CONDITIONAL FORM1975
4RARESELENA GOMEZ
5FUTURE NOSTALGIADUA LIPA
6ORDINARY MANOZZY OSBOURNE
7WALLSLOUIS TOMLINSON
8DEEP DOWN HAPPYSPORTS TEAM
9NOTHING IS TRUE & EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLEENTER SHIKARI
10DEDICATED – SIDE BCARLY RAE JEPSEN
11JUNK FOODEASY LIFE
12MORE. AGAIN. FOREVER.COURTEENERS
13THE NEW ABNORMALSTROKES
14HEAVY LOVELOUISE
15HOTSPOTPET SHOP BOYS





Trivia: One of the most expensive cassette tapes ever sold was a rare promotional copy of The Artist’s (Prince) “The Versace Experience- Prelude2 Gold”, given out to attendees of 1995’s Paris Fashion Week, which sold on Discogs for $4,117.00.


“According to Nielsen Music, 219,000 cassette tapes were sold in 2018 in the USA…”


Blank Tapes

Maxell’s “blown away guy” advert with photography by Steve Steigman. Photo from Pinterest.

Sourcing blank audio cassettes for recording is a different story. Maxell’s blank chrome and metal tapes were highly regarded back in the day. Who could forget the iconic black and white Maxell advert of the cool dude in dark sunglasses holding on for dear life in his high armed chair while getting blown away along with his martini (complete with flying olive) by his JBL loudspeakers? Incidentally, I happen to own a pair of those JBL speakers. You can still find Maxell’s Type I blank cassettes for sale, but their Chrome and Metal tape formulations have been out of production for some time and are quite expensive today. A company named Mulann manufactures their own high-quality blank cassettes based on AGFA and BASF specifications under the brand name “Recording the Masters”. They are located in France but have authorized resellers around the world including the USA.


Guardians of The Galaxy, made in the USA. Photo from eBay.com

National Audio Company is one of only a handful of US companies that still make cassettes and is the last remaining company in the US to manufacture their own tape. The family-owned, 135,000 square foot factory is located in Springfield, MO. Unfortunately, they exhausted their supply of consumer-grade audio tape about a year ago and have been working on a new Type 1 formulation which they say is “designed specifically for maximum performance when recording on real-time consumer cassette decks.” I spoke with NAC’s President, Steve Stepp, about the new tape. Stepp said his tape will use the same process and oxide as the big brand name tapes of the past with comparable performance. He expects to start shipping them next month and estimates the cost at roughly $2 per tape, give or take, with a minimum 10 pack order. They will also be sold under other brand names by other outlets. Music tape duplication accounts for most of NAC’s business. They made the Guardian of The Galaxy tape which was the number one-selling cassette in 2018. NAC has done cassette projects for Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins and they have partnered with Disney, Sony, Universal, and several independent music labels.

Stepp also revealed NAC will offer a new Type II formulation which will use cobalt instead of Chromium dioxide, yet it will use the same bias and equalization as Chrome. Stepp says this will result in better frequency response and improved bass. Look for it in January of next year. Tape lovers, rejoice. Pricing has not been announced, but Stepp says the formulation is twice as expensive as Type I and is harder to source.


An RCA to 3.5mm cable adapter. Photo by Peter Skiera.

If cassettes are a part of your current music library, or you plan to build a new annex to start a collection, you will be glad to know you can easily connect your tape deck to your Como Audio music system via the rear Auxiliary input. You just need an audio cable with RCA jacks on one end (going to the output of your tape deck) and a stereo 3.5mm (1/8th”) stereo mini jack on the other to fit your Como Audio system’s input (or an adapter that converts RCA to 3.5mm). For that matter, you can use the same kind of audio cable from your Como Audio music system’s Line output to your tape deck’s record input to record from Internet radio, FM (provided your deck has an MPX filter), etc.

My larger-than-life cassette coffee table with dry erase board label. Just do not put your feet up on it. Photo by Peter Skiera.



So, are cassette tapes the new vinyl? Not by any means, and a Como Audio cassette deck is not on any roadmap, so do not put one on your Christmas list. Why, then, are tapes popular again? Perhaps it is nostalgia. Perhaps it is because they are cheap. Perhaps because, unlike playing a music file, they provide the full sensory experience…ripping apart the cellophane like unwrapping a Christmas gift, popping open the plastic case, unfolding and scanning the artwork insert, grasping the tape in your hand and sliding it in the tape deck door, pressing the play button, and enjoying the fruits of your labor. See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me. Or, perhaps it is because they are analog. After all, our ears are analog. We were not born with a DAC in our brain. Whatever the reason, take comfort in knowing cassettes completely altered the music landscape, in a good way, and they are still relevant for many music lovers, yours included. Long live analog. Just one more way to enjoy the (taped) music.


Trivia: According to Wikipedia, the 2010 Lexus SC430 was the last domestic car to include an in-dash radio/cassette combo player as standard equipment.

*Dobly is a trademark of Dolby Laboratories. Crolyn is a trademark of DuPont.



Time to Vote (again)!

Photo from Record Store Day.

If you voted, and I hope you did (regardless of whom you voted for), here is your chance to vote twice. Tech Rap needs your vote! It does not matter if you live in a blue or a red state, whether you are liberal or conservative, or are a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent. You do not need to que in a long line, show your ID, or be 18 or older, nor is there any paper ballot to mail in. You do not have to wear a face mask or squeeze out a gallon of hand sanitizer after you vote. Just click the below link to get your free “ballot” and vote for your favorite Tech Rap. Do you anxiously await each new Tech Rap? Are you a “Tech Head” or a “Rap-aholic”? Do you like the Tech Raps that discuss product features, recommend Internet stations or music, or the ones that cover more general topics like Halloween and audio-related Birthdays? Maybe there was a Tech Rap that turned you on to a new artist, clued you in to a great Internet station, helped you with a technical issue, or one that made you laugh (on purpose). Your vote counts! You can vote up until November 25th and the winner will be published in next month’s Tech Rap. Sorry, you do not win anything (our campaign has no war chest), but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you performed your civic duty (a second time). Remember- vote early and often. I’m Peter Skiera and I approved this message. Paid for by Audiophiles for Tech Rap.

VOTING HAS CLOSED.


Trivia: According to CNBC, as of November 2, over 94 million votes had been cast around the US, far surpassing the total pre-election votes cast in the 2016 election.



Next Tech Rap: What’s New at Como Audio

Links:

Urban Outfitters cassettes

Newbury Comics cassettes

3rdfloor tapes

Tapeheadcity

Etsy

Popmarket

Burger Records

Walmart cassettes

Amazon cassettes

Sam Fender cassette

Jenny Lewis cassette

GPO Brooklyn boombox

Kickstarter mini-boombox

Recording the Masters

Alsop cleaner

Cassette Coffee Table

General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Related Articles:

Forty years ago this past May, summer movie goers were introduced to “Friday the 13th”, a film in the relatively new slice-and-dice, low budget movie genre, complete with a surprise ending that was a scream (literally). The film was shot quickly in 1980 with a budget of a little more than a half million dollars. It was meant to cash in on the wildly successful low-budget slasher “Halloween” that debuted less than two years before. Directed and Produced by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller, all involved expected the movie to be one and done, collect their paychecks, and end of story. Little did they know the film would go on to gross nearly $60 million worldwide, spawn ten sequels, a 2009 remake, and a television series.



AMC’s social distancing policy. Photo by Peter Skiera.


In celebration of the 40th Anniversary, select US theaters showed a newly restored and remastered digital “print” of the film. I attended one such event at an expansive AMC theater not far from Como Audio on a night that had a full moon. Although I had seen “Friday the 13” many, many times before, this was the first time I saw it on the “big screen” in surround sound. It was a nice to change not to have to watch a movie on my lap top or TV. The audience was also treated to the half hour “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore” after the main feature. Hosted by special effects/makeup master Tom Savini, the mini-documentary featured an in-depth examination of the pioneering effects employed in the film. COVID regulations were in full force, and I can tell you it was a very strange experience to see the theater 60% empty, no one manning the concession stand, not having anyone seated close to me, and everyone wearing face masks. I guess the adult Jason Voorhees was way ahead of his time by always wearing a face mask, albeit a hockey mask. It felt great to finally be allowed back inside a movie theater after all these months of COVID shutdowns, though I missed the delicious smell of simulated butter-drenched buckets of popcorn and the unmistakable noise of outrageously priced 54-ounce soda slurping. This was the first time I had been in a theater with power recliners, and the first time I did not have an actual physical movie ticket. Instead, the masked attendant seated behind the plexiglass partition scanned a QR code off of my phone. My only complaints…a couple to my far right insisted on talking during the movie, and even more annoying, my eyeglasses kept fogging up (only during the best scenes, of course) thanks to my face mask.

I should like to mention in passing that select theaters will also be showing “The Shining” (which is enjoying its own 40th Anniversary) , the uncut version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (60th Anniversary), “Corpse Bride”, “Bettlejuice”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “It”, “The Exorcist” (Director’s Cut), and the original “Halloween”.  Movie theaters have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Two weeks ago, the Regal theater chain (the USA’s number two national chain) temporarily closed all of its 536 locations. The number one theater chain, AMC, says they could be out of cash by year’s end and have closed 100 of their theaters. Trying to come up with new revenue sources, AMC will now allow you to “rent” one of their theaters and hold your own private showing for up to twenty of your family and friends starting at $99. Theaters, like most businesses, could really use your support during these tough times.


AMC 10 in Braintree, MA. Photo by Peter Skiera.


“…all involved expected the movie to be one and done, collect their paychecks, and end of story.”


Getting back to the topic at hand, being the huge horror movie buff I am, it would be irresponsible of me to let the month of October slip by without marking “Friday the 13th’s” anniversary. Accordingly, I interviewed via email four key participants in the original “Friday the13th” film: Victor Miller, 80, who wrote the screenplay, Adrienne King, 60, who starred as “Alice Hardy”, Harry Manfredini, 77, composer of the chilling soundtrack, and Ari Lehman, 55, who played young Jason Voorhees. I lead off with my Miller interview.



1. Victor Miller, “Friday the 13th” Screenwriter

The many sides of Victor Miller (photos from Miller’s website).

Besides penning the script for the original “Friday the 13th”, Victor Miller wrote for the big daytime network television soap operas which earned him three Emmy awards, and cowrote the recent horror flick “Rock Paper Dead” and “Eden Falls” which is still in production. He is also involved in a lawsuit over the rights to “Friday the 13th”. More on that further down.

PS: I really liked and rooted for the Alice character. Did you base her on someone in particular? Did you think Adrienne King did her justice?  

VM: “Ms. King was everything I could have wanted for the virgin sacrifice.”

PS: What was the story behind “Crazy Ralph”?

