Okay, so not everyone will get the Tamarian reference, but stay with me here.
A long, long time ago, I started listening to music seriously. My earliest memories of listening to music stretch back to sitting in front of my folks entertainment console in the very early 70s, listening to music on the rock stations of the time in Chattanooga (WGOW, WFLI, WDXB). I was hooked, and found a passion that has stuck with me. I started listening to my folks’ albums — Dean Martin, Trini Lopez, and The Fifth Dimension among many others.
Around 1976, Mom and Dad bought us a turntable of our own, and I began to grow an LP collection that I retained until the mid-80s. That’s when I figured out that my musical tastes were all over the place. I was listening to just about anything, and enjoying most of it. And then in the late 70s, I discovered Pink Floyd.
I’d never heard anything like their music. I fell in love with Animals when I first heard it, and then starting listening to anything from their catalog I could find.
When I was collecting records hot and heavy in the early 80s, I happened upon a quadraphonic copy of Wish You Were Here. And boy, did I want gear to play it on. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to hear that kind of music in that way. Remember, this was before surround sound and all its variants. By and large, if you listened to music, movies or TV, it was in stereo at best. Alas, the gear to reproduce quad music never fell in my hands, and like the rest of my albums, that quad recording was lost to the mists of time.
Fast forward about thirty years. Pink Floyd re-released remastered versions of most of their catalog in late 2011, with three of the recordings — Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall — released in “immersion” editions. Each of these three was released with tons of extra material like live versions, alternate takes, and some video material. For Christmas and my birthday, Becky gave me The Wall and Wish You Were Here immersion editions.
And in the Wish You Were Here set was that same quad mix!
With some excitement, I dropped the DVD with the quad mix into my blu-ray player, only to discover that my ancient Sony home theater unit couldn’t figure out what to do with that funky audio stream from the player. Urgh. I went back to the internet, doing a bunch of searching about this DVD, to see if I could figure out what I’d need to play this recording. As it ends up, my crusty old receiver just wasn’t up to it, and I needed newer gear.
Not being one who is well-known for his patience, I shot to Best Buy, with a Marantz receiver in mind after doing a little research. They had it, I brought it home, and after a long setup process where the receiver quacked like a duck to understand the acoustics of the room (a la Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory — about 45 seconds into this clip), I was finally ready to listen.
I laid on my back on the basement floor, one speaker off each limb like some whacky hi-fi drawing and quartering, and I listened. And I was stunned.
It’s hard to describe to folks who’ve had 5.1, 7.1 and other exotic soundfields available to them all their lives exactly what it’s like to hear a 35-year old recording as though it was brand new. That’s what this was like though — a recording I know backwards and forwards, and suddenly it was new again. I just laid on the floor, eyes closed, and let the music wash over me. There’s just no way to describe what that was like, but finally I understood what all the hoopla about these old mixes was all about. (Now you can hit the link for the Tamarian reference.)
This is definitely the way music was meant to be heard, and you can bet I’ll be looking for more recordings like this!