Thursday, January 15, 2004

My Rock Wall of Obscurity

Last summer (2003) I got tired of looking at a blank wall at my office. Not that I'm akin to staring at blank walls all the time but the prints by Zelda and Kadinsky weren't making it for me anymore.

In my basement I have about 2,000 records that I collected during the 1970's. They include many progressive, electronic, new wave, jazz and blues artists. Commercial "corporate" radio has long forgotten these bands. But, thanks to Napster and the Internet, many of these artists are being re-discovered and making a comeback.

Still, there are many artists who remain in obscurity but who made substantial contributions to the evolution of music. So with the help and encouragement of my wife, one weekend we decided to build our rock wall of fame from the albums in the basement.

Here is the result:

I love the comments people give when they see the wall. Most never heard of the bands but there are actually a few who knew practically every one. My favorite was a young woman from a local ad agency who recognized nearly all of them. She couldn't be older than 25.

How many do you recognize? I'll give you one. Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" is the album behind the flash blast on the far right.

Homer Simpson once said, "It's a known fact that rock 'n' roll was perfected in 1972." So true. The technology finally caught up with the creativity. Instead of two-track recordings you had 16-track with lots of overdubbing capability. Artists could achieve the sounds they dreamed about in the past. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is probably the pinnacle example of rock music production of this period. Produced by Alan Parsons, it literally "eclipsed" everything else. Soon, every new or emerging artist of the early 70's, like Queen, David Bowie, Steely Dan, were producing albums using these new multi-track recording techniques.

Coinciding with the revolution in recording technology was a vast improvement in the audio components industry. Low-priced but high performance receivers and speakers were available. Pioneer, Sherwood, Harmon-Kardon were affordable high fidelity amps and receivers. EPI, Advent, JBL, and Infinity speakers ruled in homes and college dorms everywhere. Car audio finally caught up in the early 1970's by adding an FM Stereo option. If you were stuck with an AM only radio, Audiovox made an under-dash FM Converter for $19.95.

The next wave came with the emergence of FM radio which has vastly greater sound quality than AM radio. New FM stations, like WNCR and WMMS, fed the growing demand for high quality sound by playing music from the new, emerging artists who created multi-track recordings.

And that's how rock 'n' roll was perfected.

J.D. Fisher

All text and photos Copyright 2004 James D. Fisher.
All Rights Reserved.