VM: “Every Greek Tragedy needs a chorus to warn the heroine of doom. Crazy Ralph was the modern version of ‘maybe crazy people are seers’.”

PS: I know you had written other movie scripts before “Friday”, but was it cool to see your characters come to life on the big screen (or maybe I should say, come to death)?  

VM: “There is no thrill quite like it.”

PS: When you look back on your original script, is there anything you would have done differently?

VM: “Why? “

PS: Was there a specific scene cut from your original script for budget reasons that you really wish had made the final version?  

VM: “41 Years ago? I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday.”

My “script” autographed by Victor Miller.

PS: Why are we still talking about this film 40 years on?

VM: “Because it was realistic in its own way and was pitched right at the best audience ever.”

PS: You’ve done a lot in your career, but you’ll probably be known best as the writer of “Friday the 13th”. Does that bother you?  

VM: “Not a bit, although I wish I had written AIRPLANE, too.”

PS: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

VM: “A tramp. We used to have what we called hoboes.”

PS: If you were a zombie, who would you want to eat first?

VM: “My 3 Emmys.”

Trivia: Miller claims not to have seen any of the other “Friday the 13th” sequels because he strongly disagrees with the Jason character having been turned into a mass murderer.



2. Adrienne King, a.k.a. Alice Hardy

Meeting the King in 2019.

Sweet Alice Hardy, played by Adrienne King, had the distinction of being the sole Camp Crystal Lake survivor in the original “Friday the 13th”. I met King last year and bought some of her delicious, award-winning wines. In addition to her Crystal Lake Wines (sales of which are currently suspended due to the pandemic) she sells her camp and wine-inspired paintings. In the midst of all the wildfire smoke impacting her area, she took time out to answer my questions in detail for this Halloween Tech Rap:

PS: Did you ever attend summer camp as a kid?

AK: “Yes. Once. A Catholic Camp with nuns in upstate NY somewhere… a very strange experience as I was only 6 or 7. One has to wonder… who thought that was a good idea… at such a tender age? Obviously, I survived… but there were no fond memories. I do, however, remember canoes and a lake.”

Alice doesn’t live here anymore. Photo from King’s website.

PS: Why do you think audiences connected with Alice?

AK: “Alice was so unassuming & laid back. An artist & a gentle soul, quiet but deep… interesting.

She would never be cast as a warrior but found out she was a fighter when it came down to survival. I think everyone relates with that aspect of her. Alice didn’t know her own strength until she was forced to go all the way in order to survive. Alice is our touchstone. If she can make it out of this mess/troubled time/bad day at school or work….  then so can I.”

PS: Your website has some fun “behind the scenes” pictures. What’s one of your favorite memories while shooting the film?

AK: “There were so many fb fun times at Camp but the snake scene was so much ad lib & all of us physically jumping around all over each other within such a small space was hysterical… Pretty much gently-choregraphed pandemonium. That is… up until the snake lost his life, of course…. Harry [Crosby] refused to do the deed. So, the Director, Sean Cunningham, ended that scene as well as the poor snake’s little life. That wouldn’t happen today.”

PS: I read that Lou Reed was living just down the road from the campsite at that time and performed free for the crew. Did you get to meet him?

AK: “Unfortunately, I did not. The crew stayed at the camp. The actors were put up at a horrid little motel a half hour away. Too bad for me.”

PS: Please share a funny story or blooper from the first film.

AK: “Harry Crosby and I were freezing on the night we were filming looking under the hood of the car & breaking into the office to make a phone call. I think I remember that they were spraying fire hoses all around us to recreate rain & it was cold to begin with! In between takes & setting up shots we were so cold that we started singing Christmas Carols & doing little jigs to keep our blood flowing & stay warm. Pretty funny stuff looking back on this now. I think of those times whenever I hear Bing, Harry’s Dad, singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” at Holiday time. Harry was so much fun to work with & so talented.”

PS: What did you think about the music composed for the film?

AK: “Manfredini is a genius. The music was a huge part of Friday’s success. His score is Brilliant! Bloody brilliant!! He lulled you into that false sense of calm in the lake scene…. Without his music it would not have been the huge scare that still holds up today!!! Harry & Betsy were fabulous together! They were like an old married couple after a few cons together. Their banter was hysterical. Ari [Lehman who played the young Jason Vorhees] would join in after a full day & we would share a good bottle something😉. We were a family for a while.”

A print of one of King’s paintings, “Voorhees Vengeance”. Image from King’s website.

PS: Betsy Palmer (a.k.a. “Mrs. Voorhees”) became a very close friend of yours?

AK: “I always say that Sean kept Betsy & I separated before & during filming because he knew we’d bond …that wouldn’t have been advantageous to the movie plot…lol, and we did bond when we reunited in 2004 in NJ…our first convention ever…we hadn’t seen each other since 1980. We had so much to catch up on and share. We would commiserate over a fine bottle of red wine, eventually Crystal Lake Wine’s very own Cabin A Sauvignon (her favorite) whenever we saw each other after that. We became the best of friends. I miss her very much [Palmer died in May of 2015 at age 88]. Whenever I was in NYC Betsy would invite me over to her brownstone off Central Park West & we would have dinner. I gave her my Crystal Lake Memories book by Peter Bracke because she hadn’t ever gotten one. That story is on my website. Such beautiful lasting memories with my Betsy. We both suffered because of this film and we both eventually triumphed because of this film.”

Three different groups of visitors to Camp Crystal Lake, including King. Photo provided by Adrienne King.

PS: You went back to the original NJ campsite to promote your wine. What was it like to go back?

AK: “No wine allowed at Boy Scout Camp! Nope…not the reason. Crystal Lake Tours.org Incredible! Please check it out!! I’ll send a photo that explains that enormity of these events! The Boy Scout Leaders finally got smart & embraced our movie & it’s location as fab film history now. Pure joy for any Friday the 13th fan.”

My signed bottle of King’s Crystal Lake Moonlit Chardonnay.

PS: Alice supposedly died in Part 2, but we all know how that works. Would you play her again if asked?

AK: “Oh yes I most certainly would. I happen to know for a fact that Alice is still alive… that was a horrible nightmare within a Post traumatic dream sequence that lasted many years after that fateful Friday decapitation of Mrs. V. Fortunately with decades of PTSD treatment Alice is able to deal with her demons. Alice thanks Dr. Ginny Fields, her first & continuing Therapist.”

PS: Do you have a favorite horror film? What scares you?

AK: “The Devil scares me. Catholic school. Remember? “The Exorcist” scared the bejesus outta me in 1973 or 4…when I was going to college, FIT, in NYC…I never watched another scary movie until “Friday the 13th!!” Now I look at the special effects and they are laughable… they really are but they scared the hell out of me back when. Now, Tom Savini’s special effects…Now, we’re talking!!! I was allowed in the cabin to watch the filming of the arrow from under the bed with Kevin Bacon & Tom Savini… Oh yes! Now, I watch horror movies with a skilled eye after being part that cinema history! Savini’s scares are still amazing & really hold up 40 years later!!!”

PS: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

AK: “I loved my Witch costumes!!! I can be a very scary Witch!”

PS: If you were a zombie, who would you want to eat first?

AK: “Chocolate Easter Bunny. With a glass of Crystal Lake’s Campfire Pinot Noir, thank you.”

Trivia: Due to “Friday the 13th’s” shoestring budget, there were no stunt doubles. Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer acted out their fight to the death beach scene themselves. Four years later, King’s experience landed her a job as a stuntwoman for the hit film “Ghostbusters”.

3. Harry Manfredini, “Friday the 13th” Soundtrack Composer

Good times! Amy Steel (“Ginny” from “Friday the 13th Part 2”), Harry Manfredini, and Adrienne King (“Alice” from “Friday the 13th”). Photo from Manfredini’s website.

Since we are all about music here at Como Audio, I wanted to include a segment about the “Friday the 13th” soundtrack. Harry Manfredini scored the original film and almost all of the sequels that followed, as well as more than 100 others, including numerous children’s films. He also plays a mean sax.

PS: What did you draw on for inspiration when composing the soundtrack for “Friday the 13t”h? Did the writer or director give you guidance or were you mostly on your own?

HM: “I did talk with Sean [Cunningham, the Director] about my ideas for the score, for example, to only have music for the killer. We agreed. Doing this in some way made the score an actual character in the film, not just music. There were numerous composers from whom I drew inspiration- Penderecki, Goldsmith, Small and of course, Herrmann.”

PS: “Halloween” was the blockbuster that really kicked off the low-budget slasher genre. Did you make it a point to see that film and did it give you any ideas for your score?

HM: “Actually no. I did go to see it afterwards. I didn’t think that my score was at all influenced by Carpenter’s score, which was also good. Although he and I both used many of the traditional horror elements of dissonant intervals and sound colors.” 

Manfredini with his dear friend, the late Betsy Palmer (“Mrs. Voorhees”). Photo from Manfredini’s website.

PS: What was your reaction when you saw “Friday the 13th” for the first time from start to finish?

HM: “I was pretty scared. I had never seen a film like that before, and was wondering if anyone would really react to it in a positive way. I guess I was wrong. Horror films scare me; maybe that’s why I am pretty good at scoring them.”

PS: Do you think your score contributed to the film’s huge success?

HM: “As I said before, the idea of only having music when the killer was present made the score almost a character, just music and the sound of the score has become a bit of a classic…something everyone seems to know.”

PS: When you look back on your soundtrack, is there anything you would have done differently?

HM: “Friday” was one of my first film scores. I don’t think I knew enough then to change anything. That was my best effort at the time. And I honestly don’t think I would change anything even now.”

PS: If a new “Friday” film was green-lighted, would you score it if asked?

HM: “I suppose so. If that was offered to me.”

The Como Audio Turntable spinning my “Friday the 13th” soundtrack on limited edition “campfire” colored vinyl by Waxwork Records.

PS: You’ve done a lot during your career but you’ll probably be known best for your “Friday the 13th” soundtracks. Does that bother you? Do you believe film composers, especially of horror films, are taken less seriously?

HM: “Yes, and No. When one is successful in a certain genre, you tend to get related to that genre. It’s just a fact. So, it’s a double-edged sword, good, and bad. I think film composers are sometimes taken less seriously, and sometimes maybe correctly. By seriously I think you mean by relationship to classical music? Film scoring is a completely different skill set, job, technique, considerations, and numerous other things like, writing on a short schedule, budget considerations, and being able to create in any genre of music. Being subservient to a picture, dialogue, sound efx, editing, and other creators likes and dislikes. So, it’s just a completely different land. No real legitimate comparison.”

PS: What’s next for Harry Manfredini?

HM: “Well, the COVID thing has caused much production to stand still. I have six film projects on hold. Do not really know when any will start up.  A couple of horror films, a mob movie, a nice psychological story, and a possible series. Also, some game music as well, so I wait. Doing some orchestral suites from some of my scores for live performances.”

