Tag Archives: music

Iconic Music Couples: Muses for Better or Worse

When Paul W. Klipsch began his quest for live music in his living room, the person seated beside him in that room was his wife, Belle. It has been said that behind every great man is a great woman. The same might be said about a great song. Melody certainly matters. A memorable hook helps, along with clever or compelling lyrics to stick with us. But even if a song has all this going for it, it will fall flat if it’s missing authentic passion.

What do singers and songwriters draw upon to create this passion? Frequently, from their own life experience. Phil Collins’ famous break-up song “Against All Odds” begins with the line: “How can I let you just walk away / Just let you leave without a trace?” The song told the story of Collins’ own failing marriage, and in 1984 the crash and burn story resonated with music fans enough to see it hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 U.K. and spent three weeks at number one in the U.S.

Hit songs about love and relationships get even more interesting when the song is about another musician. Iconic music couples have clashed and harmonized to create some of our best-loved songs throughout history. For example…

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of the 1970s, if not of all-time. Producing hits such as “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way,” Rumours won the 1978 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The album’s greatness was born, however, from simultaneous meltdowns in the intertwined romantic relationships of several band members:

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were Fleetwood Mac’s American members. Long-time lovers, their relationship was crumbling by the late 1970s. In “Go Your Own Way,” Buckingham expressed his anger with Nicks, even including the line “Packing up, shacking up is all you want to do” despite her strong objections. The line stayed in the song and the beleaguered couple recorded it together as bandmates. To be a fly on that wall…

Two other members of the band, Christine and John McVie, were going through their own break-up while Rumours was being written. In the other best-known song from the album, “Don’t Stop,” Christine tells her ex-husband repeatedly, “Yesterday’s gone.” Although the song sounds cheery and optimistic, it was Christine’s way of telling John that their relationship was over, and it was time to move on.

Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac 05 DEC 1977

Sonny and Cher

Cher was a tender 16 years old when she met Salvatore “Sonny” Bono in a coffee shop. Sonny was 27 and working for legendary music producer Phil Spector. Before long, he had Cher singing backup for acts like The Righteous Brothers and The Crystals.

The couple’s romantic relationship began in 1962; their marriage in 1964. Their career-making song about one another: “I Got You Babe” was a hit in 1965. Ten years after singing the foreshadowing lyrics, “They say we’re young and we don’t know / We won’t find out until we grow,” Sonny and Cher divorced. Despite Cher having very few kind words about Sonny after the divorce, their relationship was the springboard that launched both their careers, and propelled her ultimately into super-stardom.

I Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher Top of the Pops 1965

Johnny Cash and June Carter

Thankfully, not all iconic match ups end in disaster. For Johnny Cash and June Carter, their 35 year-marriage weathered hard times with the couple staying together through it all. Johnny Cash, Jr. would subsequently write in memoirs about his parents that they “accepted each other unconditionally” and stayed in love until the end of their lives.

Before she met Johnny, June was a musical star in her own right as a performer with her family’s group, The Carter Sisters. Johnny started performing with the family and fell in love with June almost right away. He insisted that he would marry her one day, but she cited his drug addiction as the reason she’d never be with him. Biographers of Cash claim that it was largely his love for June providing the motivation to get his addiction under control. The two married in 1968 and stayed married until their deaths in 2003. Over the years, they sung a multitude of duets together, including hits such as “Jackson.”

Johnny and June Carter Cash sing Jackson


Who is your favorite musical power couple? Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale? Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood? Marc Anthony and J-Lo? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Anatomy of a Record Player

Before there were MP3s, CDs, and cassette tapes — heck, even before eight-track tapes — there was the record player. Although today, unless we have an affinity for vinyl, we think of record players as “old-school”, often forgetting they revolutionized music and the music industry as much as MP3s have today. Record players allowed for listening to music at home for the first time; before the record player, it was live or nothing. It made such an impression, we still call music releases “records” and “albums,” and the spinning album phrase “getting rotation” still means a song is heard on the radio.

Once record players came onto the scene in 1877, they didn’t leave until almost a century later — although they never fully left. Nostalgia as well as preference for the sound quality has kept vinyl alive, and DJs and hip hop artists still use turntables as part of their music-making. We celebrate the beauty of albums with our recent collaboration with Classic Album Sundays – monthly active listening sessions of entire albums in a studio setting with the best equipment available. It’s a truly unique experience.

