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Category: Music

Summer Sounds On A C-Note

Last year around this time I reviewed several portable Bluetooth speakers to help you take your favorite music outdoors as summer approached. This time I’m going old school and focusing on wired outdoor speakers.

Wireless outdoor speakers are all the rage nowadays, so why go wired? I ruled out outdoor Bluetooth speakers because of the potential for unreliable reception and running down my smartphone’s battery. My Wi-Fi coverage outside is shaky at best, so that took Wi-Fi speakers out of the equation. Either would also need to get power which wasn’t an option in my particular installation. Last but not least, I wanted to keep my budget at around $100 which would be tough for good sounding wireless speakers.

Mind you, wired outdoor speakers can be very expensive. High end speaker company Revel makes a pair of outdoor speakers that sell for almost $1,000. B&W has a set for $800. Coastal Source makes a “landscape speaker” with a built-in subwoofer for a cool $3,500 each. You can even buy an outdoor subwoofer if you really want to rock your rock garden. In my case, I wasn’t trying to have my speakers show up on a Richter scale. Would I be able to find a set of good sounding outdoor speakers for $100, or was I setting myself up for certain failure?

Speaker Overboard!

The Outdoor by Henry Kloss. Image from The Outdoor user manual.

My first experience with an outdoor speaker was with Massachusetts-based speaker company Cambridge SoundWorks at their South Portland, Maine store where I was the Assistant Manager. We made (in our Massachusetts factory) an outdoor speaker model called simply “The Outdoor” by Henry Kloss. I don’t remember how much it sold for, but I do remember being told a story about a customer who wrote us a letter (back when people still wrote letters) about his speakers which he had mounted on his boat. One of the speakers became dislodged and fell into the open water as his boat was moving at a good clip. He recounted how he observed the speaker violently bouncing around in the ocean as he brought his boat to a stop. Still connected to its speaker wire, he pulled the speaker in as if reeling in a fish on the end of a fishing line. When he brought it back on board the speaker was still playing music! He wiped it off and returned it back to its original location, making sure it was secure.

Rock Solid Sound

B&W’s Rock Solid Monitor. Image from a vintage Rock Solid B&W sales brochure.

The very first set of wired outdoor speakers I ever owned was a pair of B&W (B&W not BMW) Rock Solid Monitors. Rock Solid was B&W’s entry level plastic speaker line made in Japan. I worked for B&W at the time and fell so much in love with the cute indoor/outdoor speakers that I bought two pair. They sounded fantastic, reaching down to 50Hz when wall mounted, and had integrated metal stands that provided uniquely generous articulation from walls and ceilings. They even included little metal mesh bug screens you could pop in the front bass ports to prevent creepy crawlies from making their home inside the speaker housings. I recall sitting at an outdoor bar on Grand Cayman Island while on vacation almost 2 decades ago and listening to music. I looked up – and you guessed it – it was a pair of Rock Solid Monitors cranking out the tunes. Such was the world-wide popularity of these monitors which you can still find used on eBay.

Natural Sound?

The Yamaha NS-AW350. Image from

My next pair of wired outdoor speakers was a set of Yamaha NS-AW350W’s. These were a considerable step-down from my Rock Solid speakers, both acoustically and cosmetically, but my budget was much smaller and I needed speakers with a smaller footprint. Frankly, they didn’t sound all that great, especially in the bass department, and their wall mounts only had 2 positions which forced me to choose between one or the other. But they allowed me to get my music outside for a reasonable price and they fit the only space I could install them.

Something I’ve never owned is a pair of those so-called “rock speakers”. They tend to sound as bad as they look. I also wasn’t interested in having the sound directed at my fibula instead of my ears, or serenading my plants which are challenged enough as it is with me as their caretaker. Funny enough, I’ve never seen a real rock that plays music and has perforations in a circular pattern.

Speaker Who?

This summer I wanted to find the holy grail of outdoor wired speakers…good sounding speakers (including decent bass) with full motion mounts for around one hundred bucks. I briefly considered buying a used set of Rock Solid Monitors but they were beyond my budget, as were B&W’s LM1’s which replaced the Rock Solid Monitor. I read loads of outdoor speaker reviews, but most of the $100 or less models failed the sound quality test and/or included wall mounts that were a joke. Then I stumbled upon the OSD Audio AP650.

I’ve worked in consumer audio for over 20 years and to be honest, I’d never heard of OSD (Outdoor Speaker Depot) before. Located in Brea, California, OSD does their design work in the USA while their manufacturing is done in Asia. They operate a 45,000 sq. ft. distribution center so whatever you order from them is probably in stock. In addition to a variety of outdoor speaker models, OSD also offers home speakers, amplifiers, mounts, audio cables, and even speaker wire in bulk.

The thought of buying speakers from an audio company with the word “Depot” in its name wasn’t comforting, but there were several things that sold me on the AP650 besides their price. As I mentioned, bass was important to me, and OSD claims the AP650’s bass response is rated down to 35Hz. I didn’t have a way to verify that but even if they’re off by 20Hz, which would be unusual, that’s still good bass for a budget outdoor speaker. The sensitivity is listed at 90dB and efficiency was another key spec since I’m using a low power amplifier. The AP650’s come with 180 degree swivel and 60 degree tilt wall brackets. This was critical because my speakers would be mounted up high and I needed the ability to both angle the speakers downward and toe them in in order to direct the sound at my seating area. Most wall mounts let you to do one or the other depending on whether you mount the speakers vertically or horizontally. Few mounts in this price range allow you to adjust both without having to commit to the orientation of the speaker.

Rock, Scissors, Paper

One thing of concern was the fact that the AP650’s use 6.5” paper cone woofers. Paper cones can yield excellent sound quality and have been used since the advent of loudspeakers, but paper isn’t the best material for outdoor use for obvious reasons. However, OSD treats the AP650’s woofer cones to make them water resistant. With their 23 engineers, you’d think they could’ve managed to obtain similar acoustic performance using polypropylene woofers like almost every other outdoor speaker employs. The speaker housings are sealed (no bass ports), yet only carry an IP54 (Ingress Protection) rating, which isn’t great for an outdoor product. They’ll be under eaves and they won’t be getting hit with a hose or splashes from a pool which should help their longevity. Only time will tell how well they’ll hold up.