PS: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

HM: “I was never much of a Halloween kid. Candy was good. Usually just a hobo…old, large clothes, and some dirt on your face. Bingo…you are a hobo.”

Trivia: For decades, I along with many others, thought the whisper in “Friday the 13th was “Ch ch ch…Ah ah ah”, but it was actually “Kiii…Maaa”. It was Manfredini’s idea to reduce the Mrs. Voorhees line “kill her, mommy”, into two syllables and utter it in a scary whisper. I think that just might be the only time a film composer was heard speaking on his own soundtrack.

4. Ari Lehman, a.k.a. Jason Voorhees

Betsy Palmer (“Mrs. Voorhees”), Ari Lehman (“Jason”), and Adrienne King (“Alice”) at a convention reunion. Photo from Lehman’s Facebook page.


Ari Lehman was all of fourteen years old when he was cast as master Jason in the first and original “Friday the 13th”. Although he did not appear until the end of the film and had very little screen time, he became one of the most memorable characters of the entire movie. The Jason character headlined in eleven more films, though Lehman never portrayed Jason in any of them. He went on to study Jazz Piano and Big Band Orchestration at New York University. Although he has remained active in the film industry, Lehman has focused his career on music, initially founding his own rock/reggae band. In 2004 he formed a punk heavy metal band, appropriately named “First Jason”, based in Chicago. He sings and plays a keytar (with the handle being the upper half of a mock machete). Please check his website (link at the end of this article) for First Jason’s October and November tour dates.

PS: How was it being in a horror film at just 14 years old?

AL: I had more fun on the set of “Friday the 13th” (1980) then perhaps anyone ever has had on a movie set – it was all new to me and I was the only kid at a Summer Camp – I had a lot of fun. Both Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini were great at working with young actors and I learned a great deal about making the most of the resources available during production. I still use this on tour and in recording sessions with my Rock Project FIRST JASON.

PS: Did you bond with any of the cast? 

AL: I was mainly working with Tom and his assistant, Taso Stavrakis – they were very animated and it was like working with a comedy team half of the time – the other half, we were all quiet and focused on making the FX look authentic – it was fascinating watching the entire process unfold. 
I did get to work with the actors a bit – both Kevin Bacon and Harry Crosby were really cool to meet and I learned a lot from watching them work on the set.

PS: I know you were only on-site for a few days, but please share a blooper or a funny moment you remember from the film.

AL: I was a bit of a serious child and I would “get into character” by staring into the dark waters of “Crystal Lake” – imagining what it would be like to transform under water like Jason did – one day as I was doing this along comes Kevin Bacon – “what ya doin’ Ari?” he asked – “I’m getting into character…” I answered ominously – “What?” he said “I am getting into character – don’t you guys do that?” I asked, wanting to be a part of the gang – Kevin Bacon laughed uproariously. “Getting into character?” (laughs) “You are only 12 years old!” “I’m 14!” He thought this was so funny he called Harry Crosby over to hear the joke and we all laughed about it. Good times…

A young Ari Lehman after and before his Savini transformation (sporting a bald cap). Photo from Lehman’s website.

PS: How difficult was it to be in makeup and perform the ‘dream scene’ jumping out of the cold water and grabbing Alice?

AL: When I got there they handed me the additional scene script – “Alice’s Dream” – however, I insisted that it was REAL – that Jason REALLY came back from the dead, upon hearing his Mother’s voice calling him, after her blood reached the waters of Crystal Lake – when we did the [scene], Sean Cunningham said to me “the cameras are rolling – go into the water – but you won’t be able to hear me say action – so YOU are the director – wait for the bubbles to clear and then jump out of the water and grab Alice”…so I did exactly as I was told – and proceeded to scare the daylights out of Adrienne King – they had not told her exactly when I would jump NOR had she seen the makeup, so when you see her initial response it is REAL FEAR – this was a great bit of Directing by Sean Cunningham in my opinion, who always wanted as much AUTHENTICITY as we could get in every scene – this was a new approach and I feel it defined the Slasher genre.

PS: You recently went back to the original NJ camp site for a tour with fans. What was it like going back after so many years?

AL: Absolutely Surreal and AMAZING Experience – EVERY F13 & HORROR FAN should go and do the CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE TOUR. Upon arrival I jumped right back in the Lake – it was the 13th of August so the water was warm and it felt like I was reliving the entire experience. Mostly it made me realize that CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE (Camp No Be Bo Sco) in New Jersey is truly one of the STARS of “Friday the 13th” (1980) – there is SOMETHING about that location that is magical and primal and could lend itself to all sorts of fantastic scenarios. What’s more – the proceeds from the Tours go to help the Boy Scouts of America to sponsor over 1000 kids to get a real outdoor experience at the Camp – hiking, canoeing, forestry, crafts etc. – made available to kids who otherwise could not get this amazing time with nature and all that means to youngsters.
Being there brought back to me the sense of adventure that we all had while filming “Friday the 13th” – a spirit of teamwork, creativity and resourcefulness that comes full circle when you see how the F13 fans who arrive are hosted with such pride and care by the Boy Scouts is GREAT!!!

PS: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

AL: I was Casper the Friendly Ghost at a very young age, then a Werewolf, after which I liked to be a WIZARD because I liked to read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant! That is BEFORE Harry Potter! Hahahaha When I was in college I like[d] to be MASTER THESPIAN for Halloween, Thank You!!! I now REALLY enjoy all the cosplayers and look forward to seeing what new costume ideas people have this year – FIRST JASON is touring to Oklahoma and Texas for Halloween at The Wildcatter Saloon and there is a big Costume Contest – I can’t wait to see what the cosplayers come up with this year!!!


First Jason: Lehman live with his musical machete. Photo from Lehman’s website.


Trivia: Lehman actively supports numerous charitable causes including no-kill pet shelters and has personally hand-rescued all of his own pets.



See You in Court, Jason

Jason’s mug shot. Image from theshirtlist.com

Jason Voorhees is in court, but not for the many brutal murders he committed. With such an incredibly lucrative franchise, I suppose it was inevitable a law suit would enter the picture at some point. The Director of the first movie, Sean S. Cunningham, and the script writer, Victor Miller, are battling each other over the legal rights to “Friday the 13th” and its characters. Miller maintains he was an independent contractor and his script was a work-for-hire, therefore, he owns the rights (US copyright law permits the original author to revoke a copyright agreement thirty-five years after it was granted). However, Cunningham counters that Miller was employed by his company, Horror Inc., to write the script, so Cunningham retains the rights. The initial court ruling was in Miller’s favor, but Cunningham appealed, and that is where things stand today. Whomever wins, the other side can appeal, dragging this saga out even longer. I think I speak for all fans by saying I hope the legal battle does not have as many sequels as the original film, and is not as gory. Until a final decision comes down, no new “Friday the 13th” movie will likely be forthcoming. Jason must be spinning in his grave with his machete.



Trivia: Bring Crosby’s son, Harry Crosby, starred as Bill Brown in “Friday the 13th” and was the last character to be killed by Mrs. Voorhees.

Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th Part 8”.
The lovely Lar Park Lincoln, “Tina Shepard“, from 1988’s Friday the 13th Part 7”.

Photo from halloweenforum.com

R.I.P.:

Photo from dailymail.co.uk

Betsy Palmer as “Mrs. Pamela Voorhees”, died in May of 2015 at age 88. Memorable quote from “Friday the 13th: “Kill her, mommy…kill her. Don’t let her get away, mommy…don’t let her live. I won’t Jason. I won’t.”

Photo from aveleyman.com

Walter J. Gorney as “Crazy Ralph”, died in March of 2004 at age 91. Memorable quote from “Friday the 13th: “It’s got a death curse.”

Photo from findagrave.com

Laurie Lee Bartram as camp counselor “Brenda Jones”, died in May of 2007 at just 49 years old from pancreatic cancer. Memorable line from “Friday the 13th: “Alice draws first blood.”

Photo from connect.collectorz.com

Rex Everhart as Enos, the cantankerous truck driver, died in March of 2000 at age 79 from lung cancer. Memorable quote from “Friday the 13th: “Dumb kids. Know-it-alls. Just like my niece. Heads full of rocks.”

Photo from filmer.cz

Sally Anne Golden as “Sandy” the waitress, died in January of 1982 at age 71, only two years after “Friday the 13th” was released. Memorable line from “Friday the 13th”, when Steve Christy asks her what he owes her, Sandy replies: “Just a night on the town”.


Jason in the box

If you are a Jason completist you will want to look into the Scream Factory’s brand new “Friday the 13th” box set. Released just in time for the 40th Anniversary, this impressive 16 (!) DVD collection brings all of the “Friday” films together under one box, including two bonus discs. Some of the goodies include a collectible slip cover, a 40-page booklet with archival snaps, new 4k transfers for films 1-4 (all are 1080p High-Definition), and Part 3 in its original 3D glory or should I say, gory). But there will be pain…it will set you back 160 smackers. DVD box sets are murder.

I met Jason Voorhees and all I got was this lousy selfie.


Halloween Vinyl

If you are interested in Halloween-related platters, here are some good places to start:

“The Munsters”LP  reissue from Real Gone Music on “pumpkin”-colored vinyl.

Real Gone Music

Mondo

WaxWork Records

Modern Harmonic Records

Elvira’s New Crowdfunded-Comic Book

I have always admired Elvira’s pumpkins. Photo from Elvira’s Facebook page.

If you love Elvira, or you love comic books, or you love Elvira and comic books, I double-D dare you to check out Elvira’s new, limited edition comic book by Dynamite Entertainment available exclusively through the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Co-written by David Avallone, with “eye-popping” color illustrations by Dave Acosta, the 48-spooktacular pages tell the incredible story of a terrifying and titillating quarantine apocalypse Elvira wakes up to after falling into a hairspray overdose-induced coma. That sounds very familiar, except for the apocalypse, titillating, and coma parts. As one would expect from the Mistress of the Dark, her story is busting (excuse the pun) with the worst puns ever and a deluge of dirty jokes. There are several comic book cover variants along with autographed copies available. Love Elvira but not into comic books? There are other cleavage, I mean, clever goodies on offer like a collector’s coin, trading cards, lithographs, and even an Elvira Ouija board! Unfortunately, backers will not receive Elvira’s COVID comic book until February of next year, but I imagine the pandemic narrative will still be quite relevant four months from now. If you are unfamiliar with crowdfunding, learn more about it in my Tech Rap blog article (link provided at the end of this article).

The Final Record Store Day of 2020

A brief reminder to our Como Audio Turntable customers and indeed all vinyl enthusiasts that the third and final installment of Record Store Day 2020 takes place on October 24th. Over ninety albums, most as special limited editions, will be available from artists like the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, The Who, Carl Perkins, Alice Cooper, and Eminem. Support your local record store.

