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Topic: The Wisdom of Unca Brad

Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 18:06:58 -0500
Subject: Re: RE: Re: Re: SMideaLEs

Okay, boys and girls, gather round. Unca Brad's gonna lay some deep truths on ya today.

The question asked:

> How often are the vaults actually searched?

That depends on which vault. In theory, Capitol's vault has been searched from stem to stern and is thoroughly indexed. Of course, that's never really the case, because tapes get put back in the wrong boxes and it then becomes impossible to find certain stuff. To the best of my knowledge, the Capitol vault has never been subjected to a thorough listening, which is what it would take to truly "search" it and know its full contents. I'm sure there are tapes in the Capitol vault that have never been pulled out and listened to since they were put there. Given the cost of a complete search/listen project, that's probably going to remain the status quo for many, many years.

The Beach Boys vault has never been subjected to anything close to a thorough search/listen. An inventory exists, but it's cursory at best and really doesn't provide sufficient information about the contents -- even when a tape is labeled and dated. And that's the biggest problem -- there are many, many tapes that are mislabeled, incompletely labeled or even unlabeled. There have been proposals made in recent years for doing a complete search/listen of the BB's tapes, but the cost would be huge, so it doesn't seem likely that it will happen any time soon. Heck, the BBs don't even have a full-time librarian or custodian of the vault (Capitol has a number of people assigned to maintenance of their vault).

> Do music historians/record company people/et al
> actually go through the tapes on a fairly regular basis

Only when somebody's looking for something specific and is determined to find it. Then they'll kind of walk through it, looking intently for a tape with markings somewhat close to what they imagine it should have. Tapes are only pulled and listened to if they seem to pertain to the project at hand. There's simply not time (or money) to randomly check out tapes that aren't relevant to the work at hand.

> or are they (the tapes) just gathering dust?

Most of them are indeed just gathering dust.

> Is there a risk that Beach Boys music
> is stored under another artist's name?

Not in the Beach Boys' own vault. Most everything there is connected to them somehow. In the Capitol vault, though, sometimes tapes get put back in the wrong boxes and then you may have a BB tape stored under another artist's name.

What's more likely, especially in regard to tapes that haven't "come home" to either The Beach Boys or Capitol (say, that might be lost in CBS's vault), is that they're not stored under any artist's name. In the early 1990s, (supposedly) every tape CBS had that was labeled "Beach Boys" was returned to Capitol or The Beach Boys. That included not only the master tapes and some of the session tapes for the Caribou albums, but also vocal multi-tracks from SUMMER DAYS and PET SOUNDS that had been left at Columbia Studios (where they were recorded) back in 1965 and 1966. In theory, the vocal multi-tracks from "Good Vibrations" and SMILE should have come back, too, as they likely would also have been left at Columbia Studios. But they didn't. My guess -- and it's really just that -- is that the tapes may be filed and indexed under "Good Vibrations" or "Heroes & Villains" or even "Artist Unknown," because the tapes don't list the artist, only the track that was recorded. Anybody at Columbia Studios in the 1960s would have known right away that such tapes were BB tapes, but 35 years later, when they're stored in a warehouse kinda like that shown at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," who's gonna know?

> How do so many tapes actually go missing?
> One would think that, considering the size of the vaults,
> putting the tapes back where they're supposed to be is crucial to even
> locate it the next time, etc....

Well, that's the case now. But in the 1960s, the BBs didn't have their own tape vault. It was customary to leave your tapes at the studio where you recorded or mixed them. The many L.A. studios provided storage for their clients' tapes. When the Beach Boys set up their own studio in 1967, they began to pull their tapes back in from the various studios, but they weren't systematic about it. Sometimes, as in the case of Columbia Studios, the studio was closed down and the tapes were shipped off to a record label's warehouse back east. Sometimes, the studio was sold to new owners and, after a certain number of years of staring at tapes that took up space and nobody ever used, the new owners would junk them. Nobody recognized that they were dealing with history.

Okay, boys and girls, class over. Back to your shenanigans!

Unca Brad


Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 04:11:41 -0500
Subject: Re: RE: RE: Re: Re: SMideaLEs

> Brad. Thanks for the info on vault searches. I think they could find
> some volunteers for that work here. How many do they need. I think
> we can provide 100.

Volunteers to do the job are definitely not in short supply. The real problem is, as Kenny figured out, "how expensive the whole process can be."

> It is getting to the stage whereby these tapes will be considered,
> by some, as historical artifacts.

No question about that! What's on those tapes *has* to be looked at as history!

> Maintaining them can be a nightmare, if any of those tapes
> haven't been played back over the years chances are some at
> least some will be corrupted or on their way to becoming so.

Actually, the oldest tapes (from the 1960s) play back with no problems, regardless of whether they've been played over the years or not. The problems, as I expect many of this list's members realize, is the tapes from the 1970s, which used a synthetic lubricant that has dried out over the years. Some of those tapes are in *BAD* shape! And something needs to be done before they deteriorate to where they're absolutely unplayable!

> There's loads of options but money would have to be spent.
> How's about a wholesale transfer onto digi-tape, or hard drive
> equivalent. I'd take a job doing that

Even assuming the person actually doing the project would work for free, the cost for the necessary equipment to do the job -- and keep it in working order for the duration of the project -- is outrageous! The variety of tape formats that have to be accommodated is mind-boggling!

Sure, it's not hard to find a 2-track 1/4" reel-to-reel deck or a 24-track 2" deck, but when's the last time you saw a full-track (mono) 1/4" deck, or (shudder) a 3-track 1/2" deck, or a 4-track 1/2" deck, or an 8-track 1" deck, or a 16-track 2" deck? And that's just the analog reel-to-reel formats! You're also going to need odd stuff like a 3/4" U-matic video deck with PCM decoder! And, of course, the necessary equipment and media to which you're going to transfer the material.

Really, you might as well be talking about building a new studio! The amount of time it will take to go through everything in the BB's vault (in excess of 1800 tapes!) makes it economically unfeasible to rent time at a commercial studio. You'd have to block out time for a year! And the rental charges on the obsolete decks would send the costs right through the roof! You'd do better to track down and *buy* all the equipment you need, then set it up in a facility specifically for that purpose. But then you've also got to invest in all the usual studio stuff -- board, monitors, power conditioning, etc. And let's not forget the ongoing cost of just keeping the place running -- monthly utilities, rent (or mortgage), etc.

In short, it's not a cheap project -- probably in the hundred of thousands of dollars! That's a lot of moolah for somebody to invest in a project that's not going to provide any immediate return. Sure, over the long haul, it probably would pay for itself, but right now no one's inclined to make the necessary financial commitment because it'd be cash out of pocket for quite some time.

Eventually, though, I feel certain that somebody will see the wisdom in preserving the history, regardless of the cost. I just hope that it comes sooner rather than later!

(Actually, if anybody really wanted to give such a project a major kick-start, the proper approach would be to find some well-endowed historical foundation that would provide a grant to start it. If anybody has those kind of connections, let's talk! Drop me a line ASAP!)

If you have any comments on this topic, and I will try to promptly post any interesting replies.