Best Value

Disappointingly, my search results didn’t reveal a lot of reviews of the AP650. I found a couple of reviews on YouTube but they were for OSD’s Bluetooth version of these speakers. On Amazon, the AP650’s are rated 4.6 out of 5 stars with such positive comments as, “I would buy this setup again 100 times over”, “these speakers sound amazing”, and “bass is much tighter.” OSD’s website also had reviews but I suspect they only posted the positive ones. Comments ranged from “awesome sound” to ” very happy with them” to “exactly what I was looking for”. The New York Times compared several different outdoor models and rated the AP650’s their best buy, calling them “the best value we’ve found in an outdoor pair. Their clarity beats anything we’ve heard from other models priced under $200 a pair. And they have a full, powerful sound that can easily fill an outdoor space, up to about 1,500 square feet. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop, and rock music…This pair is also better made than most under-$200 outdoor speakers, with a thicker enclosure and a sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.”

I should point out that the AP650’s are listed for $195 per pair on Amazon which was almost double my budget. I ended up purchasing mine on eBay directly from OSD for $110 for the pair including shipping. I don’t understand why Outdoor Speaker Depot significantly undercuts their own prices on their website and in their Amazon listing, but ours is not to reason why. Outdoor Speaker Depot also offers the AP850 which boast 8” woofers and bass rated down to 32Hz, but at $300.pair, that wasn’t going to happen.

DIY Speaker Install

You can tell I’m not married because this mess would rate a zero on the Wife Acceptance Factor. Photo by Peter Skiera.

As I awaited the arrival of my new speakers, I set out to get my wiring in place. I wasn’t able to run speaker wire direct to my source, so I dug out my Rocketfish RF-WRSK18 2.4GHz wireless audio transmitter which I had packed away in my garage and connected it to the speaker outputs of my Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid vacuum tube integrated amplifier. I used the HTA100 because it was my only option, not because I wanted a tube sound outdoors. I wall mounted the companion Rocketfish receiver (which has its own volume control) 19’ away from the transmitter and ran 16-gauge speaker wire from it to the places where I was going to mount each speaker outside. This required drilling a 5” deep hole through an exterior wall to get the speaker wire outside (which I later sealed up with caulk).

Hang In There

A pair in the open air: The OSD AP650’s. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Once I received my speakers, I installed the included wall mounts into studs and then mounted the speakers making sure to position them so they flooded the seating area with music. This wasn’t easy because the speakers weigh 9 pounds each, so juggling one in one hand with a screwdriver in the other while standing on a ladder was somewhat precarious. At nearly a foot tall and 8” wide, these speakers aren’t compact, so be certain your space will accommodate them. If you want outdoor speakers that blend into the background, these aren’t for you.

It’s A Cover Up

A binding post cover on the backside of the AP650. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Interestingly, both speakers came supplied with matching removable rear plastic covers with an exit for the speaker wire to help protect the binding posts from the elements. They also lent the speakers a nice clean look even though no one will probably ever notice them. Of course, the covers make no contribution to the sound quality, but it’s these little touches that let you know OSD’s designers were paying attention. I’ve never encountered such a feature on any other outdoor speaker, at least not in this price range.

Photo from

My speakers also came with a 70 volt adjustment just above the biding posts which is typically reserved for commercial applications where many speakers are daisy chained together to cover very large spaces. There’s an 8 ohm setting if you’re just using one stereo pair, as in my case, but you can buy the speakers without the 70 volt option if you prefer.

Hi-fi outside: The AP650 outdoor speakers. Photo by Peter Skiera.

After breaking the speakers in for a couple weeks, my overall impression is very favorable. My Rocketfish transmitter is probably a weak link in the audio chain, but for my purposes, the sound quality is more than acceptable, including the bass. My HTA100 has Bluetooth 5.0 so I’m able to stream from the Spotify app and hear it on my outdoor speakers, but mostly I take the audio from my cable’s commercial-free music channels. This also allows me to listen to baseball games, news, etc. while outside. My patio is about as modest as they come…no hot tub, no in ground pool, no outdoor kitchen, no motorized awning, and no outdoor TV, but I still enjoy relaxing outside. Being able to listen to music on quality stereo speakers takes it to a whole other level. Considering what I paid, I think I got a bargain, which doesn’t happen very often in consumer audio. Ready, set, summer.

Full disclosure: I didn’t get the OSD AP650’s for free or at a discount in return for my review nor do I receive a commission should you buy them.

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AP650 on eBay

Rocketfish Transmitter

Have A Strange Christmas II

In Have A Strange Christmas Part 1, I examined 5 strange holiday CDs. In Part 2 I give equal time to 5 strange holiday records. You’ll find links at the end if you want to add any of these oddities to your holiday music library.

  1. Scrooged: Danny Elfman (Enjoy The Ride ETR096; 2022)

My “Scrooged” snow globe variant soundtrack illuminated in blue by my Vylumi Shine Pro. Note the sparkles inside the record. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, debuted in November of 1988, and is the kind of film that you either liked or didn’t. This Danny Elfman soundtrack, which is completely different from the original motion picture soundtrack, doesn’t feature any strange material, although the music ranges from creepy to full orchestral holiday numbers. Nonetheless, I’m including it in my article because my vinyl pressing itself is strange.

For one thing, it’s the thickest record I’ve ever owned…1/4” thick! This makes 180 gram vinyl look like paper. The thickness is because, sandwiched in between each side of the clear vinyl, is liquid with sparkles. Move the record around and it creates a kind of snow globe effect, perfect for a Christmas soundtrack. It’s the world’s first now globe record. And yes, you can actually play it.

The other odd thing about this liquid-filled record is it’s refillable. If any of the liquid should evaporate over time or change color, I simply ship it back to the record manufacturer and they’ll replace the liquid and sparkles for a small fee. It’s the world’s first refillable liquid record!

This Scrooged variant took 6 months to make and each one was assembled by hand. It was limited to something like 100 pressings and sold out in less than 15 minutes. You’ll blow your entire Christmas gift budget on one of these records now, assuming you can find one.

2. Switched on Santa: Sy Mann (Pickwick SPCX 1007; 1969)

Santa’s in the Christmas Moog. Photo by Peter Skiera.

The Moog synthesizer is an electronic, modular instrument invented by Robert Moog in 1964. It has the ability to replicate the sounds of other musical instruments as well as create unique sounds that no other instrument can produce. Early models were large and intimidating and required hours of programming by an electronic engineer. The 27 minutes of music on Switched on Santa must have taken forever to program. The liner notes claim it took 1 hour of Moog programming to yield 30 seconds of usable music!

The Moog wasn’t a musical curiosity. It was used by The Doors, The Beatles, The Monkees, Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Grateful Dead, and Stevie Wonder. But this strange musical monstrosity wasn’t limited to just rock and pop music. The Moog found its way onto jazz and even classical records, too. Switched-On Bach from 1968 was a huge hit that went on to sell over 1 million copies and win 3 Grammy awards. Johan was probably spinning in his grave.

