Sunday, December 24, 2017

Peace On Earth...May Christmas Hasten That Day


The first months of World War I had seen an initial German attack through Belgium into France, which had been repulsed outside Paris by French and British troops at the Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. The Germans fell back to the Aisne Valley and in the subsequent Battle of the Aisne, the Allied forces were unable to push through the German line, and the fighting quickly degenerated into a static stalemate with neither side willing to give ground. To the north, on the right of the German army, there had been no defined front line and both sides quickly began to try to use this gap to outflank one another. In the ensuing "race to the sea", the two sides repeatedly clashed, each trying to push forward and threaten the end of the other's line. By November, there was a continuous front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The action was swift and both sides were determined.

But, in December something unexpected happened: An unofficial truce involving about 100,000 British and German troops along the length of that front. The reason?  Christmas.  It began on Christmas Eve when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium. The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across the 'No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.

Ironically, just days before Christmas a group of 101 British women suffragists wrote a letter to the women of Germany and Austria. Under the heading "On Earth Peace, Goodwill towards Men, the letter said, "The Christmas message sounds like mockery to a world at war. Is it not our mission to preserve life? 

The next Christmas, the two sides again observed an unofficial cease fire at the front but it was not as successful, thanks to strongly-worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternization.

My prayer is that one day we will have peace on earth...may Christmas hasten that day. 

God bless you all and may each of you have a blessed Christmas!

"It Could Happen Again"

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Invention of the LP

The long-playing microgroove 33-1/3 rpm phonograph disc, the standard for incorporating multiple or lengthy recorded works on a single disc for two generations, was developed in 1945 by German-Hungarian engineer Dr. Peter Carl Goldmark. The LP was introduced by Columbia's future president, Goddard Lieberson, in 1948. Goldmark's vinyl long-playing records remained the standard in the music industry until the compact disc replaced vinyl in the late 1980s.

For the compact disc-age person, the LP was an analog sound storage medium, a vinyl record format, characterized by a speed of  33 1/3 rpm, a 12 or 10-inch diameter, and use of the "microgroove" groove specification.

At the time the LP was introduced, nearly all phonograph records for home use were made of an abrasive shellac compound, employed a much larger groove, and played at approximately 78 rpm, limiting the playing time of a 12-inch diameter record to less than five minutes per side. The new product was a fine-grooved disc made of vinyl. Originally 23 minutes per side, it was later increased by several minutes.

Although the LP was suited to classical music because of its extended continuous playing time, it also allowed a collection of ten or more pop music recordings to be put on a single disc. Previously, such collections, as well as longer classical music broken up into several parts, had been sold as sets of 78 rpm records in a specially imprinted "record album" consisting of individual record sleeves bound together in book form. The use of the word "album" persisted for the one-disc LP equivalent.

Today, technology is at an all-time high. In so many ways, sound technology is great and the way we listen to music is great. Now, there is digital audio tape (DAT), digital audio broadcasting, HD Radio tuners, which can be connected together with fibre optic TOSLINK cables, universal serial bus (USB) ports (including one to play digital audio files), or the awesome technology known as Wi-Fi, Blu-Ray and Bluetooth. Another modern component is the music server consisting of one or more computer hard drives that hold music in the form of computer files where the music is stored in an audio file. The computer playback of recorded audio can serve as an audiophile-quality source for a hi-fi system.

Some people who were around during the vinyl era appreciate where sound technology has gone. Some of us also moss the vinyl days.

Dr. Peter Carl Goldmark was born in Budapest on December 2, 1906. He died on December 7, 1977 at Port Chester, New York.

Disc Jockey Fired For Playing Elvis Presley's White Christmas

Disc Jockey Al Priddy of radio station KEX in Portland was fired on this day in 1957 after playing Elvis Presley's version of 'White Christmas.' The station management said, 'it's not in the spirit we associate with Christmas.'

The Bing Crosby holiday perennial song, which had appeared every year on the Billboard charts since 1942, became the center of controversy upon "Elvis' Christmas Album's" release, with calls by the song's composer Irving Berlin to have the song, and the entire album, banned from radio airplay. After hearing Presley's version of his song, which Berlin saw as a "profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard," he ordered his staff in New York to telephone radio stations across the United States, demanding the song be discontinued from radio play. Most stations ignored Berlin's request.

The controversy was fueled by Elvis' performance of the song in a style mirroring the version by Clyde McPhatter's group, The Drifters, which had been a Top 10 hit on the R&B singles chart in 1954 and 1955. Unlike Elvis' recording, however, their version attracted virtually no adverse reaction, and certainly no reported opposition from Irving Berlin. Part of the reason that The Drifters' version of "White Christmas" was less controversial was because that version was played only on black radio stations.

In reality though, Berlin looked at Elvis' version of his song as a kind of sacrilege, a reaction born out of a personal tragedy that was the heart and soul of the song. In Berlin's eyes, there was good reason "White Christmas" was meant to be performed very melancholy, bluesy if you will, the way Crosby sang it, and not in the typical festive Christmas tune formula.

Irving Berlin’s 3-week-old son, Irving Berlin Jr., died on Christmas Day in 1928, and every Christmas after, he and his wife would visit their baby boy’s grave. Perhaps, Berlin's writing of the song, which in all honesty echoes many peoples' feelings over the holiday season, was his deep response to his feelings about the death of his son.

As Jody Rosen, author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, said, "it’s pretty poignant and special that a song born out of such grief and loss would become one of the world’s all-time best-selling and most widely recorded songs ever– of all genres, not just holiday songs."

At the end of the day, you have to imagine that Berlin was comforted in some measure by the royalty payments Elvis' version sent his way. According to the most recent record album certifications, the holiday album title that has shipped the most copies in the United States is "Elvis' Christmas Album," which is certified by the RIAA for shipment of 16 million copies in the U.S. (3 million copies of the original 1957 release on RCA Victor Records, plus 10 million copies of a "budget" edition first released by RCA Camden in 1970 and then by Pickwick Records in 1975, and 3 million of a RCA reissue titled "It's Christmas Time," released in 1985.

For the record, Elvis Presley did reach out and extend an olive branch to Irving Berlin, which was rejected. Elvis sent an autographed photo to Berlin as a sort of peace offering– “To Mr. Irving Berlin with respect and admiration, Sincerely Elvis Presley.” 

"Roy Clark, Thanks For Coming"

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