So how does a record player work? What are the different components, and how do they work together to produce sound? Let’s take a closer look at this amazing game-changing contraption.

The Turntable

Although “turntable” and “record player” today are used almost synonymously, a turntable is technically the part of the record player where the record sits. Sometimes the turntable is also called the “revolving platter.”

The center of the turntable includes a metal rod, holding the record in the center as it turns. The plate of the turntable itself is generally metal, typically covered with plastic or rubber so the record isn’t inadvertently scratched.

The least expensive record players use steel for the turntable. The steel plates used in record players are light and cheap to produce, however, the consequence is that these plates have a low inertia, meaning any instability with the motor speed are quite pronounced.

A more expensive turntable plate is aluminum. Aluminum plates have better balance, reduce vibration, and don’t accentuate motor speed instabilities.

The turntable’s rotation is controlled by the turntable drive system. The two main types of drive systems are the belt-drive system and the direct-drive system. The belt-drive system goes a long way in reducing noise heard from the motor, because the elastometric belt helps to absorb vibrations and other low-frequency sounds. A direct-drive system, by contrast, doesn’t use intermediary gears, wheels, and belts. The advantage of a direct-drive system is later models had stronger motors and pitch control sliders. For this reason, direct-drive turntables were favored by disc jockeys for decades.

The Stylus

turntableThe stylus is the needle that rests against the record. Ideally, a stylus is a cone-shaped component made from diamond, which is the hardest natural material on Earth. Besides diamonds, sapphires are also commonly used for record needles. The stylus is connected to the tone arm by a flexible strip of metal. The flexibility in the middle allows for the stylus to ride up and down within the record grooves.

The stylus can be either spherical or elliptical. Elliptical styli have the advantage of increasing the fidelity of the music by allowing for more contact with the record groove. A spherical stylus provides less fidelity but is more sensitive.

Even a diamond-tipped stylus will need to be replaced after a while. Experts recommend changing the stylus after every 1,000 to 2,500 hours of listening pleasure.

The Tone Arm and the Cartridge

The tone arm is the arm of the record player that holds the stylus and, together with the cartridge, it is responsible for actually producing the sounds. Tone arms can be straight or curved. Which one is better? It depends who you ask. Some people insist curved tone arms produce better sound, but DJs and hip hop artists usually prefer straight arms because they’re easier to scratch with.

As the stylus follows the grooves of the record, vibrations travel through the metal wires inside the tone arm and arrive at the cartridge at the tone arm’s end. The cartridge contains coils within a magnetic field, and when the vibrations hit these coils, they are transformed into electrical signals. These electrical signals can be amplified and broadcasted through the speakers.

Amplifiers and Preamplifiers

Today, most audio receivers are designed for the signals that come out of a CD, DVD, or MP3 player. That means that they are not well-equipped to play the audio signal coming out of a traditional record player. Older audio receivers included what was called a phono preamplifier (also known as a preamp or phono stage) to boost record player signals to appropriate levels, but modern receivers lack phono preamps. Some record players include built-in preamps to solve this problem; talk to a true audiophile, however, and they will insist that you get a dedicated preamplifier for the best sound quality.

The right preamp depends upon the cartridge. Modern cartridges will play well with preamps at the 100pf to 150pf level; older cartridges, such as those from the 1980s, work better with preamps of the 200pf level. It should be noted, though, that if your cartridge hasn’t been changed since the 1980s, you should go ahead and replace it anyway!

Summary

In short, the vinyl record is placed upon the revolving platter. As the record revolves, the stylus bumps up and down within the groove, sending its vibrations along metal wires within the tone arm and into the cartridge. The cartridge converts these vibrations into an electrical current using a magnetic field. This current is sent into the preamp, which boosts the signal on its way to the speaker. When the amplified current hits the speaker — presto! — we hear music or whatever is recorded onto the vinyl.


We hope you enjoyed this short tour of the anatomy of a record player. Did we leave out anything crucially important? Do you still listen to vinyl? Let us know in the comments section below.