Words with Bob Stern – Creator of Vinyl Schminyl Radio

Article by Derek Miller

Bob Stern, the creator of the Vinyl Schminyl Radio, sits down with SPfreaks to discuss his history in radio, meeting and speaking with Billy Corgan, and his opinions on vinyl.

Bob Stern 01

Diverse Radio Background

When I was a kid I used to go to downtown Chicago to WLS and WCFL to watch the DJs.  I love music and realized that’s what I wanted to do.  I never did any radio in high school, but I did in college.  As a matter of fact, the first college I went to I started a small student-run radio station and then went to the University of Illinois and worked for probably one of the largest student-run radio stations in the country, WPGU.  I ultimately worked in Woodstock, IL, for WXRD, which was at the time a progressive rock station.  I didn’t want to bum around from one small station to another.  So I told myself by the time I’m 25 years old if I don’t get to a better market, then I’m going to go into radio advertising sales.  The day after my 25th birthday, I started in radio sales.  I’ve always had a love for radio and never wanted to get out of it, but I did.  About 10 years later I worked for a local Chicago station, WCBR, called the Bear, and worked part-time there for a year.

Meeting Billy Corgan

I wouldn’t call myself a close friend with Billy because I’m really not.  But here’s how he and I met. Right around the corner there [was] a place called the Ravinia Wine Shop.  A year ago in February, [2012], they had a grand opening with a bunch of local people and the owners are friends of Billy’s.  I mentioned to the owners that I would like to get Billy on the podcast, and he happened to be there that night. That’s where I met him and we talked for quite awhile.  I said I’d like to get you on for an interview.  I didn’t want it to be a Smashing Pumpkins interview; I wanted it to be a classic rock interview.  His knowledge of music is just about as good as anybody’s.

Bob Stern 02

The interview was actually held at the wine shop.  We spent an hour talking face to face.  When I was in college, I interviewed quite a lot of people (rock stars, if you will), and this was probably the best interview I’ve ever done. Because it was the most intelligent interview I’ve ever done.  It was a conversation more than an interview.

 Bob Stern 03

Please click the picture to listen to the Vinyl Schminyl Radio Hour featuring Billy Corgan

Broadcasting from Madame Zuzu’s

The Led Zeppelin show was recorded Saturday (April 6th, 2013) and we ran it on April 13.    It’s the second time we’ve actually done that.  We did one back in February and featured Pink Floyd for the hour.  Billy, who owns Madame Zuzu’s and invited me to do the podcast, spent the entire evening with us this time and joined us for a few minutes on the air.  It was fun.

Bob Stern 04

Vinyl Schminyl Radio

Three years ago (April 26th, 2010), I decided to start Vinyl Schminyl Radio.  The first cut that we played was Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into The Fire”.  I was thinking of a name for the podcast, and I thought of his Nilsson Schmilsson album.

Bob Stern 05

At the beginning, I was digitizing my old vinyl.  I don’t do that as much anymore because I can find the songs on iTunes or similar outlets.  But I did bring a lot of cuts from vinyl in the first year, year and a half, but after that it’s been more digital-based.  I wanted it to be vinyl based, and it was for quite some time, but then it kind of took off and I decided let’s just put the songs out.

Yesterday was our 700th show (April 16th, 2013).  In July 2010, we started the Vinyl Schminyl Radio Hour.  Before that, it was a Monday through Friday thing and we’d feature a song and a back-story.  I did that for the longest time. Now I try to do it every other week, or sometimes two weeks in a row.  If you go to Vinyl Schminyl.com you can see a list of all the Radio Hours I’ve done.  I’ve done over 60 of them.

 Bob Stern 06

Let’s Talk Vinyl

Vinyl is a great format and the jury is still out whether vinyl is better or worse.  I know vinyl is making a resurgence. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame there’s a big vinyl section there.  In my interview with Billy last year, we talked about him rereleasing albums on vinyl and the Beatles rereleasing albums on vinyl.  But truth be told, unless they come up with a vinyl iPod it’s going to be mostly digital.  Even CDs are on their way out.  I still have a pretty big CD collection too, but there are some things that are still not available on CD.  That’s when I take a look at my vinyl collection and try to put that out there.  I still use vinyl from time to time, but definitely not as much as when Vinyl Schminyl started.

