Background Music
November 7, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

The Seeburg 1000 was a phonograph designed and built by the Seeburg Corporation to play background music in offices, restaurants, retail businesses, factories and similar locations, cycling through a stack of non-standard 16-2/3 RPM vinyl records provided by Seeburg in one of three different libraries of music: Basic, Mood and Industrial*.
And now, it has its own Internet Radio Station!
*in the 1960s, that meant "medium-fast tempo music of a lively nature, to induce workers to be more productive."
posted by oneswellfoop (51 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
Groovy.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:16 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


it does make good background. +1 favorite and bookmark.
posted by DigDoug at 12:21 PM on November 7, 2013


This is pretty cool for Los Angeles.
posted by four panels at 12:22 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I put it on while I cleaned my counters and now I feel under dressed for the task.

Also the distinct impression someone was going to walk into my kitchen and be greeted with thunderous applause.
posted by The Whelk at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know that dance and adoration of the toaster Ellen Green in "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop Of Horrors?

Totally doing that now.
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on November 7, 2013


Far out.
posted by mgriffioen at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2013


Sort of a hip Muzak. I knew a studio musician in LA who did some of this kind of work. I'll bet every one of these was done in a single take and with no one having seen the score before...
posted by jim in austin at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ooh - up-tempo jazz "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead".
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:36 PM on November 7, 2013


From the About page (because the music isn't playing for me to my frustration) continuing the description of the Industrial library meant to induce worker productivity:

This was perhaps the most varied and adventurous of the libraries; it contained polkas, mariachi music, twangy guitar, Hawaiian songs, and even the occasional synthesizer.

This factory sounds very fun.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm imagining the mail-room from The Hudsucker Proxy myself
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


ooooo they used to turn off Christmas manually.

"The Christmas holiday season required a special set of records. A box of 25 Christmas records was issued to be played during the month of December. This set consisted of Christmas music, interspersed with non-holiday music. It was the job of the machine operators to replace all Christmas music with standard fare on December 26. This was a large undertaking - in New York, "the entire service and installation force, and even the office help, are pressed into service to still the sound of Christmas past for another 11 months."

Also, in 1979 the three library names changed.

Basic => Lifestyle
Mood => Penthouse
Industrial => Upbeat
posted by Taft at 12:42 PM on November 7, 2013


Fuck this shit is amazingly awesome :)

I'm seeing Googie everywhere!
posted by symbioid at 12:43 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Lifestyle" used as an adjective without any accompanying noun confuses me.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:47 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of the interpretations of pop songs ARE pretty imaginative; not sure why they diverged so widely from the original arrangements but glad they did.

It reminds me of my most head-asploding Muzak moment, when, in an old Mervyns store in the early '80s, I recognized a Rupert Holmes song from 3 albums BEFORE "Pina Colada" made him infamous. It was so odd, I suspect I may have miscredited it... definitely a Seeburg move!
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:48 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Loving the theme from Exodus done in a spaghetti western style. This is great.
posted by Steakfrites at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2013


Oh my God, this changes everything.


when it comes to what I listen to when I'm at work.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:52 PM on November 7, 2013


Vibes? Check. Drums? Check. Standup? Check. Jazz guitar? Check. Mandolin? o_O
posted by jim in austin at 12:54 PM on November 7, 2013


If I ever get to become a dictator, this is fucking MANDATORY.
posted by symbioid at 12:54 PM on November 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Regarding my previous comment, all that trivia and more is on wikipedia.
posted by Taft at 1:01 PM on November 7, 2013


I've been listened to it now for about 20 minutes. I feel a strange compulsion to make a Jello mold with Kraft Mini-Marshmallows and maraschino cherries.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:15 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am totally bummed that I can't get this to work.

:(
posted by freakazoid at 1:27 PM on November 7, 2013


I was fascinated by the concept of Muzak when I was a kid. Music used to increase production, etc. No voices (too distracting), and no French horns (too soothing). Just one of the odd intersections between art and commerce, not as evil as most of those crossroads, just strange.
posted by kozad at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I half-expected bubbles to come out of my computer monitor when the music started.