With success like that, it was only a matter of time until another “Switched On” title followed. Enter Switched On Santa from 1969, the logical follow up. Who could resist 13 holiday classics including Angels We Have Heard On High, Silent Night, and White Christmas performed on the Moog? The music sounds like the soundtrack from a low budget 1950’s sci-fi Christmas movie.

Manning the Moog was Sy Mann. Mann served in the army during World War II, mostly conducting army bands. In 1953 he joined CBS-TV and replaced Dick Hyman as pianist and arranger for the Arthur Godfrey Show. He later went on to work with artists like Barbara Streisand, Melanie, Connie Francis, and Tiny Tim.

I doubt this is the record you’d play while trimming your Christmas tree, but you might play it while you burn your real tree in the backyard after the holiday is over. Merry strange Christmas from Mann and the merry Moog.

3. Merry Christmas…Have A Nice Life: Cyndi Lauper (Real Gone Music RGM-0930; 2022 (original released in 1998 on Epic))

And what do you want for Christmas, little girl? Photo by Peter Skiera.

That Cyndi Lauper, she’s so unusual. But that’s not the only reason I’ve included her first Christmas album on my list, or because this vinyl variant is festive red and white candy cane swirl color. I’m including this title mainly because she recorded all of her vocal tracks from inside her cedar closet! I’ll refrain from any coming out of the closet jokes.

The music is also unusual, not for Lauper, but for a Christmas album. Eight of the eleven tunes she wrote or co-wrote and they’re all over the place. Some have a tropical vibe like Christmas Conga, or a Cajon flavor like Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. Still others are folk-inspired with Lauper playing the ukulele, dulcimer, and recorder. Then there’s the wheezing bag pipes on Three Ships. I don’t know what the hell Minnie and Santa is all about. Since she recorded it at home you can hear her young son, born the year before, in the background on New Year’s Baby. Perhaps mommy’s singing upset him.

Admittedly, there are some very sweet tunes like December Child, In The Bleak Midwinter, and Silent Night, featuring New York’s Chatterton Elementary School Choir. Basically what we have here is a very mixed musical bag, which is just fine for celebrating a strange Christmas.

4. Bonanza: Christmas on the Ponderosa (RCA Victor LSP-2757; 1963)

Merry Christmas from the Cartwrights. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Bonanza holds the title for the second longest-running TV western (Gunsmoke is number 1), lasting 14 years and 430+ episodes. TV Guide included the show in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. The series starred Loren Greene as Ben Cartwright and it revolved around the dynamics within the Cartwright family, their interactions with the community, and operating their ranch called “Ponderosa”. A young and relatively unknown Michael Landon played “Little Joe” Cartwright.

You’ll hear Landon, Greene, and the other two Cartwright brothers belting out Jingle Bells, O Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, and 25 minutes of other holiday classics you’d expect any family from the 1860’s to be singing around the Christmas tree. There are also heartwarming stories about the first Christmas tree and why we light candles on a tree. The songs are presented as if someone recorded the audio from a never-broadcast Bonanza Christmas episode, complete with cast banter and clapping at the end of the songs. If you loved Bonanza, you’ll love this record. Here’s an excerpt from a review someone wrote about the record on Amazon: “I cry when I listen to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to such simpler times. I just love Bonanza. What a loss when it was cancelled.”

Speaking of crying, if you’ll allow me to digress a moment, I recently caught the Bonanza episode, A Christmas Story, and it had me in tears. It starred a baby-faced Wayne Newton who played a wannabe singer, and his shifty Uncle who defrauded the town out of thousands of dollars. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you have the opportunity to watch it, it’s well worth tracking down even if you’re not a Bonanza fan. 

When one thinks Christmas songs, one usually thinks Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and the like. The cast of Bonanza doesn’t usually come to mind, which puts Christmas on the Ponderosa firmly on my strange Christmas list. Let’s be honest. This album only exists because NBC wanted to milk every last penny they could from this extremely popular TV show, and after all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?

5. A Twisted Christmas: Twisted Sister (Rhino 563173; 2017 (originally released 2006))

Have a twisted Christmas. Photo by Peter Skiera.

So far, I’ve explored Christmas records with liquid + glitter inside, music performed on the Moog, songs sung in a cedar closet with a baby gurgling in the background, and songs sung by the cast of Bonanza. I conclude my list of strange Christmas music with this holiday gem by Twisted Sister.

Even if you’re not a heavy metal head banger, you should know the name Twisted Sister and its big hair and makeup-wearing leader, Dee Snider. You should also be familiar with their one big hit, 1984’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.

In this outing from 2006 (reissued on limited edition green vinyl in 2017 for Record Store Day), A Twisted Christmas features heavy metal versions of songs like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Let It Snow, and The Christmas Song. The band also puts their own twisted take on We Wish You a Twisted Christmas and The Twelve Heavy Metal Days of Christmas. Lita Ford even dropped by to do the honors on I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Oh Come All Ye Faithful is performed in the same style as We’re Not Gonna Take It. The group performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Scanning some of the A Twisted Christmas reviews on Amazon: ”the whole thing is just a bad idea”, “Horrible. Please do an album of your own material”, and “Makes a great joke gift”. You get the idea.

I guess if you’re looking for some completely different holiday music, you should consider this A Twisted Christmas. Just be sure to pick up a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol while you’re in the store in case you get a twisted headache.

Regardless of what music you listen to this holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time and are able to be with the people you love. Happy holidays and I’ll see you next year.

Did you enjoy this article and Part 1? Please help support my blog by becoming a Recommended Stations Patreon supporter for just $1. As my thanks, you’ll get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box.



Switched on Santa

Merry Christmas, Have A Nice Life


A Twisted Christmas

Have A Strange Christmas

Last year I wrote an extensive article about strange holiday music. It focused on several vinyl records and one CD. It got a lot of reads and positive comments. I decided to do another, but this year I’m doing a two-part series. This first installment focuses on strange holiday CDs while Part 2 looks at strange holiday records. Whether you still play CDs like I do, or you just fancy the unusual, I think you’ll enjoy reading about these odd discs. I’ve included links at the end should you be brave enough to want to add any of these titles to you holiday music library.

  1. Cocktails with Santa: Richard Cheese (Coverage Records IDTCR27CE; 2013)
A little Cheese with Santa. Photo by Peter Skiera.

If you’ve never experienced Richard Cheese’s music then you’ve been denying yourself a unique listening experience. You have to start somewhere, so why not with this holiday CD, 2013’s Cocktails with Santa?

If you don’t know Cheese (Mark Jonathan Davis), he’s a deliberately cheesy lounge singer from Los Angeles. He writes some original material but is mostly known for taking pop songs and “louge-ifying” them as only Cheese can do. He’s had several songs make it on Billboard’s Comedy Album chart and performed briefly in the movie Barb And Star Go to Vista Del Mar.

