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Playback: From the Victrola to MP3, 100 Years of Music, Machines, and Money Paperback – February 1, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Famous DJ Murray "The K" Kaufman's name is misspelled as "Kaufmanns." Four simultaneous Top 10 hits from the "Saturday Night Fever" LP is said to be "equaling the Beatles' British Invasion coup" (in fact, the Beatles held the top five spots on Billboard's Hot 100 on April 4, 1964). And in his discussion of the RCA/CBS "Speed Wars," Coleman seems to have missed, ignored or chose not to explain the entire reason for the "big hole" in the middle of 45 rpm records: it was specifically designed to accommodate RCA's "quick-change" automatic turntable that was supposed, as they were marketed, to make the change from one side to the next virtually seamless and therefore, so they expected the consumer to believe, be a viable alternative to LPs. This seems a strange omission given that his claimed original intention was to detail the history of the turntable. He also manages to mangle the early history of magnetic tape recording in the U.S. (failing to mention John T. Mullen at all!). And these are only the most obvious boners!
Coleman's insights and speculations on the present and future of music transcription and consumption are interesting, to be sure, and, again, his writing is lively and appealing, but, given the questionability surrounding the facts as he presents them, I must therefore question his conclusions as well as the validity of this history as a whole.
But it is a fun read with a good beat and it's good to dance to, so I'll give it a sixty-three, (...)
It's a small but concise volume, and it offers the reader a good bit of information quite economically. It is also somewhat of a walk down memory lane for technology buffs and people who grew up listening to music in general..in whatever format. It is in some respects a natural history of heard media. Mr. Coleman erects a sturdy platform from which to observe the cluttered landscape of failed and outdated technologies.
His occassionally arch commentary on the actual music that some of these great technological leaps forward produced is amusing and produced more than one audible chuckle. I think that his background as a music reviewer serves him well in this respect. He clearly loves music, and has obviously found himself responding to these new technologies and sounds like all of the rest of us.
In particular, his chapter on the confluence of the Beatles genius and George Martin's technological savvy (Chap. 6- Dreaming in Stereo I think), and the epochal music that emerged from their propitious alliance is brilliant. Absolutely the most clear eyed analysis I've read.
I'll focus on the brief Theramin section just as an example. The author refers to the first Theramin as "portable" -- has he actually seen an original one, or just the 1990s hobbyist versions? Like early household radios, they were designed to be pieces of furniture, not least because a decent sound required a large speaker enclosure. He also describes the instrument as not needing to be played in tune. On the contrary, that is the number one requirement to playing it successfully. Again, I think he is confusing the actual Theramin instrument with the current cheapo devices "played" by hipsters as sound effects. Also, the author repeats the decades-old misstatement that a Theramin is used on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." The recording sessions have been extremely well-researched and documented -- it's easy to fact-check and find out that it was not a Theramin, but a wire-based device invented (and played) by a Dr. Tanner.
The author summarizes the entire 1950s as the era of homogenous Top 40 radio. Actually, Top 40 didn't become ubiquitous till after the Payola scandal of 1959, when the industry needed to take control away from individual DJs. Before then, rock and roll was driven by independent DJs who programmed their own shows and fostered regional hits.
These are just examples. There are enough bad mistakes (regarding who produced the music in Warner Bros. cartoons, when the Moog was first heard on popular records, and more) that the whole book is suspect on a factual basis.
Furthermore, the writing itself is meandering and annoying. He insists on referring to Edison cylinders as "software.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was just what I needed to prepare for my study club program on History of Listening to Music.Published on March 21, 2014 by Evelyn G.
Just heard this 'person' on NPR.. the factual basis in error.. he stated that before mechanical recording there was no product to sell.. (he also called P.T. Barnum "H.B. Read morePublished on April 6, 2005 by L. McDaniel
I don't know much about Mark Coleman but my guess is that "Playback" is one of his first books, if not the first. Read morePublished on August 23, 2004 by Chris A. Kantack
Mark Coleman has certainly packed plenty of information into this little volume about the history of recorded music. Read morePublished on April 28, 2004 by Paul Tognetti