When I was a kid in the early 1070s the airwaves were filled with stations that played this stuff. They called it "Beautiful Music," because that's what it is.

Hearing this makes me want to drift asleep on the baby-blue vinyl bench seat in the back of my mother's Ford Galaxy.
posted by the matching mole at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


the airwaves were filled with stations that played this stuff. They called it "Beautiful Music,"

That was the official designation (according to the radio trade papers of the time) and they were among the first Automated radio stations and considered The Worst Threat to live disc jockeys at the time. But it was interesting how one of the first and most popular such stations in Los Angeles, KBIG-FM slowly evolved from "Beautiful Music" to "Easy Listening" to "Adult Contemporary"... of course, one reason was a lack of new records in the style being made for general distribution (that practice of radio stations getting free content from record companies thinking it'd help sell the disks... well, this was one genre that definitely didn't), leaving only the Musak and Seburg private libraries...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:15 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just one of the odd intersections between art and commerce...

What amazes me is how skilled the musicianship is on records commissioned by a jukebox manufacturer.
posted by Taft at 2:16 PM on November 7, 2013


Welp, this is the real deal. Just heard a version of Holiday for Strings that was _awesome_.
posted by brentajones at 2:16 PM on November 7, 2013


Also, in 1979 the three library names changed.

More than anything, i'm amazed this system lasted pretty much mechanically unchanged(or at least, still playing the 16rpm vinyl) until 1979. Holy shit.

A very similar system though, was the Highway Hi-Fi(see also) car record player. Same 16 2/3rds RPM records, and an ungodly amount of tracking force.

It's weird to see that 16 2/3rds standard pop up somewhere else. I wonder which one came first?

Weird enough also, there were 45rpm car record players competing with that highway hi-fi standard. I wonder if there was anything else competing with seeburg at the time? I'm imagining some kind of proprietary radio stations that stores could pay to connect to with a special receiver. Maybe even something like a cable TV scrambler/descrambler and similar to the satellite delivered retail store music that's done now..
posted by emptythought at 2:17 PM on November 7, 2013


"Fuck this shit is amazingly awesome :)"

Yes, it is! FPP favorited as a mark of approval and for future reference.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:09 PM on November 7, 2013


From the About page (because the music isn't playing for me to my frustration) continuing the description of the Industrial library meant to induce worker productivity:

Sample track.
posted by dhartung at 3:22 PM on November 7, 2013


Grab your coat and get your hat / Leave your worries on the doorstep / Life can be so sweet / On the sunny side of the street!
posted by islander at 3:50 PM on November 7, 2013


freakazoid: I am totally bummed that I can't get this to work.

Try accessing the stream directly: http://50.7.96.210:8204/. You can go to that link in a browser and click the "Listen" link at the top, or just open it directly in your standalone media player of choice.
posted by t3h933k at 4:06 PM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's weird to see that 16 2/3rds standard pop up somewhere else. I wonder which one came first?

I think the Library of Congress was also involved in the standard. They were trying to make longer-play albums to hold spoken-word recordings and speeches.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:30 PM on November 7, 2013


In the 70s, a lot of turntables still had 16 speed. It wasn't that weird.

JoeZydeco, you might be thinking of 16" records, which were 33 1/3 RPM and used for spoken word type stuff.
posted by rhizome at 4:42 PM on November 7, 2013


I can't wait for my t-shirt to arrive! If I can show my support for NPR with a book bag (or umbrella) I can sure be stylin' in a Seeburg T too.
posted by cleroy at 5:30 PM on November 7, 2013




MCMikeNamara: "From the About page (because the music isn't playing for me to my frustration) continuing the description of the Industrial library meant to induce worker productivity:

This was perhaps the most varied and adventurous of the libraries; it contained polkas, mariachi music, twangy guitar, Hawaiian songs, and even the occasional synthesizer.

