01 Brady Sing cIt would surprise no one who saw them that the songs on Australia’s early rock and roll television programs were mimed. What surprised me was how this was done. The songs were cut onto long-play records so individual tracks could be played, over and over, until those miming it got it right.

Being a television director’s assistant in Sydney in the 1960s, Sally Brady knew all about this and when, in 1972 she spotted an LP on the station’s rubbish dump, marked ‘Sing Sing Sing ep. 7/65’ she knew exactly what it was; the musical soundtrack for an episode of Sing, Sing, Sing. It was one of the pioneering music shows for young people and ran between 1962 and 1965, and the LP carried three songs by Billy Thorpe. Sally had a soft spot for Thorpey.

“I rescued it because I felt sorry for it. Really,” she said. “So much time had gone into it and it was being chucked away. But I never got around to playing it because I couldn’t figure out how to clean it. Then my turntable broke, CDs came out… but I couldn’t bear to toss it.”

01 Brady Sing bShe thought of it again late last year while reading a story about record cleaners and got in touch to ask how much cleaning it needed.

The answer was lots. A record that has been rescued from a dump and then forgotten about for multiple decades while stored in a sleeve held together by sticky tape needs more than a wipe-over. I suggested Groove Works, about 90 minutes east of Melbourne, because it has ultrasonic cleaners. I warned her that the recording was probably only made for temporary use and that it could by now be dead and gone. And it would likely be mono. She sent it away and waited. And waited.

“She sounded like a nice person so I told her I’d take a look at it,” Peter Griffin, who runs the business, said. “It was not a pretty sight. The surface was heavily contaminated, there was light scratching over the entire surface. The cardboard sleeve that housed it was contaminated inside and out with grit.”

He started with an enzyme cleaner; it needed 15 treatments, and followed with spot solvents to get rid of the remnant sticky tape adhesives on the surface. Then came multiple ultrasonic treatments. All up it took him about 30 hours over six weeks. A standard clean takes five minutes.

“I was very excited to hear it for the first time, and as you predicted it is in glorious mono,” Sally said. “There is very little noise, although it took several cleans before Peter could really hear singing due to the noise. Each track is locked, so the stylus has to be raised and lowered for each track, which seems sensible for a television show soundtrack.

“Peter said if he were to charge me for the hours he spent I wouldn’t be able to afford it, but he was interested in the challenge it presented.”

01 Brady Sing fHe wound up charging her $30, with a CD copy of the contents. I’ve listened to the CD and given its history the sound quality is remarkable. Not just for the cleaning that revealed it, but also because it was recorded 53 years ago as a temporary soundtrack. It’s almost noise free apart from a few clicks here and there and the stylus contacting the surface at the start of each track. This makes a contemporary listener painfully aware of just how flat the production is.

We’ve come far since 1965.

Published January 2020.

 

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