Friday, October 17, 2014

WFIL-AM 1976 (Pt 2)

Here are three more playlists from Disco Hell. Except for those occasions caricaturization the disco era itself, none of these songs require a second listen. By the end of December Alice Cooper's worst single ever "I Never Cry" is in the middle of the chart and "Beth" an unspeakably bad cut by Kiss is on the upswing.

This era was just unforgivably bad for rock n' roll. the programming is cringe-worthy. Even now, decades later I struggle to maintain an anthropological ear in the face of truly awful music. No matter how shallow, vapid and disposable you find the playlists of pop radio stations today, you can't look at this and think that it used to be better. Today's CHR is a direct descendant of this rubbish.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WFIL-AM 1976 (Pt 1)

I'm posting this in two parts. They span together (with a gap) from the first week of August to the last week of December 1976. These are documents from deepest darkest midnight of the disco era. This is what Lucifer listens to while sitting in his hot tub of molten sulfur with Richard Nixon and Jesse Helms.

Hyperbole aside, this is truly the forgotten music. While oldies playlists drift into 1960s classic rock, actual Classic Rock playlists of the 1970s leap frog over the disco era and pick from more palatable singles of the 1980s.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The First Black Radio Announcer (Part 6)

Charles Walton called Al Benson the Godfather of Black Radio.He was a DJ (obviously) a musician and recording artist, a record producer an ordained minister, and a civil rights activist. Born in Jackson,  Missisippi, Benson worked vaudeville as a child and relocated to Chicago with his parents in 1923. He was only 15 years old. The success of Jack L Cooper on WSBC opened the door to some possibilities in Chicago and Benson walked through it.

The Chicago Tribute wrote that he "worked as a probation officer, railroad cook and precinct captain..." He went on to found a small church under his real name Arthur Leaner. Then in 1943 he began to broadcast his church services, sermons and gospel music on 1390 WGES-AM Sunday nights. The station signed on in 1925 as WTAY-AM and in the 1920s was a 3-way dayshare with WSBT and WJKS. In 1925 Coyne Electrical School purchased the station changed its call letters to WGES. It changed hands a coupel more times and in 1941 WGES left the share and moved to 1390 kHz and increased it's power from 500 watts power to 5,000 watts. By 1945 Benson also had another program spinning blues and jump music.

Benson introduced his show with the song  "9 O'clock Beer" by the Barney Bigard Quintet. He would stay with WGES until 1962 when it flipped to Top-40 as WYNR. The new owrner, Gordon McLendon fired all of its foreign language programmers and black DJs... including Benson. (It failed and went all-news in 1964)
 Benson was popular in Chicago. He cross the street and began DJing at WJJD. But the uproar over WGES continued. There were complaints the the FCC. There was a big polish population in Chicago that just got the palm.  The FCC held hearings.. but nada.

Benson cross the street to WHFC-AM and when the station was bought by Leonard Chess it was a dream come true. Under Leonard the station became a 24/7 black radio station as WVON. But he worked only a month more and announced his retirement in 1963. He did a couple part time gigs at WAIT, WWCA and WIMS. He died in 1978.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Transcription Mystery Disc #235

I was recently contacted by a descendant of Frank L. Eulau. You may or may not know that name, but a few years back I stumbled upon a short stack of his discs in a junk shoppe. I digitized and posted one here perviously. The brand of the disc is uncertain but I suspect it is an Audiodisc. The blank is a 10-inch, metal-core, 78 rpm acetate recording, with an outer edge start.  The sides are numbered 1- 6, but there are two discs bearing the sides 3 and 4, leading me to believe these are a mix of at least two different "sets."

Frank Eulau - 02/17/1955 (3:20)

The music seems to be Greek... possibly Turkish the capital letter appear to be Cyrillic. as is the rest of the labeling. Thankfully the dates are legible. The home made labels indicate that Frank was an amateur engineer of some kind and that he probably had a bit of practice before he recorded any of these. The only problem is that they have been played. They haven't been played to death, but enough to create some surface noise. I reduced the tracking weight and gave the disc a good wipe-down before giving it a go. It came out quite nicely.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Titan Is Watching You

Nobody involved could possibly think this is a good idea.  They probably enjoy being paid very well but you can't participate without thinking it might not end well. The headline on Buzzfeed read as follows:
"A company that controls thousands of New York City’s phone booth advertising displays has planted tiny radio transmitters known as “beacons” — devices that can be used to track people’s movements — in hundreds of pay phone booths in Manhattan"
Sadly it's true. Titan, the outdoor media company installed about 500 of the beacons in New York City. Their idea was to track users and serve them yet more advertisements. The problem was that they are physically tracking them.. you know like a creepy leery stalker guy. Apparently they have installed them in other major cities s well including San Francisco and L.A. among others. Supposedly, New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Communications (DoITT ) was only told by Titan that they were intended "for maintenance purposes only."  If that statement is true... then they should be expecting a tersely worded letter from the NY attorney general. Only weeks ago the U.S. Justice department arrested the CEO of InvoCode Hammad Akbar, for selling mobile apps designed to spying on peoples' smart phones including their location. More here.

How is this possible?  I'm not asking about oversight. I'm talking physics.  In a wordBluetooth.  Invented by telecom vendor Ericsson in 1994, it was originally intended as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cabling. Today it's the duct tape of the internet-of-things. Bluetooth operates in the UHF band between 2.4 to 2.485 GHz. Different standards can slice that into 40-79 channels that are either 1 or 2 MHz wide. The devices can change frequencies at up to 1600 hops per second, GFSK (Gaussian frequency-shift keying). it can move a lot of data quickly, but it only works over short distances.
For Titan, this meant extrapolating the movements by tracking the movements of multiple people via the wireless devices they carried as they passed near their beacons. they then tracked their movements like the old Decca air navigation system in reverse. [I wonder if they violated any patents doing that?] For the record the devices are made by Gimbal, Titan invented none of this RF technology. Previously before embarking on a career of crime, Titan was just selling ad space on the thousands of panels in phone kiosks around the city. After the story broke last week, New York City ordered the removal of the devices.