Originally Web posted Tuesday, 17 June 2008.
Content last modified Saturday, 20 March 2010 .

D.J.’s Choice - The Compact Disc

There once was a specialty show on KALX in the mid-1980s, called D.J.’s Choice. The point of the program was to allow the programmer to “break format” and focus solely on a particular artist, genré, instrument, or other musical attribute of interest, for roughly one hour, once a week. To the best of my knowledge, a two-part program i did in late May and early June of 1986, D.J.’s Choice - The Compact Disc, was the only technology-focused program aired under this show name.

The format was only 3 years old (in the U.S.) at that time. While there had been many early adopters and there were new titles coming out each week, it was still fairly early on the adoption curve, the cheapest players were still $100, and everything available on CD could still be displayed in the local record store (and they were still called that then) along one long wall (at least for the Berkeley Tower Records location). Not that many radio stations had adopted the CD format, and especially not budget-sensitive non-commercial music stations like KALX.

During most of my years at KALX, my “day job” was as a home audio (i.e. “stereo”) repair technician, most of those years at local Berkeley repair shop Resistance Repair. The shop started getting broken CD players not long after they came out, in 1984. Initially intimidated, i soon found this new technology all of pathetic, amusing, and intriguing. While all of us worked on CD players, i took on all challenges and soon became the shop expert, with a bit of an edge for the wacky problems and really fine-tuning them. The big problem with the first few generations of CD players was with the manufacturers learning how to make them correctly, especially the laser pickups, a wholly new technology for inexpensive mass production at that time. With the exception of Philips, it was not until about 1989 that the first self-aligning servo systems came out (used by everyone since about the mid-1990s). Before that, servo adjustment was critical for proper CD player operation, and factory alignment was not necessarily optimal. A good technician could make a huge difference in terms of how well or poorly a give CD player tracked a disc.

Lots more i could write about that. The point: i was dealing with CD players daily, and i thought it would be interesting to do a special on them. Normally i tend to be a shy person, especially with strangers and in person, yet somehow i found the cajones to set up and carry out interviews with/get reactions from some major players in the recording industry, people in or near some local stores, and (much easier) fellow KALX staff members.

With lots of interviews, actualities, research, a few CDs, one owned and several borrowed CD players, and assistance from KALXers who happened to drop by[1], i put together and aired the show, live from the Bowditch Air Studio (1982-1995?). (This was when the early 1960s RCA BC-7A console was in place. Interfacing then-modern audio electronics to it was an interesting challenge, especially on a budget.) The program aired in two parts, as there was plenty of material and plenty to cover.

Part 1 originally aired on 24 June 1986, and ran about 70 minutes. It introduced the then-still-new CD format, demonstrated the sound of CDs, presented the thoughts of KALX staff members and the general public regarding CDs, interviews with industry executives, and live listener phone calls with comments and questions.

Part 2 originally aired one week later, on 1 July 1986, and ran a whopping 100 minutes, give or take (D.J.’s Choice was a one hour program. I appreciated then, and still appreciate, the indulgence of the affected KALX listeners and staff members in allowing me to let the show run its course). This program started with a survey of music then on CD which might potentially be of interest to KALX listeners of 1986, investigated CD myths, demonstrated the state of the art with a CD Player Showdown, compared CD to vinyl, and ended with more live listener phoned-in comments and questions.

2008 Re-Airing

Not long after the 25th. anniversary of the introduction of the CD format (the true original introduction in Europe and perhaps other non-North American places, in summer 1982), i was approached by KALX’s The Muse regarding re-airing at least part of the program. He thought (and i agree) that it would be interesting for today’s listeners to have a glimpse back at when this long-standardized and widely-deployed format was still new and not well known… to listen to long-ago predictions and find out who was “on the money” and who was far off base, amongst other things. Re-airing the show would also provide a tiny, somewhat blurry, window into a wee bit of the KALX of 1986: the people, the sounds, the spirit.

Perfectionist that i am, i wanted any re-airing to be from the best possible source material. So, i began to dig through my archives to pull out everything i still had relating to that long-ago program (which was most of it, as i tend not to get rid of things). With fits and starts and stops, and many delays (all at my end), many months later in June 2008 (roughly 22 years after the original airing), i finally completed digital remastering from the best and most original sources, literally re-creating the show with all the original edits redone in the digital realm.

In discussing what would be most interesting and relevant for 2008 KALX listeners, The Muse and i mutually agreed that a lot of material originally aired would be irrelevant to today’s listeners, and make listening to the rebroadcast more tedious and time-consuming than needed. We discussed the matter on several occasions, i presented different edits (or mixes), and we agreed upon a much shorter presentation for 2008 with all of the “good stuff” and not too much of the “boring or irrelevant” stuff.

Part 1, 2008 re-air edit, runs 50 min. 32 sec. approximately. Part 2, 2008 re-air edit, runs just 38 min. 50 sec. (give or take).

Audio Files

Since there may actually be a few of you who may wish to hear the whole show as it originally aired in 1986, i am making available MP3 files of the digitally remastered re-creation of the complete original program, before the editing for 2008 re-airing started. This is the exact original program as aired, except for some corrections of really atrociously off-the-map bad levels (there are still plenty of bad levels to “enjoy”) and corrections of right-to-left channel swaps in some places, which originated from wiring errors undetected during the show’s original airing, and which really degrade the experience (esp. the CD vs. vinyl comparison).

I am also making available some original “raw” recordings related to the interview and actuality-gathering process for this program. These are likely only to be of interest to hardcore KALX historians and/or people interested in a snapshot of the unedited thoughts of some recording company “players” at that moment in time and/or people curious about how raw recordings such as this get edited into an airable program (by comparing the raw source recordings to what shows up in the broadcast program).

Note: Due to the storage cost of hosting these files and lack of interest, the files are no longer directly downloadable from this site. If you’re seriously interested in obtaining one or more of these files, contact me at the link just below.

Interested in these? Contact me
File Name File Size Content Format Run Time
pt1origLevelChFix.mp3 61.4 MB D.J.’s Choice - The Compact Disc Part 1, original as-aired edit MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 67 min. 6 sec.
pt2origLevelChFix.mp3 90.3 MB D.J.’s Choice - The Compact Disc Part 2, original as-aired edit MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 98 min. 37 sec.
KALXStaffActualities.mp3 7.9 MB Actualities: KALX staff MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 8 min. 39 sec.
RickWietsma.mp3 26 MB Interview: Rick Wietsma, Warner Bros. Records MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 28 min. 22 sec.
BillInglott.mp3 15.6 MB Interview: Bill Inglott, Rhino Records MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 17 min. 5 sec.
StevefromSST.mp3 6.1 MB Interview: Steve, SST Records MPEG 1 Layer 3 (MP3): 128kbps CBR, 44.1 kHz joint stereo 6 min. 40 sec.

[1] KALX Traffic Director and my True Love at the time, Carolyn Sagami took my chicken scrawl handwritten script and turned it into a legible typewritten script. This was done on a typewriter, 6 months before i would purchase my first computer. I did not usually use a script, yet there was so much going on and me being the first one to deal with CD players at KALX, live on the air, the script was necessary.

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