Highway Hi-Fi Podcast
Vinyl Pressing Plants - Kindercore (Episode 58)

Vinyl Pressing Plants - Kindercore (Episode 58)

September 15, 2019

We don’t really stop and think about it that much, but records are pretty damn amazing. A hunk of plastic that can be so powerful that it can bring us to tears, take us back to childhood haunts, or even make friends out of total strangers almost instantaneously. But beyond records being this incredible social and cultural artifact, records are amazing pieces of innovation.  In essence, the basic concept of a record hasn’t changed much since Edison’s needle etched vibrations onto tinfoil wrapped over a spinning cylinder. Records, even today, are still just soundwaves embedded into grooves. Sure, we’ve changed the sizes, material, the rpm, the quality, the technology, and the sound, but still, we’re talking about a unique physical manifestation of audio that holds the ability to summon the whole spectrum of human emotions. 

Occasionally on the Mr. Rogers show, he would leave his house to take a field trip. He would take us on a behind the scenes tour of some of the coolest places we could imagine … a crayon factory, the post office, the set of The Incredible Hulk show. Mr. Rogers would show us how the machines worked, chat with the people who had our dream jobs, let us in on secrets of the industry. We would see a world that both satiated our curiosity and fueled our fascination. Locating that kind of experience as an adult seems an impossibility at best. Those once thrilling machinations become simply a way to pay the bills, for the most part. There are times, however, albeit rare, when the stars align and time seems to move backward. We were recently lucky enough to have one of those experiences.

In Athens, Georgia, a town which is a musical landmark in its own right, there is an out of the way industrial building that’s become home to one of the rarest and coolest parts of the music industry, a record pressing plant. Kindercore Vinyl stands as one of only about 30 operating record presses in the US, the only one in Georgia, and one of the only that is functioning with brand new presses featuring the first real technological breakthrough in maybe 50 years. And they have plans for more innovations that may drastically change the face of record creation. We were fortunate to spend several hours touring the plant, seeing the operation, interviewing, and, as it happens when record folk gets together, talking about music. It was amazing. 

Though the basic mechanics of record presses seem simple enough...melt PVC, make into puck or biscuit, add the label for baking, smash the PVC together with prepared grooved plates, cut the trim, sort the discs, quality control, and packaging. But, of course, nothing is that simple. Everything factors into how the record gets from being mastered, lathed, and lacquered to spinning on your turntable. Even with 3 beautiful new high tech automated machines churning out a disc every 24 seconds, pressing records is as much an art as it is a science. The type and color of PVC, the dynamics of the music, the heating and cooling temperature, the operator, the temperament of the machine, the humidity in the air (inside and out), each play an integral role. Everything needs to be controlled, checked, and rechecked. And often rechecked yet again. An exercise in multi-tasking, problem-solving, and, occasionally, MacGyvering. Truly, once we understand the planning, processing, and dedication it takes to make a single record...it makes records all the more impressive.

Visit Kindercore Vinyl

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The History of Muzak (Episode 57)

The History of Muzak (Episode 57)

August 29, 2019

What is the cost of silence? What part of the human condition is lost or found in the stillness of sound? At some point, our culture seems to have turned its back on reflective quiet, opting instead for an environment that is constantly using stimuli to condition the population to various ends. Even in an era of personal choice, piped-in music is ubiquitous these days as advertisements are embedded in our daily routines. No doubt the struggle of the avid music listener is to cut out the commercial carpet bombing of inoffensive instrumental pop standards so that we can enjoy, well, anything else really. Today’s episode is a look inside the history of the sinisterly omnipresent background easy listening….today, the history of Muzak.  

Much of the research for this episode was found in this book:

Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition 

by Joseph Lanza 

 

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Bands Birthed from Movies and TV Shows (Episode 56)

Bands Birthed from Movies and TV Shows (Episode 56)

August 18, 2019

For the past few episodes, we have been examining the thin line that separates authentic from fraud in rock n roll.

The fantastical world-building of Mingering Mike showed how one can create true inspiration and beautiful art even without ever actually making music or having an audience.