On Cocktails with Santa, he transforms (or butchers, as you prefer) Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, Deck The Halls, Little Drummer Boy, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and other classics,into swinging, smoky Vegas lounge songs. If this is cheese then cheese me up, baby. His original Christmas in Las Vegas is my favorite track from this CD:

Christmas in Las Vegas / Decorate your tree with chips / Let’s roll a yo beneath the mistletoe / While that angel strips / Rudolph sold the sled, now he’s betting on red / In a casino made out of gingerbread / Christmas in Las Vegas / It’s a trip!

Having been to Las Vegas many, many times around the holiday season, I can confirm it is indeed a trip, and Cocktails with Santa brings you there.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two…
Photo from

This music might be strange, but that doesn’t mean it’s not popular. The Cocktails With Santa CD and 2020 limited edition colored vinyl record are both out of print. I bought my used CD for an inflated price on eBay. However, if you’re intent on having a cheesy Christmas, you can buy the digital album download through Bandcamp for just $5. As the Cheese himself would say, please lounge responsibly.

2. Luau in December: King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis (Friki Tiki Records FT-003; Released 2008)

A Hawaiian Christmas with the King. No, not that King. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I’ve never been to Hawaii, but without exception, anyone I’ve ever known who visited has described it as paradise. So, what better place to celebrate Christmas than in paradise?

You may not have heard of King Kukulele (Denny Moynahan) and the Friki Tikis, but they’ve played at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and indeed all over the world. Their songs feature the ukulele, marimba, Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and vibraphone, with drums and bass in the rhythm section. The band performs in 1940’s Hapa Haole Hawaiian tradition for a truly authentic listening experience. The King even dresses the part with a bold Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and a grass skirt.

Hitting a high note: King Kukulele from his Facebook page.

On Luau in December, the group’s 3rd release, the King and his Frikis apply their exotic island treatment to 14 vocal tracks, including 3 holiday classics. It’s certainly different hearing Hawaiian versions of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, The Night Before Christmas, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Some of the originals, besides the title track, include Hooray For Santa Claus, Thirty-two Feet and Eight Little Tails, and Santa’s Menehune. The cool retro cover art was designed by the artist Shag.

If you think of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka when you think of Hawaiian holiday music, this isn’t that. Don your hula skirt, pour yourself a Mai Tai, pop this disc into your CD player, and have a Friki Tiki strange Christmas.

3. Tales From The Crypt: Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas (The Right Stuff T2-31330; 1994)

Carols From The Crypt. Photo by Peter Skiera.

If you’re a horror geek like me, you’re familiar with the Emmy-nominated Tales From The Crypt series which aired for 7 seasons on HBO between 1989-1996. The host, the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassie), was a wisecracking, animatronic skeleton with a super annoying, high-pitched cackle.

In the fine tradition of record companies, The Right Stuff, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, put out this holiday gem to milk as much money out of the series as possible. These 15 tracks are sure to warm the cockles of your heart with little ditties like Deck The Halls With Parts of Charlie, We Wish You’d Bury The Missus, ‘Twas The Fright Before Christmas, and Should Old Cadavers Be Forgotten. Of course, no album from this period would be complete without a horror rap song. Yes, a rapping decomposing corpse. And you thought you heard it all.

To complete the theme, the included booklet is a “special collector’s comic re-print” of And All Through The House.

I think it goes without saying, this title is long out of print but it can be found on used record sites like eBay where I scored my copy (minus the slime green-colored jewel case). A word of warning that this CD might cost you an arm and a leg (no pun intended).

As a side bar, 6 years later Capitol Records came out with Tales From The Crypt: Monsters of Metal. These were real songs by real metal bands tied together with narration by the Cryptkeeper.

Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas is a must for horror buffs or anyone looking to have a scary strange Christmas.

4. White Trash Christmas: Bob Rivers (Atlantic 83591-2; 2002)

Not Bing Crosby: I’m dreaming of a White Trash Christmas. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Having worked in radio, I was familiar with Bob Rivers, but you don’t need to be a former broadcaster to know his work. If you were a regular listener to pop, classic rock, or even some talk radio, then chances are you know Bob Rivers, too.

Rivers was a popular radio host who began writing and performing his own parody songs. His best-known release was his first, 1987’s Twisted Christmas, which went gold. You’ve probably heard the track Twelve Pains of Christmas which received a lot of air play. A Message From the King is another classic from this album that will have you in stitches. Thank you, Mama.

Bob Rivers and crew. Photo from Rivers’ twitter page.

Rivers went on to release six holiday comedy CDs including What Trash Christmas, his last, in 2002. This disc has 13 tracks of humorous holiday-spoofed tunes. Some of the songs include Osama Got Run Over By A Reindeer, The Little Hooters Girl, Shoppin’ Around For A Christmas Tree, and I’ll Be Stoned For Christmas, sung by a dead-on Dean Martin imitator named Scott Burns. I think my favorite from this CD is Me And Mrs. Claus, which isn’t particularly funny, but it’s a great holiday take on Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones.

Like some of the other CDs on my list, White Trash, along with Rivers’ other holiday CDs, are out of print, but can be had very reasonably on eBay and elsewhere.

Today, Rivers is semi-retired living in Vermont where he makes maple syrup with his wife and often flies out to California to visit his grand kids. How life changes.

You’ll have a merry strange Christmas listening to White Trash Christmas, or pretty much any Bob Rivers Christmas CD. Just be careful not to cough up eggnog through your nose as you laugh out loud.

5. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas: Mark Malibu & The Wasagas (Sharawaji Records SRW 135; Released 2020)

Surfin’ Kitty X-mas CD Volume 1.

I’m not sure what surfing has to do with Christmas, but I suppose if surfing is your bag, then Mark Malibu’s got a brand-new bag. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is stacked with 18 tracks, 5 of which are Christmas standards plus a “public domain holiday medley”. All of the songs are instrumentals performed in bold surf music style.

Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is a compilation CD of surf bands like Underwater Bosses, The Breakers, Voodoo Surf Tribe, Urban Surf Kings, and The Terrorsurfs. Mark Malibu organized the project and he and his Wasagas contributed 2 tracks of their own. Mailbu is a self-described Canadian surf-punk instrumentalist and formed his Wasagas in 1979.

Mark Malibu and the Wasagas rockin’ out at sea in 2022. Is that a huge wave in the background? Photo from Malibu’s Instagram page.

Frankly, it’s weird hearing surf versions of sacred classics like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Then there are the original songs like Christmas Twist, A Voodoo Xmas, and Cuckoo for Christmas. Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to picture Jesus hanging ten. This is definitely not your father’s Christmas music, unless dear old dad was a surfer dude.

