Forwarded by Negativland.
>Waiting for Eva-Tone to blame this on Napster.
>-- Mara Schwartz
>Novelty Discs Spin To Halt
>By DAVID DALEY
>The Hartford Courant
>March 10, 2001
>This is the way a once-proud technology ends: not with a snap and crackle of
>low-fidelity static, not with the incessant clicking of a needle stuck in a
>groove, but with absolute radio silence.Once upon a time the flexi-disc -
>those novelty records stapled into magazines, tucked under cereal-box tops
>and mass-mailed to millions by presidential candidates - was a kitschy yet
>honored way of distributing sound recordings.
>The lids of special Chun King frozen-Chinese-food entrees could be spun on a
>record player after TV dinner. Remington offered flexi-discs of Bing Crosby,
>Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney for "music to shave by." Noxzema asked
>teenagers to write their own lyrics for "The Noxzema Rag," an instrumental
>track they included in Seventeen magazine. Richard Nixon and Franklin
>Roosevelt put speeches on flexi-discs and sent them to registered voters.
>Some of the most collectible pop-music items are rare songs by the Beatles,
>Beach Boys and R.E.M. on flexi-discs included with music magazines.
>And even 15 years into the CD era, the flexi-disc survived thanks to a
>Library of Congress program that provided books and magazines to the blind
>long-playing, flexible records.
>Just a few weeks ago, the era came to a final end when Eva-Tone, the last
>American producer of the flexi-disc - or as they preferred to call it, the
>Soundsheet - retired the plastic-phonograph-record-making technology for
>good. The 78 rpm record, the eight-track tape, the Beta-player: Meet the
>"Though outmoded now, Eva-Tone Soundsheets provided a revolutionary way for
>people to use recorded sound 40 years ago," the company said, in a wistful
>but forward-looking release announcing the news. "The demand dried up.
>Turntables went away. But the product line had a nice run," says Eva-Tone
>Vice President Mark Evans.
>Once A Novelty
>"They were a genuine novelty, and that was the fun of it," says Michael
>Camella, who curates The Internet Museum of Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity Records
>(www.wfmu.org/MACrec). "The heyday was really the 1950s and '60s. But they
>were very widespread for 100 years, starting with playable postcards that
>people could play on crank-up phonographs. "They were cheap to make. Anyone
>who wanted to put a record in something could do so easily. You could put
>them in a publication, or an advertisement, and they were easy to
>A lot of political candidates - Nixon, Eisenhower, all sorts of candidates
>for governor or Congress - would put a speech on a flexi, put a nice
>photograph of themselves on it and mail it to people."
>Sometimes the very novelty of getting a record in the mail was so
>that advertisers wouldn't even put their name on the flexi. "Put this on
>phonograph today," said one popular flexi from the 1930s that turned out to
>be an ad from Chevrolet. "It was just plain brown," says Camella. "I have
>that still has a mailing label on it."
>Others were colorful, elaborate and fanciful. Camella's online museum -
>the songs can often be downloaded - shows a vibrant yellow Shell flexi
>smiling red '50s car humming to the "Cars Love Shell" theme. Schrafft
>chocolates included "sweet" classical music on flexis that were inserted
>between the layers of boxed candy. "It was not about the high quality of
>sound," says Camella, "but about the novelty of having records mailed to
>or discovering them someplace different."
>Poor sound quality didn't stop both popular and underground bands from
>recording flexi-singles that were stapled into teen mags, fanzines, sent out
>as tour promotional items, or included as bonus items in LPs. Flexis from
>Beatles and the Who command astronomical prices from collectors. More
>recently, music magazines like New Musical Express or The Bob would give
>their cultish readers B-sides or cover songs from artists like R.E.M., the
>Feelies or Robyn Hitchcock. And because vinyl continued to live among
>indie-rock fans, record players never completely went out of style with the
>gleefully obscurist, giving flexi-singles a certain cachet even in the '90s.
>Some Say `Good Riddance'
>Not everyone looks back on the flexi-disc with such nostalgia, however.
>the Library of Congress contract kept Eva-Tone alive, those who benefited
>from the once-cutting-edge flexi technology are happy to see easier and more
>convenient media flourish.
>"I don't miss it," says Betty Woodward, the Connecticut president of the
>National Federation of the Blind. "The discs collected lint like crazy.
>They'd skip sometimes. The record machine itself was not small. You had to
>where it was to be able to listen to it. That was all that was available
>I started getting talking books in 1963. But the advent of four-track tapes
>has been wonderful. A reader can read 100 pages on one tape. Now there's
>machines that will speak to you in a computer-generated voice. To look back
>on it now is amazing. No, I'm happy for its passing."
>What's really amazing, says Camella, is that the flexi lasted as long it
>even after real vinyl records began disappearing from record stores.
>"It was just so limited because people didn't have turntables anymore. The
>music industry stopped producing records, so there was less production of
>record players, and that was probably about it. Companies didn't bother
>it because they couldn't get the same reach. It was no longer the
>mass-marketing tool it once was. I mean, how many people do you know who
>still have a turntable?"
>And as for Eva-Tone?
>They're just fine. These days the Clearwater, Fla., company helps other
>businesses create CD-ROMs, websites and multimedia presentations to
>Editor in Chief, Circuit DVD
>Too Much Pho ATaol.com
>"What a botched design-project people must be if these songs can make me
>this way, yet leave you untouched. If we don't share redemption this
>fundamental, no wonder we fight over abstractions like religions and
>-- The War Against Silence, on Big Country
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