Vinyl Nation: A Movie About Records

And a friendly reminder from one vinyl lover to another about “Vinyl Nation”, a feel-good documentary about vinyl records that also helps support Como Audio. I have seen the entire film and I highly recommend it. It will make you will feel warm and fuzzy all over and you will be moved to immediately rush out and buy some records.

The Annual Como Audio Halloween Contest!

It is time for our ever-popular annual Halloween contest. We know you have waited a whole year for this, and we thought we would make it bigger and better than last year. Here is your chance to score yourself a sweet, one-of-a-kind, Halloween Duetto featuring custom-painted orange grilles and knobs with a multi-layered, high gloss piano black wood cabinet. All you have to do to enter is let us know what your favorite Halloween costume was as a kid and we will pick a winner at random. Easy-peasy! Enter here.

Good luck to everyone, and until next month, enjoy the scary music.

Next Tech Rap: Happy Birthday to…

Links:

Victor Miller

Adrienne King

Harry Manfredini

Ari Lehman/First Jason

“Friday the 13th” soundtracks on vinyl

Friday the 13th DVD Box Set

Record Store Day

AMC Theaters

Vinyl Nation

Dracula, the evidence

General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Related articles:

Tech Rap Halloween Edition Part 1

Halloween Happenings

Favorite Scary Movies

Crowdfunding Parts 1 & 2

In this special Halloween Edition Tech Rap, we celebrate a vintage monster movie. No, not Frankenstein, The Mummy, or The Werewolf. It is a cult classic, yet odds are, you probably have never heard of it. Read on and you will find out. I will also have some Como Audio Halloween programming suggestions for you, and be sure to read all the way to the end because there is a very special, secret Tech Rap Halloween surprise (hint: “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”).


C. 2011 Miser Bros Press/Rick Goldschmidt Archives


When I was a child, one thing I looked forward to during the Christmas season (besides Santa Claus) was watching the annual television broadcast of the animated classic, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. I remember plopping myself directly in front of our big cathode ray tube color television anxious to be embraced by a festive phosphorus glow for the next hour. This was years before VHS, so you had to catch the program when it aired or else it meant waiting another year to see it again. According to Wikipedia, this beloved Rankin/Bass Production (Arthur Rankin, Jr. + Jules Bass) from 1964 is the longest-running Christmas special in the history of television.

The writing, casting, and story boards for “Rudolph” were all done in the USA, but you might not know that the trademark stop-motion animation called “Animagic” was filmed in Tokyo, home to Godzilla movies, and a long way from the North Pole. This painstaking process involved filming each custom poseable doll, repositioning their individual parts (mouth, eye brows, eyes, hands, legs, etc.), shooting them again, and repeating to simulate movement. The dolls had a unique wire skeletal sub-structure allowing the heads and limbs to be positioned.





“Rudolph” produced some unforgettable lines like “Bumbles bounce!”, “Eat, Papa, Eat!”, and “Nobody wants a Charlie-in-the-box!” But just as memorable was the music soundtrack, recorded in Toronto, which has sold over one million copies in the USA. The songs were fun and catchy: We Are Santa’s Elves, Jingle, Jingle, Jingle, There’s Always Tomorrow, We’re a Couple of Misfits, and Burl Ives’ contributions that made his name synonymous with Christmas- Silver and Gold and A Holly Jolly Christmas. So, where am I going with all this, I hear you cry? How can I possibly tie-in a vintage Christmas special with Halloween and music? O ye of little faith.



Trivia: A Rankin/Bass secretary was given the fragile Santa and Rudolph dolls after the production was completed. They were not well cared for and were sold decades later in serious disrepair. In a 2005 episode of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, the dolls were appraised between $8,000-10,000. They changed hands a couple of times and were eventually professionally restored. Last year the updated auction value for both dolls was $30,000-$50,000.


“Mad Monster Party?”

Let’s get this party started!  Uncle Boris (upper left), nephew Felix Flanken (in red bow tie), and some little monster helpers.
C. 2011 Miser Bros Press/Rick Goldschmidt Archives


With the popularity of horror films and TV shows in the 1960’s, Ranking/Bass Productions got the ingenious idea to apply their special Animagic process to a plethora of iconic horror movie characters resurrected (pun intended) in doll form: Count Dracula, the Monster, Baron Boris von Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Werewolf, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame (complete with hot pink hair), King Kong (called “It” in the film to avoid paying for the rights to use the name), and others. But this time around the project was to be a full-length theatrical feature film, not a one-hour TV special, to be called “Mad Monster Party?”. The Animagic was done in Tokyo by the same company that filmed “Rudolph” three years before, and it took well over a year to complete the film which made its debut in 1967.

The movie’s basic story line revolves around the retirement of Baron von Frankenstein (aka “Uncle Boris”), who has just invented a green-glowing chemical with the destructive power on the scale of an atomic weapon. He throws a monster bash (or monster mash) and invites his nephew and all of his fiendish friends so he can announce who will take over from him after he retires, and thus control his new invention. All of the monsters begin plotting against each other and the one person they believe is in line to take over. Spoiler alert: In the end, the guy gets the girl, but not quite the way you would expect.


“How can I possibly tie-in a vintage Christmas special with Halloween and music? O ye of little faith.

Some big names were hired to give the film star power. Though this has become standard operating procedure for animated films since the 1990’s, casting well-known celebrities in a major animated movie was not exactly the norm back in the 1960’s. Baron von Frankenstein was voiced by none other than Boris Karloff, 79 years old at the time, and it was to be his final Frankenstein-related project before passing away less than two years later.

What a doll! Francesca had a couple of outstanding features.
C. 2011 Miser Bros Press/Rick Goldschmidt Archives

Folk/pop singer Gale Garnett lent her sultry vocals to the Baron’s assistant, the beautiful and remarkably (especially for a children’s film) busty Francesca. I thrice reached out to Garnett who makes her home in Canada to recall a few of her memories, but unfortunately received no response. The Monster’s mate (aka the Bride of Frankenstein) was voiced by, of all people, comedian Phyllis Diller. In a 1998 documentary, Diller fondly recalled her experience: “I was just thrilled when [Hollywood Producer] Mr. Levine asked me to make this animated film. Also, a chance to work in tandem with a great star, Boris Karloff. I was thrilled out of my gourd! It was a milestone in my life. I remember it all with great affection.”

The remaining “cast” was voiced by veteran New York voice actor Allen Swift, including frightfully fun impersonations of Jimmy Stewart (for the Felix Flanken character, “Uncle Boris’” nephew), Peter Lorre (for the Yetch character), and Bela Lugosi (for Dracula). In a 2006 interview, Swift reflected back to when he first began doing voice work: “…I’m going to make myself a King in this business because doing voices is the easiest thing I do in my life. The idea of being paid for this, I mean, I used to do it all the time with my friends as a kid.”

The big names did not stop with the voices. The script was “punched up” by Harvey Kurtzman, co-founder of Mad Magazine (thus the word “Mad” in “Mad Monster Party?”). This resulted in some amusing and quirky dialogue…

Yetch, who has a serious crush on Francesca: “It’s me, your Don Juan.”

Francesca, who has no interest in Yetch: “I Don Juan to look at you.”

Yetch to Francesca: “I love your eyes, I love your chin, I love the shape they put you in, and when I get to feel your touch, I ache for you so very much!”

Dracula to Francesca: “You have always been my type. O-negative, isn’t it?”

Yetch to the Zombie Bird Men: “Don’t stand around like a bunch of union grave diggers. Get into your planes!”

Baron von Frankenstein to Francesca: “Everybody must have had quite a time last night. There was a huge pile of left-overs in the dining room.”

Francesca: “I wonder who it was.”

The Monster’s Mate after catching The Monster ogling Francesca: “Did you forget the last time you had a roving eye? I kept it in a jar for a week.”



C. 2011 Miser Bros Press/Rick Goldschmidt Archives

Also from Mad Magazine, artists Jack Davis designed many of the dolls in the film based on his monster drawings for Mad. Each doll was dressed to the nines. Try designing very detailed custom clothing for figures that stood 5-8 inches tall. The dolls cost nearly $5,000 each to construct, and that was over fifty years ago. Of the doll patterned after her, the Monster’s mate, Phyllis Diller remarked in a 1998 documentary, “I simply adored what the artists did with my persona. I loved the hair, the face, and the silly dress, and I think she even had boots on (laughs). They took all my trademarks and put them in that little cartoon character. I loved her.”


My meager “Mad Monster Party?” memorabilia: Funkopop’s Fantastic Plastic figures limited to 1,500 pcs each, a Francesca enamel lapel pin, and Yetch and Little Tibia Halloween masks.

For as many people who know and cherish “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, just as many if not more remain totally unaware of “Mad Monster Party?”. This campy film has attained cult status, and unlike “Rudolph”, is very rarely aired on television, but is available on Blu-ray DVD.



https://www.etsy.com/shop/MISERBROS

Rick Goldschmidt is a Rankin/Bass Productions historian, biographer, and collector. He literally wrote the book on “Mad Monster Party?” as well as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and others. Earlier in the year he was featured in an episode of MeTV’s “Collector’s Call”, hosted by “The Facts of Life’s” Lisa Whelchel. He was also spotlighted in a Svengoolie episode. Goldschmidt graciously took time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions by email:

PS: Do you know why the film title had a question mark at the end?

RG: “Yes, the question mark came from Harvey Kurtzman as a joke, as the title now carried the word “MAD”. Harvey wasn’t exactly happy about starting MAD magazine and then it continuing without him. In fact, he took his loyal friend Jack Davis with him to work on competing magazines and Jack designed “Mad Monster Party?” I believe Jack recommended Harvey to Arthur Rankin for the script punch up. Harvey wasn’t a script writer, but had a great sense of humor. “           

PS: Why is it so few people know about “Mad Monster Party?” and why is it rarely shown on TV?

RG: “It is still a cult film due to non-national exposure. Svengoolie (Rich Kox) and I screened it at flashback con, but we both know if he aired it on his show, it would reach a broader audience. TCM [Turner Classic Movies] has had the tv airing rights for a while, but was airing in the wee hours for years. That changed a few weeks ago when it aired in prime time and I was a part of it, doing live tweets for TCM during the broadcast. I hope to be in the studio with the next airing, perhaps at Halloween. This will help it reach more people.”

PS: How much did it cost to make the film back then and how did it perform at the box office?

