Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 06/29/2019

Searching For Videos

Searching for lost oldies isn’t all that difficult if you have a library full of the Record Research books–pick a year and run down the lists of songs.

Once I’ve picked out a song for one day’s lost or forgotten oldie, step two requires finding a video for it. YouTube is an excellent place to search for videos since almost everybody can view them there for free. I pay extra each month so I can avoid the ads that can get in the way, but that makes sense for me given the number of hours I spend on YouTube every…single…day.

Ideally, I want to see the performing artist in the video, although it’s nice to have a storyline that matches the song. There have always been artist performances on television shows, but for a long time in the past, those had poor fidelity mono sound. While you may want to point to the advent of MTV in 1981 as a starting point for modern videos, other earlier examples exist:

  • Multiple storylines included hit records for three singers in episodes of the Donna Reed show in 1961-1962.
  • Ricky Nelson’s video for Traveling Man in 1961 interspersed lip-synced performances with film clips that matched the lyrics.
  • Brian Hyland’s performance of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show in 1960 had an elaborate story told with props and a very young girl in a bikini.
  • They created a video for Jailhouse Rock by Elvis by simply pulling footage from the film in 1957.

Going back further, we find other short videos lifted from films and early television performances and even short films created to include musical performances. While many of the performances were live, as time went on they tended to become lip-synced videos.

One cure for the poor sound quality of older videos exists on YouTube thanks to Smurfstools Oldies Music Time Machine. That channel takes existing old footage and edits, restores, and remasters the sound and video with high-quality results. Sometimes the stereo version of the songs replace the low-quality or mono sound, but sometimes the original recordings only exist in mono. For those videos, they may use some kind of stereo simulator to replace the sound.

I do sometimes have a problem with sound edits. While modern sound editing has come a long way since I used an app on mono streaming in the early nineties to produce stereo sounds, it still sometimes doesn’t sound “right.” They mixed most records in the fifties and sixties down to mono, and I listened to them over mono radios. Sometimes nothing else will sound exactly the way I remember the songs except the original mono recording.

There’s an even sneakier problem: due to the way they recorded and mixed music before modern recording devices existed, for a lot of records, the only “true stereo” mix will have vocals coming from one speaker and instruments coming from the other speaker. You can hear the problem if you listen to the mono mix and the stereo mix of Five O’clock World by The Vogues. I would much rather watch the Drew Carey Show version of the song in mono than listen to the “true stereo” version. I would even prefer the synthetic stereo version from Smurfstools with the original video of the group lip-syncing.

Another problem comes from the existence of re-recordings. Stereo album versions are often new recordings of the songs. Worse yet, many groups have re-recorded their songs as a way to make money after their careers have faded. Fortunately, federal law finally began requiring that record companies label re-recordings. How can we find the original single versions of the records? Bob Moke used to work for Sirius XM Satellite Radio and he appears to be on a mission on Facebook and YouTube to make the original music available to all of us. His YouTube channels the78prof and the45prof have links to most of the original recordings of the hit records from 1938 to 1960. You can also find those by entering Jukebox 1960 or Jukebox 1959 etc. back to Jukebox 1938 on Facebook. While I may not use his copy of a record, I can always count on his copy to be the original version.

While he has put a lot of effort into finding the best quality sound for each record, YouTube makes the task more difficult by observing copyrights. Since YouTube potentially pays somebody when a user streams songs online, the owner of any recording may want to prevent anybody else from uploading music to the site so only their copy gets played. The owner can get YouTube to remove unauthorized copies of music, and sometimes the person who uploaded the song gets penalized. Bob gets around that problem by sometimes linking to an authorized copy of the original record instead of uploading a new copy himself.

I discovered the problem when I created my first book, and some links in the book stopped working. I now try to avoid broken links by looking for videos they list as being “provided” by a record label.

Finding a video to link in isn’t always an effortless task, which is why I often link in more than one video!

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