Monday, March 09, 2009

Playing your song

Although it may look like Lee Hartsfeld is about to destroy that record, he is actually giving us a demonstration of how tricky it can be to restore music. Lee's blog is titled, “Music you (possibly) won't hear anyplace else,” and it truly lives up to its name. Lee loves old 78 rpm records, and shares many of them in downloads from his Web site. You can check out current postings in the link section to your right.

As a music collector, I can appreciate all the tricky work that goes into preserving older recordings. I've had to do it myself with some home recordings, and sometimes it can be difficult. Thankfully, software makes the job easier by taking out clicks and some hiss. But it's still a labor of love in many ways, forcing us to consider which recordings are worth the effort to preserve. It's not always easy to decide. As a rule of thumb, I try to make copies of recordings that feature me or my friends and family. That's the most valuable to me. Then I branch out to many of my favorite artists.

I think that the CD industry has done a pretty good job of preserving historic recordings. But they are far from complete, as any record collector will tell you! There are plenty of fine albums that probably won't see an official CD release. This is the stuff that needs to be preserved by ourselves. This is what Lee does with his Web site, and we are quite thankful. But now comes our turn. Now we must preserve the stuff that's most important to us. Below is a list of what are probably the most important kinds of recordings for individuals to save.

1. Home recordings. These are audio tapes (and in some rare cases, records) that include the voices of family or friends. These are preserved for history if nothing else. Today, with the advent of camcorders, most of our family's voices come from videotape or CD recordings rather than tapes. But you may want to consider transferring some of that to CD as well, just to diversify your collection. Admittedly, I haven't done that either! But if you happen to have an extra lifetime, it may be worth considering!

2. LPs and tapes that haven't been commercially released. These include some of my favorite rare collections, including old-fashioned Christian music, older children's music (including, of course, Sesame Street), and rare commercial recordings. The Internet is turning into a treasure chest of unusual and unique recordings posted on blog sites. It's worth a peek, but don't be surprised if you can't find the specific album you want. You'll probably be forced to buy it yourself or to record it to CD yourself.

3. Tape collections – that is, music albums that you have created yourself from different albums. These can be tricky, depending on your albums. Sometimes, the songs will be available on CD, and sometimes they won't. And it could cost a pretty penny to buy every single official album you need just to recreate your own album. It is usually easier just to copy the recording from your tape, making minor adjustments to lower the noise issues. I hadn't done this myself until recently, and I found that I enjoyed it very much, despite the tricky work involved.

IN SEARCH OF: SHAMROCK SHAKES. Speaking of things that are rare and unique, let's talk about McDonald's shamrock shakes. Yes, apparently they still make them, but you will likely have to do some driving. Is it worth it? Well, probably not for the taste value (sorry, Uncle O'Grimacy), but the novelty value makes this a lot of fun. I wonder how many people are going to order a few hundred of them and keep them in the freezer.

This fun blog posting documents one person's heartbreaking experiences trying to locate the valuable green beverage.

A quick Google search led me to, a site where people post Shamrock Shake location queries and findings. Sadly, I had no luck for New York City. C'mon tipsters, get on it! We have to be hipper than Milford, Connecticut, right? Next, I called McDonald's headquarters. They said they don't have that information because, as most McDonald's are independently-owned, they have no control over who sells the shake and who doesn't. Sigh.
Finally, I looked up all the McDonald's locations in the SE HQ zip code and started cold calling. At one point I had to start speaking Spanish because the woman couldn't communicate in English. Good thing I had just spent a term in Barcelona! Unfortunately, that was probably one of the demoralizing conversations I had—she initially said she had it, then she didn't, then I was on hold for three minutes, then an English speaker came on the phone and just said, "No." Hopes dashed and dreams crushed, I persevered.

After twenty-four phone calls, I achieved success! Or did I? As I approached the McDonald's, I was hopeful. After all, the manager I spoke to on the phone had doubly confirmed this location had the Shamrock Shake. I entered through the shamrock-laden doors and entered the McDonald's where leprechauns go to die. Shamrocks hung from the ceiling and there was a small wall with shamrock charity stickers all over it. I approached the counter and excitedly said, "One Shamrock Shake, please!" The cashier replied, "What?"

Apparently, they weren't selling Shamrock Shakes, and the manager I had spoken to on the phone had conveniently left already. Is this some sort of Irish conspiracy? Is this an IPO (Irish People Only) thing? What does it take to get a Shamrock Shake around here?
After that final dream crusher, I trudged back to SE HQ. After a bit of Googling, I found this
New York Daily News article from 2007 that says New York is a dry state for Shamrock Shakes. Has anything changed in the past two years? Or do I need to investigate cheap airfare options?

This Web site attempts to locate all the McDonald's that currently serve the shamrock shakes. But since most of the information comes from individual posters, the accuracy of the list can't be depended upon. Drink at your own risk!
ON YOUTUBE: SHAMROCK SHAKES COMMERCIAL: A classic McDonald's commercial for shamrock shakes is on my YouTube page, along with Helen Reddy singing "Wonder Child." Watch for more repeats in the coming weeks!

COINCIDENCE? Here's something I never thought of before. It's Girl Scout cookie time again, and my favorite thin mints will be available for a limited time. Did you notice that the mints come in a green box? And did you also notice that St. Patrick's Day is this month? And did you notice that most girl scouts are dressed in green?

Yes, I know, I know. It doesn't mean a thing. Just thought I'd bring it up. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to find a McDonald's that still sells shamrock shakes. Top o' the morning to you all.