Is Vinyl Superior in Quality?

Vinyl is probably of superior quality, because if you have a completely clean copy (no scratches) and are listening to it on a really nice turntable and really nice speakers, that’s when the magic happens.  I have a really nice set of speakers.  My turntable isn’t quite as nice, but one of these days maybe I will fork out some big bucks for a nice one.  From time to time, I do enjoy sitting down and listening to a good album.  On the other hand, I like listening to a good CD through a good sound system as well.  I’m not as much of a purist as you would think I am.  It’s about the music and not so much about the technology of what the music sounds like.  But it’s got to sound good.  If it’s a well produced and well mastered album, it will sound good on CD as well as vinyl. There is a difference, but nowadays with iTunes they’re releasing the higher quality MP3s that sound a lot less compressed.

MP3 vs. CD

There’s another argument there that you’re certainly losing a lot of information with compression on MP3 vs. the CD file.  So personally, I’d like to listen to CDs rather than MP3s, but on the other hand, I only have a streaming music system, so pretty much everything that comes into our living room is MP3.  If I’m down in my “man cave”, where my studio is, I fire up Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in surround sound on my SACD player. That’s an experience in itself.  There are sounds on that album I never even knew existed!

I just acquired an entire case of brand new, unused, unplayed original Mobile Fidelity Lab series vinyl.  I did a whole week of songs just taken from those albums.   Abbey Road, Eagles, Steely Dan.  I still haven’t gotten to everything that’s in there.

Bob Stern 07

Any Album that Must be Enjoyed on Vinyl?

I would honestly say none.  When I was a kid, the first record that I bought was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – mono version. I would listen and listen and listen to that album, but I would never say there was an album that I would only listen to on vinyl.

To answer your question, I’m more about a well produced album than I am about the vinyl copy of it.  Now with that said, there are some new pressings of vinyl, for instance, Smashing Pumpkins; Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  I know what the CD sounds like, but I want to hear what the 180-gram vinyl sounds like as well.  I would love to take a listen and hear the difference.

I like [The Smashing Pumpkins]. I think their material is really cool.  I have learned to appreciate their sound more since I met Billy.  To be honest, I have not heard any vinyl of theirs, but I will tell you Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and even Billy Corgan’s solo album [The Future Embrace] I think are really cool.  They were all really well done albums.  The solo one had mixed reviews, but I think it was tremendous.  There was a cover song on it by the Bee Gees, “To Love Somebody”, which I played on Vinyl Schminyl.  [Billy Corgan] was actually really happy that I did that.  When I told him that we’d be featuring that, he was pretty jazzed.  You never hear that song on the radio!

Bob Stern 08

Stereo vs. Mono

The reason mono was such a big thing, well; let’s take it back to The Beatles.  When The Beatles were in the studio, originally their stuff was only done in one channel.  At that point, everything was coming out of one speaker which generally was a radio or record player.  It didn’t really matter if it was stereo or not.  Most stuff was produced in a mono and a stereo version.  There was stereo back then, but for most people, that would be like the audiophile version.  I even had a stereo back then, but the reason I bought the mono version was because it was anywhere from one to two dollars less.  But if you notice, when they rereleased The Beatles catalogue, they released a mono and a stereo version.  And a lot of people like the mono version because that’s the way they were originally recorded and intended to be listened to.

Any Vinyl You Are Looking For?

There was a band called Fallenrock in 1974.  They had this song called “She’s a Mystery”.  The album was called Watch for Fallenrock.  If I could find that – they have it at Amoeba Music.  Been trying to get my hands on that song and incorporate it into one my shows. I’m probably the only one in America that has a “jones” for that song.

 Bob Stern 09

Record Store Day 2013:  No Alternative

[The album] sounds familiar.  It was a compilation album from 1993, yeah.  I’m looking at the setlist here, and there are pretty cool songs on here.

Contemporary Artists

I watch The Grammy’s every year.  I really like Mumford and Sons.  I like Adele.  I think she’s phenomenal.  I like Train.  I like the Black Eyed Peas. I enjoy Jack White as well.  The Grammy’s, there is so much diversity, there really is. If it sounds good to me, I’ll download it or buy the CD the next day.