RG: “The actual cost was in the neighborhood of $100,000. Joseph E. Levine signed a three-picture deal in1965 with Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. He was really counting on “The Daydreamer” to be the big one, as he wanted to give Walt Disney and “Mary Poppins” a run for the money. The cast was star studded and the budget had to be the biggest of the three. Unfortunately, he wasn’t happy with the film or “The Wacky World of Mother Goose”, so the release of “Mad Monster Party?” was very weak at Saturday Children’s Matinees. This is also why the RCA Victor soundtrack didn’t come out until I got it from Maury Laws and issued it in 1999 with Percepto.  It wasn’t until local TV stations started airing in the early 1970s, that kids took notice. It was on WGN and ch. 44 in Chicago, when I saw it for the first time.”

PS: Is there any interesting trivia about the music soundtrack (besides the fact that Karloff didn’t actually sing)?

RG: “There is much written about the soundtrack in my liner notes from the 1999 CD release. The liner notes, cover art and audio are all poor in that more recent, unofficial vinyl release. Maury Laws was in his nineties and didn’t really know about that vinyl release. We formed a close friendship over the years and would meet up in downtown Chicago, when he visited with his son John. Maury passed away last year and we dedicated our Frosty book to him. I did a long career retrospective interview with him in Hair Bear recording studio. We had many conversations about “MMP”. One thing he remembered, that I never talked about, was that he said Gale Garnett was “vulgar” in the studio. I think what he meant was, that she swore quite a bit. She had quite a career with RCA by this time and a big hit with “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” so I guess she must have gotten too comfortable in the studio for him. Gale is in Canada now and has written several books. A perfect voice for Francesca, too!”

PS: Did Dyke and the Blazers perform the song “It’s the Mummy”?

RG: “I have seen that name come up, but could never confirm. Maury and Jules could not recall. It is possible that since “Killer Joe” Piro choreographed the dance and was from the peppermint lounge, the band could have been too, but it is more likely that Maury used session players and singers for the Mummy.”

PS: Do any of the original “MMP” dolls still exist?

RG: “Yes, I included a picture of “IT” [King Kong] in my Frosty book. He was on exhibit in Japan with Tad Mochinaga’s collection. “IT” also appeared in his own Japanese vintage short on you tube. I own a Fang and Dracula wood carved salad set (which was featured on Me TV’s “Collector’s Call”). Arthur was gifted the set by the Animagic puppet makers in 1966. He gave them to me after my first book was released. Others I suspect are in Japan.”

Perfect utensils for a monster salad. Photo provided by Rick Goldschmidt.

PS: What is the rarest or most cherished item in your “Mad Monster Party?” collection?

RG: “The one-of-a-kind salad-set I mentioned. “MMP” was a big part of the reason I became the official Rankin/Bass historian. I love Jack Davis! His rare reunion art is in my book, “The Arthur Rankin, Jr. Scrapbook”. Also, his last painting, which is of Arthur with Frankenstein.”

Rick Goldschmidt with Boris Karloff’s daughter, Sara. Photo provided by Goldschmidt.

I took the liberty of tracking down Sara Karloff, Boris Karloff’s daughter, now 81, via email, and asked her to comment on her father’s film: “Although I am not a horror film buff”, she replied, “I certainly wouldn’t call “Mad Monster Party?” a horror film. It’s a delightful animated spoof on horror film[s} with wonderful caricatures of some of the actors from the films themselves. Of course, “Uncle Boris” is my favorite! I have one of the sculptures of him from his role. I don’t remember the exact year the film was released so I can’t tell you what age I was when I saw it the first time, but of course, I have been lucky enough to have seen it more than once and have enjoyed it each time. I know the film is a favorite of the fans of all ages still today and will remain so for generations to come. The animation is brilliant, the score is delightful and it’s quite simply a fun and classic film.”

The “Mad Monster Party” Soundtrack

Now, on to the music portion of today’s program.

My Como Audio Musica posing with my rare original copy of the “Mad Monster Party?” soundtrack CD.

A party is not a party without music. As with “Rudolph”, “Mad Monster Party?” features a collection of charming original songs and instrumentals composed exclusively for the film. Unlike “Rudolph”, these songs have a cool period jazz vibe…horns, bongos, and harpsicords, oh my. The music was composed by Maury Laws, Music Director for Rankin/Bass Productions for twenty years. The Grammy-nominated Laws also scored and conducted the music for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and many others. Sadly, Laws passed away last year at the age of 95.

“Mad Monster Party?” soundtrack on colored vinyl by Waxwork Records.

We are very fortunate this soundtrack eventually got to see the light of day. MMP’s opening credits indicate the soundtrack was released on RCA Victor Records, yet inexplicably, RCA never released it despite having made a mono test pressing. Thanks to Goldschmidt’s efforts, Percepto Records issued the soundtrack on compact disc in 1998 in stereo…the first-ever commercial release of the soundtrack over thirty years after the film debuted! Though long out of print, Goldschmidt says the CD’s sound quality and liner notes are superior, and the CD is the only authorized and officially licensed soundtrack. There is a vinyl option. In 2016, the soundtrack was released on limited edition colored vinyl for the first time by Waxwork Records in a gatefold jacket with deluxe packaging.

In his liner notes to the CD soundtrack, Goldschmidt quotes Laws on his jazz theme: “…we thought it would be fun. The film is basically a spoof anyway, and “funky” or “hokey” jazz can be cute or funny…I had come from a jazz background, having started out as a guitar player, and I guess I saw an opportunity to use it to an advantage.”

Jazz singer Ethel Ennis was tapped to sing the title track, her lone contribution to the soundtrack. Ennis would go on to release a dozen records and tour with Benny Goodman. She passed away in February of last year at age 86.

A skeleton crew: Little Tibia and the Fibulas bringing down the house.
C. 2011 Miser Bros Press/Rick Goldschmidt Archives


The soundtrack was not entirely jazzy. “Little Tibia and the Fibulas”, a quartet of skeletons with shoulder-length red hair, performed a sort of rock song called “It’s the Mummy.” Curiously, an electric organ is featured prominently in the song, yet none of the band members in the scene are playing an organ! It was very entertaining watching some of these classic monster characters boogie to the music. Frank “Killer” Joe Piro did the choreography for MMP and filmed himself dancing so the animators in Japan knew what dance moves to give the Mummy doll during the dance scene. By the way, “Killer” Joe was not a boxer, he was an extremely popular New York dance instructor during the 1950s’-1960’s who earned his nickname by outlasting his partners on the dance floor. Contrary to his “killer” reputation, the Mummy collapsed on the dance floor before the music stopped.




New Zealand-born Gale Garnett, the voice of Francesca, was a popular singer, having won a Grammy for her 1965 folk hit, We’ll Sing in the Sunshine, which sold over one million copies. Naturally, she sang a couple of standout songs included on the soundtrack…Never Was A Love Like Mine and Our Time to Shine: “It’s our time to shine / Our turn in line / Everybody gets one chance in life / To make their dreams come true / I can do it with you.” Her voice is warm and soothing and it lends a mature, professional vibe to the soundtrack amongst the kitschy jazz.

Believe it or not, Karloff and Diller also contributed songs, but Karloff, by his own admission, could not carry a tune, so in One Step Ahead, he spoke his lyrics rather than sang them: “Get up from that bed / And start a little ahead / Or some other bright guy / Will steal the pie / Come on, boy, use your head.”  As Laws recalled to Goldschmidt in the soundtrack liner notes, “Jules [Bass] laid the words out, so that each little eight-bar verse could be read one at a time in exactly ten seconds. We had figured the musical tempo, so that we could dub [Karloff’s] reading into the song after I had recorded it with the singers in New York. With a little trimming of Boris’ tape here and there, we made it fit. Boris never heard the song or the melody…”

My photograph of “the Monster’s mate” was produced from an original transparency from Phyllis Diller’s personal collection and autographed by her in 2010 during one of her art exhibits.

Most people familiar with Diller, who died in 2012 at age 97, remember her as a pioneering comedienne with a wonderfully wacky laugh, but few people know she was also an accomplished pianist. Her song, You’re Different, would have felt right at home in a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episode: “You’re different / Like a snowy day in June / Like a new Brazilian tune / You’re different / And you know / That’s why I like you”. In that 1998 documentary, Diller remarked: “…I had just moved to Hollywood and I didn’t own a home yet…and I had a rented piano so that I could learn that song and practice the music.” In the CD soundtrack liner notes she commented, “It’s a darling song and I was so happy that I was going to do this song. I had been studying music for over twenty years at the time and it was nice to be able to use music in my career wherever I could.” In the CD liner notes, Laws recounted to Goldschmidt, “She knew her song and could read music to some extent and didn’t have any real trouble with it. There was certainly lighthearted banter through the session, but I don’t remember any of the jokes.”

“…Karloff, by his own admission, could not carry a tune, so he spoke his lyrics rather than sang them.”

Granted, you are not likely to sit down and listen to an entire horror film soundtrack, even during Halloween season. But as Sarah Karloff pointed out, Mad Monster Party is different. The music is fun and upbeat and can be enjoyed anytime of the year by children and adults alike.

Trivia (supplied by Goldschmidt): When Boris [Karloff] signed his contract in 1965, the film was titled “Monster Convention”. Shortly after, when Jack Davis did the poster art, it was called “The Monster Movie”. When the story boards were done, it was now called “Mad Monster Rally”. Finally, after Kurtzman was brought in, it was titled “Mad Monster Party?”


Stream While You Scream

It is hard to believe October is here already. This year, Halloween will be like no other. You will have to wear a mask underneath your mask, assuming Halloween is not cancelled altogether due to COVID-19. Salem, MA, long a popular “haunt” during the month of October, will not seem the same.

“Professional red neck” host Joe Bob Briggs brings his unique humor to Shudder’s “The Last Drive-In”.

For me, October, not December, is the most wonderful time of the year because this month turns the boob tube into the “boo” tube. Although I have yet to find any channel airing “Mad Monster Party?” this month (the television broadcast rights are owned by Turner Classic Movies), you will have no difficulty finding plenty of other quality Halloween programming. Look for macabre marathons from Turner Classic Movies’ “October Horror”, the Sci-Fi channel’s “31 Days of Halloween”, not to be confused with Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” or HD Net Movies’ “13 Nights of Halloween”. AMC exhumes their ever popular “Fear Fest”, while IFC revives their own month-long scary agenda. El Ray Network usually has a spate of horror movies repeated ad nauseam. Even squeaky-clean Disney gets in on the act with its “Monstober”. If you prefer to stream while you scream, Amazon Prime has a roster of big scream flicks, as does Hulu with their “Huluween”. Netflix has a variety of superb original scary programming in addition to imported film chills from Spain, Korea, Japan, France, Germany, UK, and Poland. If all you want is all horror, try Shudder (owned by AMC), which is also home to drive-in B horror movie host Joe Bob Briggs. That alone is worth the price of admission to his drive-in. Another streaming option is shout factory tv’s “31 Nights of Horror”. If you are in a charitable mood, the stars from the 1993 cult film, Hocus Pocus– Bette Midler, Sara Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, will reunite on October 30th via the Internet to benefit the New York Restoration Project. This all reminds me of a line from the classic original slasher film, “Halloween”, when the babysitter proclaimed, “Six straight hours of horror movies. Little Lindsey Wallace won’t know what hit her.” Keep in mind you can connect your TV to your Como Audio music system and upgrade your TV’s sound quality.