The other odd thing about this CD is it was released to benefit the Pinetree Stables/Cat Sanctuary in Grand Bahamas which spays, neuters, and feeds all the abandoned cats on the island (thus, the origin of “Surfin’ Kitty”in the title). The Sanctuary also benefits from the sales of Surfin’ Kitty Volumes 2 and 3. The Sanctuary’s mission isn’t what’s odd, it’s the location. With the organizer being Canadian, you’d think all the proceeds would benefit a Canadian animal shelter, eh? Well, it all goes to a good cause wherever it is.

If you’re looking for totally different holiday music this season that will knock your Christmas stockings off, Surfin’ Kitty X-mas should just about do it, and it’s only 10 bucks.

In Part 2 of Have A Strange Christmas, I give equal time to 5 strange Christmas records. Remember to come back here in a few days to unwrap it.

If you enjoyed this article, please help support my website blog by becoming a Recommended Stations Patreon supporter for just $1. As my thanks, you’ll get me Recommended and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box.


Cocktails With Santa

Luau in December

Tales From The Crypt

What Trash Christmas

Surfin’ Kitty X-mas

New Randy Van Horne Singers

September marks 15 years since Randy Van Horne passed away. I can hear many of you imitating an owl. Who? Yet you know Van Horne even if you think you don’t. Did you watch The Flintstones or The Jetsons as a kid? Those theme songs, among others, were sung by the Randy Van Horne Singers. The group also sang in TV and radio commercials.

Randy Van Horne. Photo used with permission.

Van Horne was born in 1924 in El Paso, Texas. He was a World War II veteran, studied music after the war, became a session musician, and started the Van Horne Singers in the late 1950’s following the breakup of his first group, The Encores. Known for their easy listening but uplifting compositions and singing, the group recorded several albums including a collaboration with Esquivel. The group performed on a few national television shows and member Marni Nixon later became a break-out solo artist. Original member Thurl Ravenscroft became the voice of “Tony the Tiger” and was the uncredited singer on You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.

By the early 1970’s the group had dissolved, only to be revived by Van Horne in early 2000. The New Randy Van Horne Singers formed to keep his legacy alive. Earlier this year, some in the group lent their composing and vocal talents to the jingle for my Internet radio station, Wind Chime Radio. I was fortunate enough to connected with several of the members via email to find out more about the group, the music, and the man. Below are their collective answers reported by group member Lynn Keller.

Peter: What made the original Van Horne Singers different from other vocal groups at that time?

Lynn: There were a number of popular quartets and singing groups at the time that Randy’s singers performed. What made his group unique is that he used some of the best session singers in Hollywood and he did his own arranging. Randy’s arrangements were unique as his style was to often write tight, 8-part vocal harmonies that were designed to sound like the different sections of a full 17-piece big band. This means the quality of the vocals often mirrored the trumpets, trombones in tempo, color and dynamics. Singers vocally produce the different sections of the band. Additionally, singers are accustomed to 4-part singing or soprano, alto, tenor, and bass (SATB,) arrangements. Having 8-part singing means the vocal lines are closer together so there is more chance of dissonant harmonies among the sections. Randy used the top session singers who were prolific at reading charts, as his unique style brought often unexpected notes and dynamics to a vocal part.

Sleighride” re-issued on CD. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Peter: What was the appeal of this music back in the day and why did it decline?

Lynn: Randy worked with Hanna Barbera arranging The Flintstones and other cartoon themes; these familiar themes have become part of our collective pop culture. The themes were memorable and were connected to popular TV shows. Randy’s group was also featured on TV variety shows with guest performances on the Nat King Cole Show and Mel Torme’s show for example. When the variety shows became too expensive and challenging to produce there were fewer options for Randy’s music to be heard by a wider audience. However, during these years he continued to product albums with a number of noteworthy artists. Finally, the music itself (the great American Songbook) and much of the music of the 1st [half] of the 20th century became less popular with the advent of rock and other forms of popular music. Here is a list of Randy’s recordings:

  • The Clef Dwellers, RCA Victor LPM-1751
  • Sing a Song of Goodman, MGM SE-3720; 1958
  • Sleighride, Everest SDBR-1112; 1960
  • Rollin’ West Everest SDBR-1071; 1960
  • Swingin’ Singin’ RCA LPM-1321
  • The March of the Regiment, Everest 19399
  • Moments to Remember, Sunset SUS-5151
  • Our Magic Moments Everest SDBR-1089; 1961

This list does not include selections from albums produced by other artists with Van Horne’s singers.

Image from

Peter: Is it true the original group sang on Bob Thompson’s RCA albums and on Martin Denny’s “Afrodesia” album? And that they were occasional backup singers for Dean Martin and Mel Torme?

Lynn: We often hear that his group was featured on different variety shows. We have verified their appearance on the following shows: Nat King Cole, Mel Torme. I’m not sure about Dean Martin. The members of the group like Marni Nixon, Gene Merlino, Marilyn King, Harry Middlebrooks, Sue Allen and more were back-up singers and overdub singers on many albums. It’s difficult to track down all of their jobs because they didn’t get credits.

Peter: How many singers are in the new group vs. the original group and what is the age range?

Lynn: The original group had a minimum of 8 singers. Randy reformed the group in the early 2000’s. Since that time the number of singers in the group has varied. In the early 2000’s there were about 20 singers then the number went up and down. Since the pandemic, there are somewhere around 8-10 which varies with singer’s comfort with singing in a group.

Peter: I know it changes but I’d like to identify the group’s current line-up.

Lynn: COVID has reduced our ranks for the time being. We have the following folks currently performing with our group:

1st Sopranos Lorelei Finch, Franny McCartney

2nd Soprano Lynn Keller

1st Alto Sara Taylor (Our newest member with an impressive background)

2nd Alto Bonnie Janofsky (composer, arranger), Liane Schirmer

Tenor, Alan Wilson (Also conductor,) John Schroeder

Baritone, Bill Havis

Bass, Steve Grant, Michael Alexander

Piano Accompanist, Marty Rosen

Peter: The group may have changed over the years, but when and how did the new group form?

Lynn: Randy brought the group together and directed it. When he retired from the group, he asked Alan Wilson to conduct. New group members are recruited sometimes from the audience when the group does shows. Often singers ask if they can join the group. Also, occasionally members are recruited from singer’s networks.

Peter: What’s the new group’s mission?

Lynn: We continue to perform Randy’s music and to produce shows that reflect his style. Over time we have added other arrangers- Anita Kerr and Ed Lojeski to name a few. We do themed shows so we often perform music that fits a theme and we add music accordingly. Additionally, our shows include solos, duets, quartets and other songs that require different combinations of singers. We follow our theme, but always include Randy arrangements.

