Vinyl Mail Bag
Compiled by Lukas Kendall
Here are some letters we received back in June following a column on
vinyl soundtracks by Mark Hasan (go here for part
one and part
two). Sorry we didn't run this sooner -- it's been hard finding the
The information on the Andromeda Strain soundtrack is especially
From: RLHubbard@webtv.net (Robert Hubbard)
Kudos to Mark Hasan's FSD article on vinyl soundtracks.
It's one aspect of FSM that I miss during it's 'zine' days, the mention
of vinyl LPs. To most of the collectors who've come of age in the 90's
& have probably never seen an LP: Save on a couple of bootleg purchases
and invest in a turntable!
I have a bit of tangental information regarding THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN
album.... (long backstory: connected up with a local soundtrack enthusiast
who wanted a clean dub of the album, which I happened to have [the second
pressing: pretty plain, but in great shape for listening], and he forwarded
the following piece from Jeff Kilan of Wichita, KS. Mr. Kilan had tracked
down the man who had a hand in the album, Dr. Rick Steinberg, and had him
write down his recollections of the project.
Hexagonal Music: How I Manufactured The Andromeda Strain
by Dr. Rick Steinberg
History done at the request of Jeff Kilan, June 2000.
In 1970, during the editing of his now classic movie "The Andromeda
Strain", the director, Robert Wise, approached me with a view to have the
soundtrack album marketed in a special manner. I was then in charge of
Order Service for MCA Records; that is, record manufacture. He asked if
it was possible to have the record pressed in a hexagonal shape as the
extra-terrestrial viral strain called Andromeda in the film was hexagonal.
I said anything was possible, but that it would cost an estimated $20,000.
While this was then a high figure for record production, it was minimal
to the movie business and was agreed.
The executives at Kapp Records were only too happy to go along with
the scheme as it relieved them of the production costs. (The soon to be
defunct Kapp Records was one of several labels under the MCA umbrella at
the time.) I discussed the matter with the president of Monarch Records,
who pressed all MCA record requirements for the West Coast at that time.
My idea was to have the music recorded in 10 Au format but put on a 12
Au matrix and manufactured as a 12 Au record. A steel hexagonal mold would
then be made and this would be used in a press to trim the excess material
from the 12 Au record to make a hexagonal shape, leaving the 10 inches
of recorded material intact. This became the production method.
Kapp had agreed to a production run of 10,000 records. The pressing
process encountered some problems: the unrecorded surface of the record
had to be roughed so that it could be gripped for the cutting. This left
unsightly corners on the finished record, therefore a more careful method
of roughing only those edges that would not form the corners of the finished
record had to be devised. Also, for a run of 10,000, the edges of the mold
had to be sharpened frequently so as to leave a clean edge on the record.
The packaging into the record jackets also required extra time compared
with normal jacketing. However, the total cost, including a spare mold,
came to somewhat less than the quoted figure of $20,000. MCA were fortunate
in having a very creative design team for their record jacket production.
John LeProvost and Virginia Clark wanted to reflect the fact that it was
music from a movie, thus they came up with the idea that the jacket should
emulate a camera lens surrounding the actual record, but nevertheless pasted
on a 12 Au square board.
The original 10,000 records sold out fairly rapidly. Gil Melle,
the composer of the music, urged a second pressing, but the Kapp management
did not want to go to the expense of reproducing the original format. It
was therefore decided to repress the 10 Au recording on a 12 Au standard
record and package it in a standard jacket. This did not sell so well,
and MCA soon lost interest in the record.
Hope that's of some interest to the ANDROMEDA STRAIN fans out there.
Looking forward to the continuation of the vinyl piece.
From: John, Ranger7774@aol.com
Like Bob Smith, I too was one of those "people" you talk
about here. Many good points in your spiel. I prefer the ending on the
Poltergeist CD without the laughing. Enjoyed reading it. It brought back
a lot of memories.
From: Victor Field <email@example.com>
With regards to music on vinyl or CD or whatever, I refer
you to the moment in "Ed Wood" where our hero tries to interest a movie
producer who by his own admission makes "crap" in hiring Bela Lugosi for
his film - when Wood asks what would result if he got a star, the producer
replies "Crap with a star." The same basic difference applies with any
format for music - whether it's on plastic or metal, good stuff is still
good stuff even if it's scratchy and crap is still crap even with the latest
sound advances. People have complained about "FSM" discussing the movies
along with the music for them, but the latter basically exists because
of the former; you can't say that about records. Shouldn't we be interested
in the music, not what it's on?
From: Simon StLaurent <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your comment on Ben Hur LP... regarding MGM Camera 65 being
"just good old Panavision". Not really! The "65" means 65 millimetre film.
Panavision is generally 35 mm.
From: "Josh Gizelt" <email@example.com>
At the risk of sounding like a rabid perfectionist, Mr.
Hasan's Wednesday article featured the following statement:
Ben-Hur featured the LP, liner notes, and a Random House book detailing
the production stages, the universal wonderment people will experience
with "MGM Camera 65" (really just good old Panavision) and some (tacky)
specially commissioned paintings (traced from production stills) of dramatic
highlights, "suitable for framing." How can anyone resist?
Ben Hur was photographed in an anamorphic 70 millimeter format
(exposed surface is 65 millimeter with the other 5 millimeters used for
the magnetic sound track). In addition to yielding the almost
quadrupled image space as 35 millimeter, it is anamorphically squeezed
during photography and unsqueezed during projection, yielding a ribbonlike
aspect ratio (screen width:hieght) of 2.66:1.
In general, Panavision is merely anamorphic 35 millimeter, yielding
a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Although not in use any more, Super Panavision is
straight-up 70 millimeter, yielding a 2.1:1 aspect ratio, while Ultra Panavision
is the same as the touted MGM Camera 65.
The demise of large format film production is lamentable, and it
is important to many, not just myself, that the facts are kept straight,
so that those of us who have seen actual 70 millimeter productions can
remember what film is supposed to look like before it's replaced by a digital
From: "nick garrod" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have found Mark Hasan's two articles on the CD versus
LP debate most interesting. I too still have all my soundtrack LPs which
were lovingly collected over a period of some 15 years. I would never dream
of selling them off even though l now have many on CD. Not only are they
more aesthetically pleasing than CDs but in the case of those from the
fifties and sixties the sound is better than any CD reissue simply because
the LP was pressed when the recording was new and therefore sounds better
than a CD which was made some thirty or forty years later by which time
the original tapes had begun to deteriorate. Good examples of this are
South Seas Adventure, Vertigo (l think Mark, you mentioned this in your
article) and Old Man and the Sea (the Varese CD seems to have lost something
in the remastering process - the LP sounds much more vivid). I used to
own the Mainstream CD of To Kill a Mockingbird which was awful (muddy and
muffled) until l obtained an original LP issue which is much clearer. The
same can also be said for DRG's issue of FUNNY FACE - the LP is dynamic
but the CD is muffled and the orchestration obscured (especially in the
song 'Funny Face').
Another good case for retaining LPs also is the running time. With
so many CDs running up to 75 minutes and beyond I find it increasingly
difficult to find the time to play them (I have to listen to them with
no distraction, I just cannot listen to a film score whilst doing something
else, it detracts from the listening experience). An LP that runs to some
45 minutes is very often just the right length.