Halloween, Como Audio Style

Coming soon to a Como Audio Musica near you: Internet station “Halloween Radio- Atmosphere.

For more scary seasonal entertainment, or if host your own (socially distanced) mad monster party and need a soundtrack, tap into the wealth of free programming available on Internet radio from your Como Audio music system by tuning in to Halloween-themed music stations like Dead Air (192 kbps, MP3: USA), Halloween Hit Radio (128 kbps, MP3: Germany), Big R Radio-The Halloween Channel (128 kbps, MP3) Halloween Radio-Main (128 kbps, MP3: NY), Halloween Radio-Kids (128 kbps, MP3: NY), Halloween Radio-Movies (128 kbps, MP3: NY), Halloween Radio-Oldies (128 kbps, MP3: NY), Halloween FM (128 kbps, MP3: Ireland), Scifi Horror Filmmusik (128 kbps, MP3: Germany), and Radio Caprice (98 kbps, AAC: Russia). Or perhaps you are in need of some spooky sound effects from Halloween Radio-Atmosphere (128 kbps, MP3: NY). If scary radio dramas are what you are into, consider Horror Theatre out of GA and Dark Arts Horror Radio from the UK. To tune any of these stations in Internet radio mode on your Como Audio music system, go to Station list > Stations > Search stations > Enter the station name > Select “OK” on the right > Select the station from the list.


A popular Spotify Halloween Playlist on the Como Control Android app.

There is also much to choose from when it comes to the music streaming platforms starting with the many Spotify Halloween-oriented Playlists and Soundtracks. You do not have to be a paying Spotify subscriber to play them on your Como Audio system since the free version of Spotify is supported. While you are at it, save the Playlist to a preset for easier access throughout the month.


“The Scarecast” Podcast playing on a piano black Musica, appropriate for Halloween.

This Tech Rap Halloween Edition would not be complete if I failed to promote the plethora of Podcasts purposed for Halloween. There are too many to list, but here is a very short sampling of scary offerings to wet your appetite: Nightwatch Radio (Paranormal) (192 kbps, MP3), Bloody Good Horror (movie reviews) (192 kbps, MP3), Body Horror Podcast (Drama) (128 kbps, MP3), and The Scarecast (True Scary Stories) (192 kbps, MP3). To find these in Internet radio mode, go to Station list > Podcasts > Search Podcasts > Enter the Podcast name > Select from the list. Do not forget, you can also save Podcasts as presets and under My Favorites. As of mid-last month, Podcasts are now also available through Amazon Music.


Trivia: Last year, according to the Nation Retail Federation, consumers collectively spent $9 billion on Halloween, making it the second largest US holiday after Christmas. Have a holly-jolly Halloween.



A Secret Halloween Tech Rap!

Creeping around corners: Robert Englund (photo from Englund’s website).

Can you keep a secret? Cross your heart and hope to die? This is no trick, but it is a treat. Here is a hidden bonus Halloween Tech Rap features my exclusive interview with Robert Englund, otherwise known as Freddy Krueger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. This secret Tech Rap is not visible in the main blog and can only be accessed using this link. From all of us at Como Audio, Happy Halloween boils and ghouls, and enjoy the (scary) music.

Coming soon: Tech Rap Halloween Edition Part 2: It was 40 years ago…

Links:

Rick Goldschmidt: 1 & 2

Mad Monster Party Enamel pins

“Mad Monster Party?” DVD

Shudder

Shout Factory TV live


General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Related articles:

Halloween Happenings

Favorite Scary Movies



With many of us still spending not so quality time around the house because of the stubborn coronavirus, I figured this would be an ideal time for a Recommended Stations edition of Tech Rap. An Edison Research study conducted in May of this year showed an increase in Internet radio listening, hitting double digits for the first time. Ten percent of all radio listeners now listen via Internet radio. The study showed the majority listen to spoken word stations such as news and talk, perhaps reflecting our desire to stay up to date on the pandemic and the political ramifications thereofAccording to Statista.com, the largest increase in monthly USA Internet radio usage was among listeners aged 55 and over, with seven percent more adults listening to online audio sources monthly in 2019 than in the previous year.

As an owner of a Como Audio music system, you are rather spoiled for choice when it comes to Internet radio. We just recently surpassed 54,000 free Internet radio stations in our data base. With so many stations, we know it helps to cut to the chase and highlight some standouts for your listening consideration. So, without further ado, let us explore seven Tech Rap-worthy stations, review our Top 30 most-listened to Internet stations, and mark a special Birthday.

1. WWOZ: Jazz & Blues; 128 kbps, MP3: New Orleans

Who dat? New Orleans Internet radio station WWOZ playing on a rare pink and piano white Como Audio Duetto.

Topping Tech Rap’s Recommended Stations list is WWOZ. Read on and you will understand why. Broadcasting from the French Quarter in New Orleans, this community station is listener-supported and has been doing its thing since 1980. During one point in its early history, the station broadcast from a beer storage room above a nightclub. DJs would occasionally lower their microphone down through a hole in the floor and broadcast live whatever band was playing in the club at the time!

Nowadays, the station is owned by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and is in a different building with no holes in the floor. Tune in at any given time and you will hear legendary artists like Fats Waller, Louis Prima, and Miles Davis alongside contemporary greats like Norah Jones, Pat Metheny, Esperanza Spalding, and Wynton Marsalis, and more than a few names you have never heard of before. They do not call themselves “guardians of the groove” for nothing. WWOZ plays a boat load of different music from different eras, but they pull it off without a single bead of sweat. That is one reason why the station won the Prestige Award for Station of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. I very much enjoyed each time I tuned in, and frankly, found it difficult to stop. WWOZ has earned a well-worn spot in My Favorites list. I think the only con I can manage is their meta data does not identify the songs they play. This information would be especially helpful when listening to lesser-known artists.

With respect to the music, the station is a veritable musical gumbo of blues, rhythm and blues, brass band, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Caribbean, Latin, Brazilian, African, and bluegrass (do not be surprised if they even slip in a little Celtic now and again). I should mention in passing, WWOZ had a sister station, WWOZ 2, which they described as “a work in progress”, dedicated to showcasing “the music of New Orleans and surrounding parts of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.” However, according to Dave Ankers, “WWOZ-2 is currently only streaming our main signal.  We’re a small community station powered by on-air volunteers, and it became very difficult to program two full channels with our available resources.“

Speaking of those special volunteers, another wicked (as we say here in MA) cool thing about this station are their all-volunteer hosts, which as of 2017 numbered 70-75 people. As their site says, “Our show hosts are part and parcel of the music community of New Orleans. Some are musicians, others are loyal live-music devotees. You get the local’s perspective on every show. The station does not provide these aficionados with playlists; each show is unique and hand-picked just for you. What’s more, they are not influenced by commercial considerations (i.e., record labels, music venues, etc. do not pay for play). Pure intent, pure music, pure groove.”


During devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005, much of the DJs’ private record collections stored at the station were lost. Like a musical miracle, thousands of hours of live New Orleans performances taped by WWOZ were spared from the flood waters. The Library of Congress has since stored, cataloged, and digitized all of them so they never again will be at risk. Louisiana was hit hard last week by Hurricane Laura leaving damage and death behind in its wake, but unlike Katrina, WWOZ was not in its path.

“With respect to the music, the station is a veritable musical gumbo of blues, rhythm and blues, brass band, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Caribbean, Latin, Brazilian, African, and bluegrass…”

Here are a few other interesting tidbits I uncovered: The WWOZ call letters were inspired by the Wizard of Oz line, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” meaning the station’s focus is on the music not the person pushing the buttons. Besides “Guardians of the groove”, the station’s other slogan is, “If you can’t live in New Orleans, let New Orleans live in you.” The station exports a little of New Orleans to hundreds of thousands of listeners in about 200 different countries.

Thanks to the wonder of Internet radio, you can personally experience The Big Easy on your Como Audio music system anytime, anywhere, with WWOZ. It will be King Cake to your ears. They truly are guardians of the groove. Groove on.



Trivia: WWOZ has had more than its fifteen minutes of fame. Andy Warhol declared “WWOZ is the greatest station in the universe”, New Orleans alt rock band Better Than Ezra wrote a song titled “WWOZ”, and the station was featured on Treme, an HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

2. Atomic City: 1950-70’s Lounge & Exotica Music; 192 kbps, MP3: Canada

Get the Geiger counter: Internet station “Atomic City” luminescing on the Como Control app.

Coming in a close second in our list of seven Recommended Stations is the endearing Atomic City. I stumbled upon this fun station purely by accident while searching for something else. Sometimes I find the best stations that way. As I have stated before, one of my Modus Operandi for writing Tech Rap is to expose you to new sounds. Enter Atomic City. I love everything about this station…the music, their mid-century logo, and their self-description: “Are you worried about the international commie conspiracy to transmit mind control waves through modern “electronica” music?…Well, this could be the station for you! We broadcast atomic age easy listening and pop music for the 50’s, 60’s, and early seventies. There’s no need to wear tin foil wrapped ear muffs here! We only broadcast old government propaganda which is actually good for you!”

Sure, Atomic City spins retro-radioactive selections from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Connie Francis, Elvis, Dean Martin, and Frankie Avalon, plus legendary orchestras like Woody Herman, Percy Faith, Ray Ellis, and Les Baxter, but it is the strange and unfamiliar I really dig. In the words of our favorite space toy, Buzz Light Year, I am “a sad, strange, little man.” Artists like Akin, Perez Prado, Ray Kinney, Mario Nascimbene, Robert Drasnin, Walter Wanderley, Frank Comstock, and Pero Umiliani are what I am talking about. This type of music all but vaporized in a mushroom cloud by the early 1970’s. Atomic City restores the age of musically assured destruction.

Anonymously produced by someone calling himself “Commander Clement ‘Skip’ Bombwell”, formerly of the “USN Space Command”, Atomic City streams its musical subatomic ionized particles out of Toronto. Best I can tell, they have been on the air for at least four years. The station also airs a couple of specialty programs…”Swinging 40’s” airs every Wednesday between 7-9pm EST, hosted by “Cad” (not Cab) Calloway, and “Kon Tiki”, airs Fridays at 7pm EST until Monday at 2am, or as the host “Thomas Aloysius ‘Boats’ Gilhooley” says, “whenever I sober up”. The latter show’s format is described by “Boats” as “…traditional Polynesian artists, a little surf, and eventually swaying hula girls in grass skirts…” Sounds like my kind of program.

