5-6-13 Mono to Stereo to Quad to 5.1
May 4th: Happy birthday, Ed Cassidy (drummer of Spirit), born 1931. On 5/6/67 The Who 45 “Pictures Of Lily” charts at No. 4 in England. On 5/6/72 the Elton John 45 “Rocket Man” charts at No. 2 in England.
In the beginning, there was mono. Most everything was recorded and released in mono up to the end of 1957. There were LP’s, 45’s, 78’s – all mono. 78’s finished. The first stereo LP came along in around early 1958. It took about 10 years to get a stereo 45; in fact, the first one I remember was “Hello I Love You” by The Doors. The possible variant for this concept is that there were jukebox 7” EP’s that were stereo, but I doubt those were ever sold in stores; and I can’t name one that I know for sure was stereo.
The popular thought on mono LP’s is that they were issued continually as late as 1969. I have a promo-only mono LP of the Blind Faith album! But pretty much by 1970, everybody had a stereo of some sort – and LP’s began being issued in stereo only. I will never forget when the mono LP’s hit the bargain rack at Woolworth’s in Lakewood Mall – really good titles for $1 – Bob Dylan “Blonde on Blonde”, The Rolling Stones “Aftermath” etc. But I never saw a mono copy of “Tommy” by The Who – so the line was drawn somewhere in 1969 – the US 45’s of The Who “I’m Free” were mono, as I recall.
So, it’s 1970 – and everything is stereo, when possible. LP’s, cassettes, 8-track-tapes, 45’s – it’s stereo time, for sure. Then you get Quad LP’s about 1972 or so – but were your Quad LP’s SQ, QS or Discrete? Oh, crap – you mean I gotta have a decoder? This is precisely why Quad LP’s didn’t take off (quite frankly, reel-to-reel quad was really the way to go, folks!). But the quad stuff was all gone by 1976, and we were back to stereo.
Movie theatres had 5.1 audio, so why can’t we? There began to be laser discs with 5.1 audio, as the century ended. But who still had a working LD player that was hooked up to an amp that didn’t need a decoder etc? Bang! 1999 – and 5.1 audio comes to your home – usually on SA-CD titles. But who can afford those early funk SA-CD players – and the cost? Astronomical!
So one end of the recorded music spectrum is going towards lossy compressed MP3’s, and the other towards high end 5.1 audio – or super clean stereo on SA-CD. Well, that didn’t go over too well, either. It’s all but vanished by 2013, our pal SA-CD (and DVD-A, for that matter, too). I never saw a 3-channel LP, but I do have some 3-channel DTS discs and SA-CD’s (as well as some 4-channel ones) along with my 5.1 audio collection.
What’s next? They don’t sell cassettes anymore. LP’s are still sold, but they’re super expensive. No more multi-channel entertainment. Am I stuck for all eternity with my LP’s, 45’s and CD’s? (I hope so!)