The deception and tomfoolery of the music industry to create whole phantom biographies and personas as a means to some sort of end: financial, creative, critical or otherwise.

Today, the last piece falls into place. Not individuals trying to become stars. Nor stars trying to gain back some individuality. No, we are looking at bands that accidentally became real. Bands that took on a new life from an existence that was entirely, by definition, staged. Today’s episode we look at musicians and bands that broke free from the binds of television and movie screens to become actual stars. 

To learn more about JemCon, read this Rolling Stone article which we used for some of the research.

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Sham Bands and Other Hoaxes (Episode 55)

Sham Bands and Other Hoaxes (Episode 55)

August 5, 2019

There truly is a fine line between what’s real in rock n roll and what’s just an act. Judging the authenticity of an art form that at its heart is about transformative performance can be difficult, or worse, can take away from the power of it all. Where does one put the line in the sand beyond which is a total fabrication of aesthetic rather than an honest expression of self as art and music? Further complicating the matter is pinning down a measuring stick to determine the value of the music....record sales, billboard charts, financial accumulation, critical accolades, influence on other musicians. Sure, pre-packaged acts like the countless beautifully faceless boy bands seem to be an imitation of actual pop music but can that still count as art or even become art? So are the Monkees counterfeit rock n roll? Are their songs worth less because they were created and enabled by television producers? What about the Sex Pistols? Assembled, manufactured, marketed. So is most of Motown, for that matter. Even the beloved mop tops were shaped and molded and given matching Boots. All this to say, authenticity in rock n roll is on a sliding scale. 

 

Today’s episode takes a look at the history of artists that played with the notion of what’s real in music. Artists, who after obtaining fame and success, switch their identity or persona as intentional deceit toward some end...freedom, art, homage, satire, money. Sometimes, they might just be bored. Or prone to the creative use of multiple personalities and dissociative identities. Or just wish they could re-write their autobiography. Sometimes, just for a big fuck you to someone special. Today is an examination of the history of hoax bands. 

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Mingering Mike’s Mysteriously Mercurial Mind Trip (Episode 54)

Mingering Mike’s Mysteriously Mercurial Mind Trip (Episode 54)

July 4, 2019

On January 21, 1977, Jimmy Carter pardoned the Vietnam War draft dodgers. This happened the day after Carter was sworn into office and it was this single act ended the career of Mingering Mike Stevens, who was a singer, producer, label owner, and movie director. For nearly a decade, Mike created a career of epic proportions with tenacity, dedication, and precision.

According to a website dedicated to him, here is a list of his credentials: “Between 1968 and 1977 Mingering Mike recorded over fifty albums, managed thirty-five of his own record labels, and produced, directed and starred in nine of his own motion pictures. In 1972 alone he released fifteen LPs and over twenty singles, and his traveling revue played for sold-out crowds the world over.”

So how is it that a prolific career can be so lost upon the world? His storied life remained completely unknown outside of his own family for nearly 30 years. Worse than being simply forgotten, it was as if Mingering Mike never existed at all. In this episode, we discuss the history behind the legend of Mingering Mike.

 

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The Shyvers Multiphone Jukebox (Episode 53)

The Shyvers Multiphone Jukebox (Episode 53)

June 20, 2019

Everywhere you look you are surrounded by dead technology. The car you’re driving, the television you’re watching, the phone or computer that’s playing this podcast. Next month it will be outpaced. Next year it will be outdated. And next decade it will likely be obsolete. Proponents of technology always hail the latest and greatest as the critical next step toward inventive actualization. However, you probably wouldn’t be collecting records or listening to this show if you didn’t have some notion of the elegance and importance of antiquated technology. Both as relics of times gone by and reflections of the shared needs that all humans share no matter the era.

This episode is an examination of an odd pairing of two technologies that seem to be falling toward the wayside...telephones and jukeboxes. Devices that require human interaction as well as modern technology on both ends of the line. Today an examination of Shyvers Multiphone and the legacy of Dial-Up Music.