Advice on Putting Together a Podcast

Make sure you have something to say.  Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.  I’ll say this for musicians too; just because you can play the guitar, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a rock star.  I’ll never discourage anybody from finding common ground and putting their stuff out there, but make it the best that you can make it.  There’s a lot of podcasts out there.  And there’s a lot of, excuse me, crap out there.  The one thing I’m proud of about Vinyl Schminyl is that it offers up good information, it’s done in a professional manner, and the quality of the hosting is pretty good too.  Make sure you have a good product, because if you have a good product then people are going to listen and you will get positive publicity.

 Bob Stern 10

Please note that Bob is celebrating his 3rd anniversary of Vinyl Schminyl Radio today.  Make sure to visit his website to check out his newest podcasts every week!


Tristessa Vinyl : No More Gray Area

Article written by Derek Miller

In 1990, Smashing Pumpkins released their second single, Tristessa, on Sub Pop Records. In the United States, Tristessa was released as a 7” vinyl single. Sub Pop also released a German 12” version, which included an extra song, Honeyspider, not made available on the US pressing.

The 7” vinyl was pressed in unusually high quantities. Mass production yielded an estimated total of 7,500 copies. This number is consistent with other singles pressed at the time; however, Sub Pop has only officially confirmed 2,500 color copies on pink vinyl. More importantly, three (3) prominent colors have surfaced on the market over the years: pink, black, and gray versions(*). The gray versions are noticeably harder to come by, and might be completely accidental — right?

Collectors soon proposed a misguided, albeit completely logical, theory to explain how the gray versions came into existence. Put quite simply, the gray color is a result of the pressing plant not cleaning the plates when switching from pink to black, or vice versa. This would explain the limited quantities and also Sub Pop not officially acknowledging a gray pressing.

There is only one problem with this explanation: it is entirely false.

In order to dispel this rumor, SPfreaks teamed up with Pette Discographies, a discography site specializing in Sub Pop vinyl. Detailed below are reasons why we think this pressing was in fact intentional, and not a result of mixing pink and black vinyl.

Combining Pink and Black Vinyl Does Not Produce Gray Vinyl

Rather, the end-product is a purple hybrid. Luckily, this is not just an opinion — it’s happened before with another Sub Pop release. The color produced by combining pink and black vinyl can be seen here.

Too Many Gray Copies Exist on the Market

If the gray vinyl was the result of a color overlap, the quantities produced would be exceedingly scarce — potentially 30 to 40, at best. It will never be known exactly how many gray copies were pressed, but based purely on scarcity, it is estimated somewhere in the 200-300 range.

The Range of Color is Inconsistent with a Mistake

An erroneous pressing resulting from leftover vinyl in the plates would display a wide range of color from one copy to another. However, this is not the case. The overwhelming percentage of known copies are the same standard marbled gray color.

Sub Pop is Misleading; Often

Sometimes it’s intentional, but many times, it is not. The fact that they did not disclose a gray pressing does not mean anything. Many colors for other releases have also never been mentioned. For example, note the Afghan Whigs’ single, Sister Brother. Sub Pop talked about the red and black vinyl, but never mentioned all of the other colors that they produced. The same applies to the Nirvana Sliver single — they mentioned the blue and black version, but none of the many other variations.

Now, at this point, it all seems so cut and dry. But wait! If the gray vinyl was no accident, why do so few of them exist? Our friends at Pette Discographies offer up another suggestion:

“Now, there is the outside chance that it was a mistake, but not as previously reported. It’s remotely possible that the pressing plant started making these in a color other than the one that was specified, discovered the error, and changed over to the correct color. I have seen this happen before, but it is not that common. More likely is a scenario in which the pressing plant did not have enough of the one color (pink) to finish the order as placed, and filled out the remaining color copies ordered with a different color.”

SPfreaks would like to thank Pette Discographies for the ideas and suggestions put forth regarding this and other Sub Pop releases. However, in true collector form, we’d like for you to have a look at just a few more color variations (if you can stomach it).

Tristessa 7”: Purple Vinyl (next to Pink copy)
Tristessa 7”: Gray Vinyl (with Pink Marbling)
Tristessa 7”: Pink Vinyl (with Gray/Black Marbling)

These three examples seem to suggest that some cross-contamination did, in fact, occur when switching between pink and black pressings (as well as between the pink and gray pressings). These rare examples fall in line with all assumptions that simultaneously disqualify the gray vinyl from being an accident. Indeed, color variations exist within the Tristessa single, and are definitely worth a second viewing.