Peter: In general, what’s the background of the members?

Lynn: Singers should have live performance experience and they should be able to read music. One of our strengths is that we care about and respect each other. This comes across when we perform. Audiences often say they appreciate our ability to connect with them and that we demonstrate our love for what we are doing in our shows.

Peter: When you sing live are you typically accompanied with just a piano?

Lynn: Yes, we always use piano accompaniment. This presents a challenge because Randy’s music isn’t that easy to play.

Peter: Have you ever taken any contemporary songs or pop hits and Van Horne-ized them?

Lynn: No, but we use other arranger’s charts. We also strive to stay true to Randy’s musical ideas and don’t make changes to his work. We apply the rule of staying true to whatever arranger’s ideas we select so we don’t modify their music. We perform it as it was intended. For example, recently we used TV theme shows in a performance entitled “We Love To Laugh”. We incorporated themes like “Gilligan’s Island,” and “The Addam’s Family,” replicating the music as the themes were performed in the TV show

Peter: Does the group have a favorite original Van Horne non-Christmas song they like performing?

Lynn: We love a few of them. “The Hucklebuck” is a fun arrangement that bounces around quite a bit. We have typically done it in shows. Additionally, many of Randy’s charts include sections where the vocals sound like different instruments of the orchestra. We practice these sections so we do in fact sound like the different sections of the orchestra. We also regularly perform “My Blue Heaven,” “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” and “My Foolish Heart, (a ballad).” These are all great Randy arrangements.

Lynn Keller (center) in the spotlight. Photo from

Peter: Are there members who can speak to what it was like to work with Van Horne?

Lynn: Yes, some of us have stories about Randy and his ways. We share them regularly. 3-4 of us worked with him directly, me included. He was much like many arrangers. They continue to “tinker” with their music. He would make changes to his charts nearly every week and tell stories about his experiences. He loved to hear the recordings of his music so we often sang to them to get the feel and nuance of how they were originally performed. He told us stories about his life. For example, for a period he made his living writing jingles. Sometimes he would have 30 minutes to write a jingle and then hand it to the singers so they could learn it on the spot. It would be recorded at the same time. He spoke of how challenging it was and the pressure he felt.

Randy handed the baton to Alan Wilson a year or so before he passed. Alan is a fabulous tenor and had extensive background in choral groups. Randy had a lot of confidence in Alan’s ability to carry his legacy forward.

The New Randy Van Horne Singers’ holiday concert at Bolton Hall in Tujunga, CA circa 2012. Photo from the New Randy Van Horne Singers Facebook page.

Peter: Is the new group active mainly during the holiday season?

Lynn: We are active year-round. Whenever we can do a show, we try to do it more than once. It takes a lot of effort to coordinate the music, the singers, the accompaniment, the sound and other aspects of a fully-produced show. Before the pandemic we were doing 5-6 shows per year. This included 1-2 shows during the holidays. The pay-off for all of us is the joy of doing the music before a live audience. There’s nothing better!

Peter: Do you hope to record an album in the future?

Lynn: Currently, there is no plan to do an album. However, we do videotape our shows and sometimes share them on YouTube.

Peter: Do you think Van Horne would be pleased with your group?

Lynn: Yes, he would be happy that his music lives on. Over the years, he continued to re-invent the group. I believe this is a clear testament to him wanting to keep the music alive. We are also in touch with his son and his son continues to support our efforts.

One of Lynn Keller’s CDs.

Peter: What are the individual projects some of you have been/are involved in?

Lynn: We all have prior performance experience. Some of us sing with bands, some have CD’s, some sing in church choirs or other singing groups. Some of us have been background singers with famous performers. In these cases, the singers have been on the road with the popular artists like Bette Midler, Tanya Tucker, Glenn Campbell, Elvis, etc.

Peter: What music have some of you been listening to lately?

Lynn: Our members are familiar with all types of music and often refer to pop music. As a genre, many of us appreciate selections from the Great American songbook so we tend to listen to current and vintage recordings of this music. However, it’s safe to say that we pull music from all types of genres.

Peter: How was it to work on the jingle for Wind Chime Radio?

Lynn: It was challenging and it was fun. We wanted to get the idea of wind chimes in the recordings. We experimented with the accompaniment to increase the authenticity and finally chose the vibes as the accompaniment because they sounded more like chimes than the piano. It was a kick to do original music for the radio.

Peter: Any final thoughts?

Lynn: We are looking forward to rebuilding the group once the pandemic is well behind us. We just added a new member and will do more recruiting when potential members and prior members are more comfortable singing in a group.

Harry Randell Van Horne passed away at the age of 83 on September 26, 2007 in Los Angeles. He was active almost until the end, leading a big band that performed around Los Angeles.

My profound thanks to New Randy Van Horne member Lynn Keller for coordinating the responses to my questions and to her and the group’s superb work on the Wind Chime Radio jingle.

Trivia (provided by the New Randy Van Horne Singers): “A fun fact is that the original singers were each paid $50 at the time for the recording of The Flintstones theme….no other payments or royalties were provided!”


NRVH Facebook:

Singers’ websites:

Franny McCartney

Liane Schirmer

Lynn Keller

Sarah Taylor

Bonnie Janofsky:

Wind Chime Radio:

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A Special Record Store Day 2022

For the last couple of years to compensate for the economic impact of the pandemic on record stores, Record Store Day was celebrated 2-3 times per year. It should have been temporarily renamed Record Store Days. This year, since life is returning to normal (knock on wood), RSD is back to its normal single day, April 23rd, plus Black Friday. That doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting. If anything, RSD 2022 gives us more reasons to get excited.

One reason is Record Store Day is celebrating 15 years of supporting independent record stores around the world. Another is the appointment of Taylor Swift as RSD’s Global Ambassador. Yet another is the over 400 special titles on vinyl released for RSD 2022, including one specifically to benefit women in the music industry. Just the fact that this will be the most “normal” Record Store Day we’ve seen in a couple of years is reason enough to celebrate.

Before I take my shoes and socks off and dive into RSD’s record bins, as I did last year, I called a handful of Record Store Day-participating MA record stores and asked them what platter they were spinning on their turntable at that very moment. Here are the results:

Purchase Street Records, New Bedford, MA. Photo from PSR’s Facebook page.