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Green Vinyl: Music Made for Plants (Episode 52)

Green Vinyl: Music Made for Plants (Episode 52)

June 6, 2019

A middle-aged lady with a beehive hairdo, cat-eyed glasses, and an orange church dress sits at a piano in the middle of cathedral-like Solarium in the Denver Botanical Gardens. She plays soft, chipper classical music surrounded by families of ferns: Maidenhair, Holly, Horsetail,  Cloverleaf, etc. She is being filmed for Leonard Nimoy´s In Search Of, a television documentary show dedicated to the world’s mysterious phenomena. Her undergraduate experiments with music and plants would inadvertently start a chain reaction resulting in a handful of highly specific records made exclusively for Flora.

In today’s episode, we discuss Green Vinyl: music made for and by plants.

 

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The Ye Ye Scenesters of Ye-steryear (Episode 51)

The Ye Ye Scenesters of Ye-steryear (Episode 51)

May 27, 2019

In 1959, a new radio show hit the Parisian airwaves called Salut les Copains, which translates to "Oh, Hi!" The show couldn’t have been more popular with teenagers. And on that program, there was a feature called “Sweetheart of the week” which featured one female pop singer. Because of the popularity of the show, those singers were all nearly instant hits, however fleetingly it was for most.

In 1963, Salut held a concert to celebrate the launch of its magazine. That concert drew nearly 200,000 people and caused lecherous drooling riots in the streets of Paris. Journalist Edgar Morin dubbed the singers and attendees the Ye Ye Generation immediately following the concert and the name stuck.

Most of the ‘sweethearts’ were lolita like figures, rarely over 20 years old and looking sweet and innocent. Most of the songs were French versions of American rock and roll hits, as long as the hits were trite and vacuous. The competition to become a ‘sweetheart’ was fierce and because most of these girls were stylized to look nearly identical, it ended up being those singers who had a niche, or a personality, that made a memorable mark. Among the masses of one-hit wonders, there were several stars that transcended the scene.

Much of the research for this episode was found here: Ready Steady Girls!

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Record Keeping (Episode 50)

Record Keeping (Episode 50)

May 8, 2019

For our mid-century episode, We are going to take a bit of departure from the usual. This podcast started as a way to teach ourselves more about music history and to keep on introducing each other to great songs and stories about those songs. Today is an exploration of why we are obsessed with vinyl and what it means to be a record collector. And for this show, we’ve asked some of you to help us narrate the show by telling us about your run-ins with record collecting.

We’re going to spend the next hour or so as if we were working at a record store, chatting about the sorts of things we used to spend too much time talking about but now need to make time for. The highlights and lowlights of our prized collection. Vinyl dreams and wax memories. And try to understand the gravitational pull to the black circles.

Special thanks to friends and listeners who contributed amazing stories to this Episode: Brian and Brian from the Volcano Vinyl Podcast, Maurice and Tim from the See Hear Podcast, Chris, Abi, Travis, Dennis, Lea, Mathew, Maria, Hannah, and Yetsko. And thanks to everyone who has spent any time listening to the podcast. We hope you’ve learned something new and have had as much fun as We’ve Had in making Highway Hifi. 

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Trivia Information, Part 2 (more clues and prize announcement included)

Trivia Information, Part 2 (more clues and prize announcement included)

April 25, 2019

To celebrate our impending 50th episode, we've created a trivia contest for you, our beloved listeners. 

For this quiz, we're playing 8 clips. From these 8 clips, we're looking for a phrase, specifically based on the artists, so you don't need to get the song names. 

The name of the quiz is "Mixed-Up Confusion"

Clues:

  1. The answer is based on artists only
  2. Use the initials
  3. It's an anagram

When you think you have the answer, you can submit it to us in 3 ways:

  1. Email your answer to highwayhifipodcast@gmail.com
  2. Send us a direct message on Twitter with your answer. Our Twitter handle is @highwayhifipod
  3. Send us a message on Facebook

We will announce the winner during our 50th episode.

The winner will be the first person who submits the correct answer. That person will receive a five of a kind canvas record bag for all your vinyl shopping needs.

Another winner of the bag will be selected by randomly picking one of the other correct answers.

All entries will receive a copy of a mix made from our record collections as a thank you for listening and entering.

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