This factory sounds very fun.
"

For some reason, I'm not able to get it running at home unless I have flashblock completely enabled. No matter if I have the file under the whitelist. No matter if I disable all the other forms of blocking. Only when it's purely unblocked. However... For anyone in this thread (and I'm memailing you MCMikeNamara, in case you don't see it here):

When I viewed the source, it said it was a shoutcast stream in the source comments, so I fired up winamp and searched for "Seeburg":

ENJOY!
http://50.7.96.210:8204
posted by symbioid at 5:50 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh fuck, teh933k beat me to it. Meep!
posted by symbioid at 5:51 PM on November 7, 2013


Oh look. It's time to start deriding muzak again.

Effing soulless garp ride.
posted by Twang at 5:54 PM on November 7, 2013


JoeZydeco, you might be thinking of 16" records, which were 33 1/3 RPM and used for spoken word type stuff.

No, JoeZydeco is correct -- you can find old ads for talking books e.g. from the Audio Book Company of St. Joseph, MI using the format, as it could give you a full hour of spoken word audio. The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music notes that the dynamic range was acceptable for this purpose. It was, however, a mostly niche format, and the players that had that setting were mostly produced between 1956 and 1960. There was an interesting discussion of the speed (and incompatibility issues) in Billboard, January '56, that sounds awfully familiar.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Peter Goldmark headed CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) labs and was also the inventor of the 33 1/3 format. In his book "Maverick Inventor" he describes the development of the Chrysler in-car system. (Bonus picture: Lawrence Welk in Flannel!)

Goldmark adds:

"As a spin-off from the new record technology I developed for the Library of Congress a seven-inch record that plays four hours of spoken word and rotates at 831 rpm. This came into being because of my association with Recording for the Blind, an organization that has brought the beauties of the spoken word into the homes of thousands of blind students."

I think that 831 is a typo or mistranscription, but you get the idea.

As someone that used to work indirectly for the Seeburg organization, I need to someday assemble a FPP about the history of Chicago amusement and jukebox companies and all the wacky shit they pulled off back in the day. They were a scrappy bunch.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:40 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


16 2/3 is just half of the standard LP 33 1/3. Half-speed, and then half of that again, was a common gambit through the 60's and 70's as the tech got better to trade away high-frequency improvements for increased play time. Same thing was done with both reel and cassette tapes.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on November 7, 2013


JoeZydeco, I'm sure "831" is 8 1/3, another halving of speed from 16 2/3 RPM.
posted by localroger at 7:08 PM on November 7, 2013


I just found another Internet Radio Station playing Seeburg1000 music: RadioCoast.com. Sounds like a more bland mix (they apparently only have music from one library and from the earlier days), but the site has some other good stuff, including video of the Seeburg in action.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh GOD when it dropped the record half-way and proceeded to play the other side in midair I burst out laughing.
posted by localroger at 7:47 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, I am pretty deep into this now.
posted by cbecker333 at 8:41 PM on November 7, 2013


Thanks, t3h933k!

Happily listening now.
posted by freakazoid at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2013


My current stage project is set in 1962. This is helping the writing process immeasurably.
posted by Spatch at 1:38 PM on November 8, 2013


This immediately reminded me of the original WJIB (I'm not sure how the new one sounds since I don't live in MA anymore and they apparently don't stream.) - oh, and also Fallout 3.

I wish they had more info about their collection - like where they got it and whether it's playing on an actual 1000.
posted by Gev at 1:54 PM on November 8, 2013


Time to clean the kitchen after dinner. Pumps and Pearls, Here I Come!!!
posted by mikelieman at 5:38 PM on November 8, 2013



ENJOY!
http://50.7.96.210:8204


Woo! Hoo!

[mike@orion ~]$ mplayer http://50.7.96.210:8204
MPlayer SVN-r36500-4.2.1 (C) 2000-2013 MPlayer Team

Playing http://50.7.96.210:8204.
Connecting to server 50.7.96.210[50.7.96.210]: 8204...

Name : Seeburg 1000 Background Music
Genre : Easy Listening
Website: http://www.seeburg1000.com
Public : yes
Bitrate: 128kbit/s

posted by mikelieman at 5:42 PM on November 8, 2013


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