“I’m speeding because I can’t wait to get home and listen to Atomic Radio on my Musica!”

Since I am amongst friends, I will not mince words- Atomic City mixes in some obscure stuff (I had to restrain myself from using another word that starts with “s”). This station is an acquired taste, as indicated by their 133 Facebook followers. If I may be so bold as to give Commander Bombwell some advice: Atomic City would stand out more effectively if it would dial back the pop hits and launch more space age music. Of the many hours I have spent listening, never once did I hear any Esquivel. Also, the play list can become repetitive, which I do not understand considering the music library spans almost three decades. Finally, the volume level can fluctuate depending on the song. To be fair, the latter is hardly unique to Atomic City. I encounter this all the time as a regular listener of Internet radio. Since AC’s original source material was recorded over the course of three decades at different levels, the inconsistent gain is understandable fall out. This is all meant as constructive criticism and is not meant to turn my recommendation into a false positive.

“Since I am amongst friends, I will not mince words- Atomic City mixes in some obscure stuff.”

Quirks aside, Atomic City is a 30-kiloton musical blast to the cochleae. Liberate yourself from those tin foil-wrapped ear muffs and overexpose yourself to some lethal levels of musical radiation. Kick back and mix an extremely dry martini with two large olives as you thrill to Atomic City on your Como Audio music system in your basement space-age bachelor bomb shelter. Smoking jacket optional.


Trivia: According to a 2018 article on MIT Technology Review.com, Rydberg Technologies of Michigan is experimenting with a new atom-based AM/FM receiver with “an antenna consisting of a cloud of excited cesium atoms, zapped by laser light that flickers in time to any ambient radio waves”, making the device “more or less insensitive to the kind of electromagnetic interference that can render conventional antennas useless.”

3. Arpeggio Radio: Classical; 128 kbps, MP3: Portugal

Classical on a classic: A Como Audio high gloss piano black Musica set to Internet station “Arpeggio Radio”.

UPDATE: Arpeggio Radio is no longer streaming due to a server problem. However, they created a Spotify Playlist.

I freely admit I know very little about classical music which is why that genre is not well represented in Tech Rap articles. The only classical station I can personally pass on is WQXR in New York. Listener-supported WQXR (128 kbps, MP3) is widely regarded as one of the best classical music stations in the US, and it is New York’s only all-classical station. It was also this country’s first commercial classical station, going on the air in 1936. Not surprisingly, it ranks #5 in our Top 30 stations list which you will find toward the end of this article. The station describes its format as presenting “new and landmark classical recordings as well as live concerts from the Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the New York Philharmonic, among other venues. WQXR also broadcasts essential destination programs including the Metropolitan Opera Radio Saturday Matinee Broadcasts, New York Philharmonic This Week…”

One of our customers recommended station is NPO Radio 4 (192 kbps, MP3: the Netherlands). This is a most curious station because it strongly aligns itself with the classical genre, yet depending on the day part, plays other types of music that are definitely not classical. Their website hints at this: “…different formats of recognizable programs adapted to the time of the day. For the listener who loves classical music and is in the middle of life.” During my listen, I heard a few classical pieces followed by a very satisfying contemporary jazz set comprised of songs by CTK, Wade Long, Phaze II, and Lou Mizzoni, before the station returned to its classical format. The station also broadcasts over 350 live classical concerts a year.

Turning our attention to our number three Recommended Station, in preparation for this article I asked our Customer Service staff if they had any favorite Internet stations they wished to suggest to our customers. Our Senior Customer Service Advisor, Bryce Dort, advised me of classical music station Arpeggio in Lisbon. What I like about this station is their emphasis on relaxation. Even the station’s ocean logo will put you at ease. Their slogan is “Classical Comfort”. Broadcasting since 2017, the station describes itself as “your classical life soundtrack. Every time you need a relaxing ambiance…you can use the cool mix of classical music that we deliver. Here, you can find the biggest classical hits, along with less-known pieces… all handpicked to fit your mood. Now, sit back and enjoy the Arpeggio flavor.” Dort says he started listening to this station “because it was a customer’s favorite classical station. I helped him find and save it, and I ended up saving it as one of My Favorites, too. It shows all the piece’s information (Composer, Opus number, etc.) …without having to look for it with the [remote’s] “i” button.” 

Guitarworld.com defines the word Arpeggio as “a series of notes played one by one that consists of the notes within a particular chord.” My interpretation of the station’s use of the word is that the station wants you to slow down and take life one step at a time. I concur. Tune Arpeggio on your Como Audio music system and decompress from the stress of life.Trivia: Classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn died in 1809. Soon after, his head was stolen by phrenologists. It was finally reunited with the rest of his body in 1954.

 4. Time Machine: Variety; 96 kbps, AAC: USA

Radio to go: Internet station “Time Machine” sounding great on the portable Como Audio Amico and Amica.

Given this station’s name and the authentic, vintage WNBC-AM radio jingles frequently interspersed between song sets, Time Machine presumably pays homage to the long-deceased, legendary New York AM station WNBC. “Time Machine” was the name of a popular nightly music show on WNBC that focused on music from the 1950’s-1970’s, replicating the classic sound of AM radio during those years.

Back in the day, WNBC-AM was the 50,000-watt flagship station of the NBC radio network. It went dark thirty-two years ago. A moment of silence if you please. During my school summer vacations I used to listen to this station from my parent’s modest beach cottage. If the wind was right, the signal migrated into southern Rhode Island just enough for it to be listenable on my AM radio. I credit WNBC for giving me my first exposure to Don Imus and Howard Stern. I used to get a kick out of hearing Imus do his radio evangelist character, Billy Sol Hargis. As for Stern, I distinctly recall one broadcast in which Stern, upset with afternoon drive host Soupy Sales, cut the strings on Sales’ piano live over the air. Other noteworthy hosts included Murray “the K” Kaufman, Wolfman Jack, and Cousin Brucie. Interestingly, short-time WNBC-AM Program Director Bob Pittman went on to found MTV in 1981.


Without getting into all of the gory details, in 1987, WNBC-AM was sold to the company that owned NY sports station WFAN-AM. At the time, WFAN was at 1050 on the AM dial and did not have a great signal, so WFAN took-over WNBC’s 660AM frequency and 50,000 watts of transmitting power (WFAN still occupies that position to this day). With that, WNBC’s nearly seven-decades of broadcasting was swiftly and mercilessly brought to an end.

“…Stern, upset with afternoon drive host Soupy Sales, cut the strings on Sales’ piano live over the air.”

During one of my Time Machine listening sessions on my Musica I enjoyed sounds by the Moody Blues, Three Dog Night, Bobby Darin, Michael McDonald, Jethro Tull, Billy Joel, Toto, and Le Freak. Whew! The take away? Don Imus is no longer with us, Howard Stern moved to pay satellite radio, and WNBC 660AM will never again grace our ionosphere, but Time Machine allows us to relive a little of its musical glory days.

Trivia: During a live afternoon drive traffic report in 1986, WNBC-AM traffic reporter Jane Dornacker was killed when the helicopter she was riding in crashed into the Hudson River. Pilot Bill Pate sustained serious injuries but survived.

5. Sun FM Beachradio: “Beach Music”; 257 kpbs, AAC: The Netherlands

A radio with a view: The Como Audio Musica in high gloss piano white tuned to Internet station “Sun FM Beachradio”.


Our customers have a standing invitation to let me know about the stations they listen to most. John Figliozzi, one of our customers whom I would classify as a sage when it comes to Internet radio, regularly keeps in touch with me and recommended Internet radio station Polynesie la 1ere (128 kbps, MP3; French Polynesia:), telling me “it’ll make you feel like you’re resting in a hammock between two palm trees sipping on a Mai Tai taking in the warm island breezes.” If you prefer something a little less exotic and a little more mainstream, try Recommended Station number five, Sun FM Beachradio from the Netherlands. Streaming at 257 kbps in the AAC audio codec, it is one of the best-sounding stations in our data base.

The Netherlands may not be your first choice for a tropical getaway, but it does sport some beautiful beaches, and that is the country where Sun FM Beachradio originates from. Interestingly, the station puts on a “vacation in Spain” twist as they explain on their website: “Sun FM beach radio makes you happy: with lots of Spanish music and international design, news, and a wonderful summer holiday feeling that you really enjoy. Spanish atmosphere, cheerful, positive, nice! You quickly feel completely on vacation! Sun FM Beach radio follows the rhythm of the beach. A wonderful and unique radio station that certainly does not sound the same all day long! A special ‘mood flow’ in which every record has been thought about the moment of broadcasting follows your mood all day, from getting up until late in the evening. That way you can keep listening all day. Just like on the beach, after a lively afternoon, in the evening the peace returns to enjoy and relax. A listening panel, in which adult women are emphasized, has indicated what people feel about certain records, and the timing thereof. You can also hear that. In addition to a wonderful summer music mix, you will hear quips all day long in multiple languages ​​about the Costa del Sol: about the expensive yachts in Marbella, have breakfast on your balcony with swaying palm trees on the beach, buy a real Rolex for 15 euros in Torremolinos , tear with your Lamborghini, rented for an hour or not, or go shopping in one of the huge shopping centers. In short: fun!”

An inviting beach on the Costa del Sol with an empty lounge chair with your name on it.

Sun FM’s meta data does not identify the songs being played, but you will be too preoccupied imagining the soft, warm sand between your toes, the cool, gentle waves, and the heavenly bodies walking by. Let Sun FM take you away even if you are just relaxing in a cheap lawn chair in your backyard watching your worn sprinkler do its thing (while sipping a Mai Tai, of course) while listening to your portable Como Audio Amico. As the station says, “wherever you go, take the Sun with you.” Wait. Did they say I could buy a Rolex for 15 euros?

Trivia: Spain’s Costa del Sol has a mild climate, features miles of beautiful, white sandy beaches, receives over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, has the largest concentration of golf courses in all of Europe, and welcomes 6 million tourists a year (prior to the pandemic).  

 6.bOp! 80’s: 80’s Music; 65 kbps, AAC: Australia


A totally righteous radio: The Solo in hickory by Como Audio tuned to Internet radio station “bOp! 80’s”.


I have many fond memories from the 1980’s even though my peers considered me a dweeb (and probably still do). I am not ashamed to admit I love the songs from that era, along with so many other things. Murder She Wrote, MTV, and The Golden Girls made their TV debut during the 80’s. Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and ET were smash movie hits. Women were into spandex and leg warmers, kids were into hanging out at video arcades, and Sony came out with the Walkman. What a decade.