Purchase Street Records, New Bedford, MA: Seemless (self-titled)

Joe’s Albums, Worcester, MA: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love

The Nevermind Shop, Upton, MA: Spiral Staircase, I Love You More Today Than Yesterday

Vinyl Destination, Lowell, MA: Colleen Green, Cool

The Record Exchange, Salem, MA: 3 Mustaphas 3, Heart of Uncle

Sunset Records, Somerset, MA: Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In

The Vinyl Vault, Littleton, MA: The Groundhogs, Blues Obituary

Vinyl Index, Somerville, MA: Octahedron, The Mars Volta

The Record Spot, East Bridgewater, MA: The Beatles, Abbey Road (picture disc)

Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi, Brookline, MA: Discharge, Never Again

Inclusion Records, Norwell, MA: North American & Friends, Going Steady (reissue)

Dyno Records, Newburyport, MA: The Police, Synchronicity

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. I got in contact with Record Store Day Project Manager Rick Johnson to set the stage for Record Store Day 2022.

Portraits Of Her LP. Image from RSD’s Facebook page.

Peter: 2022 marks the 15th Anniversary of Record Store Day. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years. What’s happening this year to commemorate the occasion?

Rick: 15 years and things keep getting bigger and better every year. It’s a worldwide celebration of music and independent record stores. This year we are partnering with VANS [shoe and apparel designer] to celebrate women in the music business with a special release Portraits of Her, featuring many diverse female artists. We are also presenting a panel at SXSW [South by South West music/film/tech conference] in March, focusing on women in the music industry. There will also be a celebration at the Grammy Museum in LA of some of the past RSD ambassadors and early supporters. There will also be many, many other smaller celebrations at local independent record stores on and around Record Store Day. It’s going to be a big year for sure.

Peter: Is RSD celebrated worldwide? On the same day?  

Rick: Yes, RSD is celebrated on every continent except Antarctica and it is celebrated on the same day by everyone. Adjustments are made for time zones of course, so some countries get a few hours head start, but we all end up at the same place in the end. Sitting at home in front of our turntables with a stack of great music and cellophane all over the place!

Peter: All Record Store Day releases are special, but are there a few titles you are particularly excited about?  

Rick: I am excited about a lot of the titles this year. Everyone at RSD has been working very hard to make sure we have great releases and something for everyone. What’s important to remember is that every release on RSD is SOMEONE’S favorite release. Some of my personal favorites are the RSD curated Patti Smith record, the Lou Reed 1971 Demos and the Ramones box set The Sire Albums (1981-1989). Kirk Hammett from Metallica has his first solo record Portals coming out on RSD22.

Peter: For the last 2 years, RSD was celebrated multiple times a year due to the pandemic’s impact on record stores. You’re back to an annual event for 2022?  

Rick: We’re back to RSD in April and then RSD Black Friday on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A lot of fans enjoyed the different “drops” that were done for safety, but we are back to two a year.

The waiting is the hardest part: In line on Record Store Day 2017. Photo by Rick Johnson courtesy of RSD.

Peter: Do you have a Record Store Day-related anecdote you can share?  

Rick: I still remember the first time I walked into Rough Trade Records on Record Store Day in 2017. There was a line literally around the block of customers waiting their turn to shop. I saw a guy in his 30s with his young child who was maybe 4 years ago, standing in line waiting to buy their favorite release. They were creating an experience together that was unique to them, and one they would never forget. If you have to wait in line for something, let it be music! I also took a photo inside of the Ramones Singles Box Set in the foreground with the rest of the store in the background, with the vinyl seemingly going on forever! It was beautiful.


Goin’ out of my head: Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips with his King’s Head installation at Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn for RSD 2019. Note the sneakers. Photo by Rick Johnson courtesy of RSD.

I also remember in 2019 Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne spending several days at Rough Trade [record store] building a huge interactive installation for his LP The King’s Head. It was in the shape of a king’s head, and you could crawl inside his mouth and hear a song that was not on the record. Wayne spent days on this one installation that was just a cool tribute to Record Store Day. 

Mike Peters from the Alarm celebrated RSD a few years ago by playing concerts at local record stores in London, NYC and LA, all on the same day! He started out early in London, hopped a trans-Atlantic flight to New York, played an in store gig there. Then he flew to LA and finished up his long, long day with a final show at a record store there. AMAZING!”  

Artist Kim Radford. Photo from RSD’s Facebook page.

Peter: Why was Taylor Swift chosen as Record Store Day’s Global Ambassador for 2022? What is her RSD offering this year?

Rick: Taylor Swift is one of the biggest global superstars and she has built her career from the ground up, doing it the right way. Taylor has reissued almost all her albums for RSD in the past, bringing new vinyl buyers into independent record stores for the first time. She was also very supportive of independent record stores during COVID, even paying the health insurance for workers at her favorite record store in Nashville. She supplied independent stores with signed copies of her releases to sell during the shutdown. Taylor has also contributed a track to the special 2022 RSD release Portraits of Her, celebrating women in music. She is also contributing a 7” single of the lakes for RSD 2022. I couldn’t think of anyone better to select as RSD’s very first GLOBAL ambassador.

Peter: If you could only give 1 reason why people should go to their participating record store on RSD, what would it be?  

Rick: Independent small business owners are the life’s blood of any town and community. These small businesses have been hit hard the past few years, yet they are still there every day, working hard and making sure they have what you want when you walk in the door. We HAVE to support our independent record stores and other small businesses in our communities to make our local world a better place. Plus it’s fun! Music is universal and makes people happy. 

My generation: NYC’s Generation Records. Photo by Rick Johnson courtesy of RSD.

Peter: How has COVID-19 impacted vinyl record manufacturing and record sales?  

Rick: The music industry was not immune to the temporary plant shutdowns everyone experienced. It created bottlenecks of course, and you just have to fight through those like every other business. Record people are very tough though and extremely resourceful. I was amazed by the ingenuity I saw displayed by the record stores. Lots of stores increased their on-line presence, shipping orders to customers’ homes during the crisis. I even saw stores personally DELIVERING orders to their customers by car. Dropping off the vinyl at the doorstep, creating their own version of “touchless transactions.” Many stores reported doing a stronger business than normal as more people stayed home and had time to curate their collections. I know everyone is happy to be getting back to some sense of normalcy, but I believe the resilience and tenacity shown by everyone in the music industry has been nothing short of incredible

Peter: I know you’re not clairvoyant, but how do you see record sales performing over the next few years?  

Rick: Actually, I AM clairvoyant. I KNEW you were going to ask that question. Seriously though, I see record sales rising as more and more music enthusiasts buy turntables and youngsters become old enough to buy their own music. It keeps getting bigger every year. Many younger fans who have bought turntables this past year and are buying vinyl and supporting their local shops. It’s great to see. People still stream or listen to the radio, but there is something so satisfying about buying tangible music and playing it at home on your turntable. I think the trend will continue for many, many years.

Peter: What records have you personally been spinning lately?  

