Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Varying the speed of tapes in the studio is not uncommon, but asking that your listener get up and change the speed of their record player on an album is another thing entirely.
Certainly there have been singles which play one side at 45 and the other at 33 (often 12" singles or EPs from the Eighties) -- but in '68 the increasingly drug-addled Skip Spence of San Francisco psychedelic rockers Moby Grape came up with another idea for their album Wow, the follow-up to their Essential Elsewhere album Moby Grape of the previous year.
For one track Spence -- soon to join that pantheon of the damaged alongside Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson and Brian Wilson -- decided he wanted to have a Thirties-styled dance orchestra play one song . . . and that true to the manner of music from those times it would not only sound like an old 78rpm record but play at that speed.
So just before Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot on the 33rpm album a voice came on and invited listeners to get up and change the speed of their player to 78 (most players at the time had speeds of 33, 45 and 78, some -- like the one in my house -- even had 16rpm).
And what you got was an orchestra lead by Wow producer Lou Waxman and introduced by famous CBS radio and television announcer Arthur Godfrey who also played banjo and ukulele on it.
"Skippy bumped into Arthur at Columbia [Records]," said band member Jerry Miller later. "The two of them were like Mutt and Jeff, cruising around arm-in-arm. The funny thing was that Arthur Godfrey thought that Gene Autry was the kind of music we did all the time."
For more oddities, one-offs or songs with a backstory see From the Vaults.