What I like most about our number six Recommended Station from Sydney, in addition to the bitchin’ sound quality, is bOp!80’s like, totally rad playlist. When a station restricts its format to a particular decade, they often box themselves in to rotating the same old tired hits. Gag me with a spoon. Not so with bOp! 80’s. You will definitely hear a chunk of standard 80’s war horses, but you will also hear less-familiar cuts that prove equally gnarly. The station’s description nails it: “Get on those ripped tights and perm that hair. We’re heading back to the 80’s with the biggest and best hits.” Some of the artists I heard during one prolonged listening session included George Michael, Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Talk Talk, and Starship. Dude- I cannot remember the last time I heard Belinda Carlisle, so that was like, choice. As an added bonus, there are no commercials. Outrageous!

So, where is the beef? It is in your Como Audio music system when you are tuned to bOp!80’s. 1980’s, here I come (again), but with much less hair this time around. Duh.


Trivia: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was the best-selling album of the 1980’s, spending 37 consecutive weeks at number one. The single “We Are the World”, co-written by Jackson, was the best-selling single of the 1980’s.

 7. Circle of White Light Radio; 128 kbps, MP3: Ireland

Step into the light: The Como Audio Duetto in hickory tuned to Internet station “Circle of White Light Radio”.

With the chaos of coronavirus, it is comforting whenever you can surround yourself with positive energy. Circle of White Light Radio is a curious, nay, a controversial (my opinion) talk station in Ireland that concerns itself with a new way of thinking. It rounds out our Recommended Stations list at lucky number seven. As host Alan James puts it on his website, his station focuses “on every day solutions and looking at better ways to think and to step outside of our ‘3D thinking cage’ and to apply different methods which challenge our current belief systems. I aim to interview guests that will enable and empower our listeners to re-evaluate their current beliefs and offer new approaches to thinking that would be based on a 5D level of consciousness.” The station’s jingle puts it more succinctly: “Focusing on solutions and thinking different.” Streaming at 128 kbps, the quality is quite good, which is somewhat unusual for a station that does not play any music.


James experienced a kind of spiritual awakening in 2004. Six years later he started Internet radio station “Open Your Mind”, which was on the air for almost nine years. Circle of White Light Radio is his latest adventure. The program is broadcast live every Sunday at 7pm BST, which converts to an inconvenient twelve midnight for those of us residing across the pond on the east coast. No worries, because the shows are continually rebroadcast. Whenever I tuned in, the main topic, as one might expect, was the pandemic. The guest discussions were wide ranging to say the least…frequencies, clouds, Wi-Fi signals, time jumps, aging backwards, the deep state, face masks, and love and happiness. A lot to process in one sitting.

“With the chaos of coronavirus, it is comforting whenever you can surround yourself with positive energy.”

To give you the full monty, I disagreed with some of the guests’ viewpoints. There were some dubious statements posited that I was quite surprised the host did not challenge. Having worked in commercial radio for over six years including a stint as Operations Manager for a national talk radio network, I consider a good talk show host as a sort of traffic cop if you will. I queried James on that point. “My opinion is not important”, he replied in his email to me. “It’s up to the listeners to form their own opinion on what the guest says. I do not want to influence the listeners with my opinion.”

Just the same, it was fascinating to hear alternate takes on events and learn more about positive thinking in action. My summary cannot do the station justice, so it is best to tune in on your Como Audio music system for yourself and “factory reset” your mind with some white light.


Trivia: Norman Vincent Peale wrote over forty books, but his best-known was his New York Times best-seller, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, published in 1952. Peale’s book was a guide to achieving an optimistic attitude leading to a better quality of life. It sold over five million copies worldwide.

Como Audio’s Top 30 Countdown


In January of 2019 I wrote a Tech Rap article in which I published a list of our Top 30 most listened-to Internet radio stations. With the help of our Internet radio station aggregator, here is an updated list. This latest list is remarkably consistent with last years. As with the first list, Radio Swiss Jazz from Switzerland, a superb-sounding traditional jazz station, is still the favorite amongst all Como Audio listeners and remains our top favorite station as well.

1.      Radio Swiss Jazz (Jazz; 97 kbps, AAC: Switzerland)
2.       Rás 1 (Classical; 95 kbps, AAC: Iceland)
3.       WCRB Classical (Classical; 192 kbps, MP3: MA)
4.       BBC World Service (News; 56 kbps, MP3: UK)
5.       WQXR 105.9 FM (Classical; 128 kbps, MP3: NY)
6.       Mvyradio (Rock; 97 kbps, AAC: MA)
7.       BBC Radio 6 Music (Rock; 97 kbps, AAC: UK)
8.       BBC Radio 4 (News/Talk; 97 kbps, AAC: UK)
9.       Rás 2 (Rock; 97 kbps, AAC: Iceland)
10.   France Inter (News; 128 kbps, MP3: France)
11.   WNYC 93.9 FM (News/Talk; 97 kbps, MP3: NY)
12.   Bylgjan 989 (News & Pop; 128 kbps, AAC: Iceland)
13.   NPO Radio 1 (News/Sports/Talk; 192 kbps, MP3: Netherlands)
14.   Radio 1 (VRT) (Rock; 129 kbps, AAC: Brussels)
15.   Classic FM (Classical; 128 kbps, MP3: UK)
16.   france info (News/Talk; 128 kbps, MP3: France)
17.   Deutschlandfunk (News/Talk; 128 kbps, MP3: Germany)
18.   Radio Italia (Pop/Rock; 128 kbps, MP3: Belgium)
19.   Ö1 (Classical/Jazz/World Music; 192 kbps, MP3: Austria)
20.   La Premiere RTBF (Full Service; 97 kbps, AAC: Switzerland)
21.   BBC Radio 3 (Classical/Jazz/World; 97 kbps, AAC: UK)
22.   Radio Swiss Classic (Classical; 97 kbps, AAC: Switzerland)
23.   France Culture (News/Talk; 128 kbps, MP3: France)
24.   FIP (Pop; 128 kbps, MP3: France)
25.   Klara (VRT) (Classical; 133 kbps, AAC: Brussels)
26.   SomaFM – Left Coast (70’s Rock; 65 kbps, AAC: CA)
27.   WBUR 90.9 FM (NPR News/Talk; 48 kbps, MP3: MA)
28.   BBC Radio 2 (Pop/Rock; 97 kbps, AAC: UK)
29.   WGBH Boston Public Radio (NPR News/Talk; 97 kbps, MP3: MA)
30.   RTL (News; 128 kbps, MP3: France)


How to Find Our Recommended Stations

Preset keys all full? Store additional Internet radio stations in My Favorites.


To experience any of these fine Recommended Stations on your Como Audio music system, with the unit on and in Internet radio mode, go to Station list > Stations > Search stations > Enter the station name, select “OK” from the box on the right, and then select the station from the list. Once tuned, you can save the station to any one of the front panel presets by pressing and holding the desired preset key until you see the confirmation message appear on the display, or briefly press the round Play/Pause key on the remote control to save it to My Favorites if you have previously registered your system on the free portal.

“Radio Swiss Jazz from Switzerland, a superb-sounding traditional jazz station, is still the favorite amongst all Como Audio listeners and remains our top favorite station as well.”

Hint: To get the tuned Internet radio station logo to fill the display on your Como Audio model, briefly press the center Menu knob while tuned to a station. To return to the standard display, press the Menu knob in again.

At 257 kbps in the AAC audio codec, radio station “Sun FM Beachradio” from the Netherlands requires a healthy amount of bandwidth.


God Save the Stream

If an Internet station is streaming at very high quality, which most of these Recommended Stations do, they require a lot of bandwidth. If you have multiple Como Audio systems grouped, that increases the strain on your network even more. If you perform a speed test on your network, do not focus solely on download speed. Instead, pay particular attention to “Jitter”, as that is more important than speed. Your speed is most likely fine, but the lower the Jitter, the better. If your network’s Jitter measures greater than 15-25ms, your network is probably congested and you could experience issues streaming high quality Internet stations. If your Wi-Fi network is not up to the task it will result in the station frequently connecting or loading. If you experience this and would like some tips to address it, please refer to the “Buffer Zone” section in this past Tech Rap.Trivia: On average, Como Audio’s Internet radio aggregator adds 900 new free stations per month to our radio station data base.

Happy Birthday Tech Rap!


It was two years ago this summer I was approached by our International Marketing Director, Duncan Pool, to write a monthly article for our then relatively new blog. Up until that point our blog had been a repository for company news and press releases. Frankly, not a very compelling reason to visit the blog. Unbeknownst to Pool, I love writing, learning, interviewing, and I enjoy painting pictures with words, so I did not need very much persuading. I had authored all of our user manuals, crafted marketing materials for our products, and in my mid-twenties I wrote feature articles for a popular Beatles fanzine out of Connecticut called “Good Day Sunshine”. I interviewed such music luminaries as Billy Preston, Badfinger, Doris Troy, David Peel, Jackie Lomax, Derek Taylor, Mark Lewisohn, Alistair Taylor, and others. I would call the blog articles “Tech Rap”, though not every article would necessarily be technical in nature. I was a little nervous about how Tech Rap would be received. Little did I know I would still be at it two years and almost 40 articles later.

Tech Rap quickly proved to be a lot more time consuming than I ever expected, but every so often I would receive an email from a reader expressing how much they enjoyed a Tech Rap article and look forward to the next new post. We are, by nature, quick to complain, yet not nearly as quick to praise, so those kinds of emails make the effort all worthwhile. Thank you for making Tech Rap a success. If you like our little blog, please let others know about it even if they are not Como Audio customers (yet). And as always, if you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to advance a topic for a future Tech Rap, please feel free.

I would like to point out that some older Tech Rap editions have been relegated to the “Archive” section of the blog. This will be done semi-regularly in order to keep the main page from becoming too congested. Also, Tech Rap: Celebrating Vinyl has been updated with an exclusive interview with inventor Don Poynter, and Tech Rap: Crowdfunding Music, Part 2 has been updated with an exclusive interview (and picture) with the Harp Twins. Though I try to provide plenty of response time, sometimes artists are not able to get back to me by the time the article “goes live”, but I update articles as time allows.

“Unbeknownst to Pool, I love writing, learning, interviewing, and I enjoy painting pictures with words, so I did not need much persuading.”

Looking ahead, can you believe next month is October already? Where did the summer go? Be on the lookout next month for a Tech Rap Halloween Edition I hope you will like. There will not be another Recommended Stations article until sometime early next year, so I will leave you to explore Internet radio on your own for a while. In the meantime, if you come across any Internet radio station(s) you wish to endorse, please let me know about them at pskiera@comoaudio.com, because you know how much I love letting everyone know about new ways to enjoy the music.

Next Tech Rap: A Monster Party

General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

Related articles:

Station Spotlight

Exploring the Internet Radio Highway

Our Most Popular Stations

My Favorites is Back!

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