Rick: When listening for pleasure I tend to go back to the roots of punk rock. The Velvet Underground- Live At Max’s Kansas City is a timeless classic. I’m listening to it right now. Same for the first New York Dolls LP. It turns 50 in 2023. I hope they get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. I’ve also been listening to a stack of old rap 12” records I recently bought. Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B., Count Coolout, Duke Bootee, etc. Lots of amazing music I’ve never heard before. Then some old Ministry, Wire, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. My favorite new group for the past few years has been Starcrawler from LA. Amazing female lead singer, Arrow de Wilde. Great bunch of young kids with two records out and another coming out soon.

Peter: Do you remember the first record you ever bought or listened to?  

Rick: One of my very first was Hot Rocks, the double LP compilation by The Rolling Stones. I bought it at our local K-Mart when I was about 10. Loved it! Bought the Beatles Red and Blue albums in 1978 when Capitol re-issued them on colored vinyl. Bought the Beatles White Album on white vinyl and freaked myself out by playing “Revolution #9” backwards!  Spooky!!

Peter: Why are you a vinyl geek?  

Rick: I’ve always loved the sound and the feel of vinyl. Being able to hold the record carefully in my hands and sliding it on the turntable. Listening to the needle drop and find the groove. Love it! Plus holding the jacket and looking at the cover art while listening completes the experience.  

Peter: Any final thoughts?  

Rick: Record Store Day has something for everyone. Come out and support your local independent record store on April 23rd for RSD22. Discover your new favorite record and your new favorite local independent record store!

Image from RSD’s Facebook page.

The Flip Side Of The Record

As exciting and profitable as Record Store Day is for store proprietors, it’s not without its critics. It may surprise you to learn that a few of those critics are in the very business RSD was designed to help…independent record stores. Long time UK independent record store owner Rupert Morrison wrote a story in The Guardian in February advising that COVID supply chain issues continue to make obtaining records for his customers very difficult. Morrison said he has customers who are still waiting for records they pre-ordered a year ago. He said adding another 411 new titles in the pipeline this year for RSD will only exacerbate the problem and suggested Record Store Day be postponed until the vinyl backlog gets cleared.

Supply chain issues aside, getting the RSD titles you want in general can be difficult. Two years ago, I called a record store a few days ahead of RSD to ask if they’d be stocking a certain record I wanted. They told me they weren’t allowed to give out that information. Apparently, they’re not allowed to give customers advanced notice of which RSD titles they’ll be carrying. I knew there would’ve been little point in calling the day of because the staff would be too busy, so I drove to the store the morning of Record Store Day, only to be told upon arrival that the record I wanted had already sold out. The clerk suggested I go to another one of their locations, but it was quite a distance away and I didn’t plan on spending the day on a treasure hunt. It’s hard to get excited about a record you really want if your chances of actually getting it are akin to winning the lottery. It also doesn’t help when record some stores hold back certain titles to later sell on eBay or their own website at inflated prices, a practice Record Store Day strictly prohibits. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem.

Speaking of record prices, I’m an old enough fossil to remember when CDs first came out. In an effort to win the music buying public over, the record companies promised CDs would cost less than records. With few exceptions, that never happened. Forty years later, it’s finally come true. It isn’t unheard of to drop a hundred bucks or more and emerge from the record store with only a handful of records. I’d be interested to learn what percentage of 12″ albums released for RSD are priced under $20.

Don’t get me wrong. I love records. If I cut myself, I’d probably bleed red liquid vinyl. But if Record Store Day’s price of admission gets too high, it risks alienating music enthusiasts who don’t have that kind of disposable cash. The current economic situation only makes it worse. At the rate things are going, gas to get to the record store and back again might cost almost as much as the records themselves!

Phonocut: Cuts like a knife. Photo from

Phono what? Phonocut

Speaking of cutting, and this has nothing to do with RSD, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could cut your own records? In October of 2019, the introduction of Phonocut practically gave vinyl enthusiasts an analog orgasm. Phonocut is a fantastic plastic machine that allows you to cut your own 10” vinyl records at home with the mere press of a button. Two and a half years later, the Austrian company that invented it has yet to ship a single Phonocut, and their latest update says not to expect one until the end of 2024 at the earliest. The company’s website states they’re “truly sorry that we have over-promised so profoundly”, and to their credit, are offering refunds to any of their crowdfunding backers who want one. I came very close to becoming a backer myself, but frankly, I was turned off by the fact that Phonocut only supports 10” records and you can only buy the “blanks” from Phonocut. If you failed to get in on the ground floor at the bargain basement Kickstarter starting price of $1,089, be prepared to shell out $8,000-$10,000 for one Phonocut, which is what the company estimates the retail price will be when the vinyl dust finally settles. That’s what I call a deep cut.

Happy 50th Anniversary SL-1200M7L. Photo from

The Legend Keeps Spinning

If you’re in the market for a special turntable to play your special Record Store Day acquisitions, you’re in luck. Yesterday, Technics announced a pre-order for its limited-edition version of their legendary SL-1200M7L in recognition of its 50th Anniversary. The Anniversary Edition of this iconic direct drive turntable will come in 7 different colors and include an etched number, an anodized gold-colored tone arm, a custom slip mat, and a couple of Technics stickers. It’s very rare for a consumer electronics model to remain in production for 50 years, so that says a lot. Over its long history, the SL-1200M7L has earned respect from both DJs and audiophiles alike. I used a similar model when I was a DJ at my college radio station over 30 years ago. Many radio stations used them because they were a workhorse and very reliable. But you better hurry. Only 12,000 in total will be made available worldwide. Note the $1,100 sticker price doesn’t include a stylus and it isn’t expected to start shipping until July.

APRIL 23, 2022

Mark April 23rd on your calendar and be prepared to arrive early at your participating record store to get the Record Store Day releases you’re coveting. Before you leave the store, make it a point to stop and take in the moment. Look around you and appreciate the many music lovers of all ages happily exploring the record bins. It just might bring a smile to your unmasked, naked face. It’s one sign that life is gradually returning to normal. It’s time to treat yourself to some special music. After what you’ve been through, you deserve it.

Major thanks to Rick Johnson of Record Store Day for answering my questions and providing me with his exclusive snaps. Thanks also to all of the MA record stores that participated in my informal poll. I’ve listed their links at the end. Please support your local record store.

Trivia (from Wikipedia): “Record Store Day 2020 was scheduled to take place on April 18, but was postponed to June 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 29, it was announced that Record Store Day would be postponed again, and spread across three dates called RSD Drops: August 29, September 26, and October 24. A fourth date, RSD Black Friday, occurred on November 27.”

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Record Store Day

Purchase Street Records

Joe’s Albums

The Nevermind Shop

Vinyl Destination

The Record E


Sunset Records

The Vinyl Vault

Vinyl Index

The Record Spot

Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi

Inclusion Records

Dyno Records



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