(*) Other color variations exist, but for the purposes of this article, we will concentrate solely on these three colors.

Teargarden EP 1: Songs For A Sailor can be pre-ordered

 Update by Arthur van Pelt

The very first EP of Smashing Pumpkins’ epic new album Teargarden By Kaleidyscope (epic: 44 free songs, 11 CD EPs, combined with 7″ vinyl releases with 2 extra songs each and topped off with a goodie) can be pre-ordered online for delivery around April 20, as most of the hardcore fans already found out. But the prices differ a lot here and there.

From rather cheap to quite expensive:

01. CD Universe (US$ 23.98)
02. Amazon US (US$ 23.99)
03. InSound.com (US$ 29.99)
04. bol.com (€ 29.99 = US$ 40.51)
05. Amazon UK (£ 27.49 = US$ 41.92, but includes free shipment in UK)
06. Amazon DE (€ 39.44 = US$ 53.71, but includes free shipment in Germany)

InSound.com gives us the following description of the content: “Songs for a Sailor is packaged in a silk-screened wooden box (7 1/4″ tall x 8″ wide x 1.05″ thick). Each box contains: a 4-song CD (with four new Smashing Pumpkins songs and instrumental intros), a 7” vinyl single (containing a new song and a B-Side), and a hand-carved “leopard stone” obelisk, about 2″ tall, similar to marble. Tracks include the guitar squealing “Song for a Son”, “Widow Wake My Mind” – a jagged-chorded, keyboard-buttressed ballad; “Astral Planes”, and “A Stitch in Time”.”

The last sick Pumpkins vinyl of 2008. More to come in 2009 !?

Article by Arthur van Pelt

Today we have uploaded an extremely rare 1990 German vinyl test pressing of the 12 inch single for Tristessa, to be found in our ever growing Smashing Pumpkins online database here. Since this is most probably a one-of-a-kind item, we are quite sure for the moment, only 1 collector will have this in his personal “My Collection”… 😉

Anyway, with this latest discovery we say a big THANK YOU to all of you Smashing Pumpkins fans and collectors of Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia, as we have very much enjoyed your (sometimes silly!) fandom, your hard work for our website and your positive approach on our Forum in 2008! And of course we will see you back, alive and kicking, in 2009! Stay healthy and rock on, freakies!

A special thanks goes out to the people of SP.com, that have supported us this remarkable year in many ways. Hats off! We love to see you guys back in 2009 too!


Warning! Fake Mellon Collie Vinyl is Spreading like a Disease!

Article written by Arthur van Pelt and Derek Miller

The last few months we get more and more reports that a bootlegged vinyl release of Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness is slowly flooding the markets all over the world, starting from Europe. In this case the bootleggers are making huge profits out of it, as collectors are willing to pay very high prices for it. And who can blame them, it looks almost like the original… But we advice you: stop spreading the disease! The bootleg vinyl is of lower quality, it is not genuine, it has no Smashing Pumpkins history, and it is way too expensive. Find more info on our SPfreaks Forum here and here!

So, how can you determine if the Mellon Collie vinyl you are about to buy is fake? Easy.

A bootlegged Mellon Collie vinyl release is unboxed and unnumbered on the front of the sleeve, just like the image below. The little white box, with or without the number, should be down-right, between the tips of the star.


Besides that, it doesn’t have the HUTTLP 30 matrixcode at the end of the running area on the vinyl (look for it closely!). More detailed info about this unofficial release here. Another thing is, the bootleggers made a black vinyl, a yellow vinyl and more recent, a red vinyl version.

Mellon Collie was NEVER officially released on yellow or red vinyl!

Below is a picture of the sleeve of a genuine Mellon Collie vinyl release. Notice the beautiful blue color and the white box with “No 12692” inside it? The 1996 black vinyl release has a number that can run into the 18000, the 1998 black vinyl re-release has this same white box, but is not filled with a number. Some more detailed info about this official release can be found here.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or other vinyl releases, or Smashing Pumpkins bootlegged releases in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

UPDATE 2012/09/16: a brown bootlegged vinyl has appeared on the market too. We think since 2011. The pic below is from a 2012 eBay auction.

Mellon Collie brown bootleg vinyl