Time Drops – Static Shots – Sonic Narfs

When I lived in Ann Arbor I bought “The Police – Reggatta de Blanc”

and devoured “Walking On The Moon” like a million other people. That song and the whole album blew my mind at the time it was so good.

Both sides were amazing, but at a certain point I stopped listening to Side B altogether.


It wasn’t because I stopped liking the music. It was because at some point, I don’t recall how, but the song “Deathwish” on Side B developed a skip in the vinyl. Not just an annoying pop, a full fledged skip, one that sent the needle back a groove, so the same full rotation of the groove played over and over. It was maddening. I would have to get up and lift the needle, which was getting pounded by the rogue groove, and put it down past the skip. After doing that about 20 times I started to play that side rarely. To this day when I hear the introduction to “Deathwish” I cringe a little inside.

In retrospect, I probably could have used an Exacto knife to trim the skip out. It would have ruined the groove, but the needle would have been able to slide through it at least. That probably would have saved a lot of mental anguish. Ah well.

I don’t mind the whole normal organic white noise that an album and a needle produce. That’s natural. Even an old scratchy album has its charm, but a skip. No. It’s too jarring. I had read lots of fixes for warped LP’s; warming them between 2 sheets of glass in the oven (never tried it), hair dryer then heavy book (worked), but I never read anything about fixing a skip.

It was after the Police album that I bought an album brush. Something like this:

Mine had a solution to spray on the album that would help the dust adhere to the surface of the brush. Incidentally, since it was about 98% alcohol you could spray it on your finger and light it. It would burn off in a split second, but the effect was very impressive. Not very smart, but impressive. I was young. I did ruin one Jethro Tull LP by brushing it too hard and actually scratching it because the plastic around the brush hit the grooves. I learned to be careful and use a light touch. I ran out of the spray eventually and didn’t buy more, but I always used the brush.

When that one wore out I bought one that had an anti static “gun” on it too. You would use the brush and clean the record dry, then use the static gun to dissipate the charge left on the album. It worked great as I recall. Static was an issue with the former brush and no solution. Sometime a huge cracking sound could be heard in the first few seconds when the needle touched down. The static gun eliminated that. I wondered what kind of a charge was being produced and one day got brave enough to squeeze the handle “trigger” with my fingers across both prongs of the part you pointed at the record. Holy…

Don’t do that. I only did it once, believe me. Afterwards I treated the prongs and the brush as thought it were a loaded weapon.

I took care of my LP’s hardcore. Plastic outer sleeves, handle by the edges only, brush for dust and de-static and return to the sleeve when done. Absolutely no stacking of LP’s on the turntable with the arm to drop automatically. One record at a time. This was my procedure and my vinyl religion. It served me well. I don’t think I ever had another album develop a skip from poor handling.

Of course, then I sold them all pretty much.

You would think that would be the end of any type of skip forever, since digital has taken over my life.

Not so.

When I discovered ripping CD’s I was in heaven. I ripped every CD I owned and started loading them on my I-Pod and making them portable and stopped dragging them around in the car everywhere. Of course I took good care of my CD’s and they were pristine.

When I ran out of my own CD’s I started getting them from the library.  They had everything. I borrowed CD’s from all the libraries in South Central Wisconsin thanks to LinkCat and the inter-library loan. It was amazing. I did discover that there was a reserve limit. I got Clapton, Dylan, Miles Davis, The Grateful Dead… filling in the gaps of my collection and more. My collection was my pride. I was shocked to find though that some of the CD’s I ripped had problems.

I loaned someone a CD with MP3 albums burned on it with my “Eric Clapton – Crossroads” (a 3 CD set) and when he returned it he told me that there was a problem with 2 songs amongst the MP3’s of CD # 3. Naturally I thought he was crazy. However, later in the week while I was listening to it I heard what he was talking about. The sound was totally jacked up and there were time drops (my term for the music stopping at one second and picking up at another with a portion of time just missing) and static shots (moments of fuzz and hiss with no music) and sonic narfs (these were the worst, this is the music combined with the static shot): awful. Nothing ruins a song more.

Suddenly I was distraught. How could this be? CD’s were immune to issues weren’t they?

Well, I got another ripping program thinking that maybe the software I was using was the issue. The new software (CDDEX) though did add a feature that let you know if there were jitter errors. This happened on the more severely scratched library CD’s. People not taking care of the music. Ugh.

I checked out the “Eric Clapton – Crossroads” CD set again and re-ripped it using CDDEX. Lo and behold all tracks were ok but for 2. They had 20 or 30 jitter errors each. No wonder! I took an eyeglass cleaning cloth and wiped down the CD’s. This didn’t fix all the errors, but did fix a few.

I ended up getting rid of the “Crossroads” CD altogether. I couldn’t keep it with 2 songs messed up. That is the curse of being a completeist. That is a whole other story. Does it ever bother you that the word anal is not symmetrical? Never mind. I digress.

From that point forward, prior to every library rip I gently wiped down the CD. I also watched for jitter errors. If there were any I would give it a really good wiping and try again. That usually worked, but there were some just too badly damaged. Mind you, they may PLAY okay, but they will not rip well.  Thus, very time I buy a new CD, which admittedly is rare these days… the first thing I do is rip it. Largely this is due to the broken Led Zeppelin album from my past. I was in the habit of recording my favorite albums to play on the stereo in the living room that had no record player. My ”Led Zeppelin – Presence” album somehow in a cruel series of unfortunate events ended up tipping over and landing a bit too close to the side of my bed. In the middle of the night I got up for a drink and CRACK. Despair. I had not recorded it yet.

I never replaced the vinyl. It was just too painful.

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