🎵 12" SotW Brothers Johnson, "Strawberry Letter #23" SP-12003

Rudy

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Our second SOTW is from the Quincy Jones produced Brothers Johnson. This 12" single is a bit unique among other A&M singles for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is cut at 45RPM, which in the earlier days of A&M's 12" singles, was a rarity. Second, it is pressed on red vinyl, and reportedly, the jacket was scented with strawberries. The jacket for the single is also unique, not a generic A&M 12" single jacket that was used often back in the late 70s.

As for the music, this version of "Strawberry Letter #23" is slightly different than the single or album versions. The intro is different, and it actually was cut a half tone higher than the original version. On the flip side is "Get The Funk Out Ma Face," which is a rare extended version not available on single or album.

One thing I've noticed about my copy is that the vinyl scratches rather easily; I have one minor tick through part of the song that wouldn't have been there if it were black vinyl. The lead-in area is also a lot wider than other 12" singles.

Here is the sleeve and record:

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Promo version spinning on a turntable...if you look closely, you can see how fat the lead-in area is:

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A washed-out scan of the flip side:

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It looks as though even the 45RPM 7" single got the red vinyl treatment (at least in promo form--not sure about the commercial release):

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JH12"fanatic

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I noticed too that the red colored vinyl somehow seems to be softer than standard black vinyl. The "Strawberry Letter #23" 12" isn't the only Brothers Johnson 12" I've come across that has an unusually wide lead in groove. The UK 12" I have for "Right On Time" has a really wide lead in groove. I'm wondering if Bernie Grundman might have cut the lacquers for that single like he did for "Strawberry".

On the 12" mix, they did speed the track up about two BPM's over the original LP version, and they edited the celeste part off the front, starting with the main intro to the song. I think they may have sped it up to try and make it more danceable, though the original speed of 98 BPM is fine to me. They also extended the song by lengthening the intro section and repeating the line "a present from you, strawberry letter 22, the music plays I sit in for a few" after Lee Ritenour's guitar solo.
 

JH12"fanatic

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No A&Mguy. It's the original version just varispeeded up, and the couple of edits I mentioned in my previous post.
 

Rudy

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Hey Jeff, in your avatar...is that the B-side of this single?
 

JH12"fanatic

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No, Rood. My avatar is the first promo 12" issued of "Get The Funk Out Ma Face" that was released in the Summer of 1976. It has the long 6:01 version on one side, and the short 2:27 LP version on the B-side. The second promo it appears on is as the B-side of "Strawberry Letter #23. That side like the A-side has the text printed in red ink.
 

Mike Blakesley

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I can confirm that the 7" version was also strawberry-scented. I'd have to say this is my favorite Brothers Johnson song. I've never heard this 12" version though. I used to get a few 12" singles back in my DJ days but we didn't use them all that much -- our dance crowds were always more into rock'n'roll than disco, so I didn't play many 12"ers.
 

Rudy

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It depends on locale for a lot of these singles. Jeff and I both grew up in larger urban areas, where dance clubs, R&B, funk, etc. were a lot bigger musical presence. We even had a station locally that played 12" singles and album cuts, as opposed to 45RPM single versions, as there was enough of an audience to support it for quite awhile. (Funny that the same station that introduced me to Donna Summer's version of "MacArthur Park Suite" is the same one that introduced me to The Police. :laugh: )

Colored vinyl back then was crap, and even today I don't fully trust it. The few colored or clear vinyl records I own scratch very easily--they are softer than the black vinyl. A minor flub on my rare coral-colored Tomita Bermuda Triangle LP resulted in a tick that never would have happened on black vinyl. Same thing happened with this SL#23 single. :sad: And I can't say the clear vinyl copy of "Rotation" by Herb Alpert has fared very well over the years.
 

Rudy

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Jeff, our pal Slayd5000 to the rescue on this one! I found a few versions on YouTube that were just the album version claiming to be the 12" version. Here it is, in its sped up version from a red vinyl promo. (I vouch for it sounding at this pitch. Although in recent years when I've used a direct drive TT, I've turned it down to the original pitch. :whistle: )

I swear, I'll probably give up YouTube if they shut down Slayd5000. :D



P.S. for the sharp-eyed viewers among us: No, the turntable strobes are not off....the frame rate of the video camera is what you see, not the actual neon light from the strobe. :wink: )
 

mongoslade

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I swear, I'll probably give up YouTube if they shut down Slayd5000. :D

Thanks so much for that Rudy. Sadly, that may be happening again sooner rather than later. I've already been hit with a first strike and it seems WMG is going thru my older disputed uploads and quietly muting them as they go along. :realmad:

Oh yaaaah, da flip side.

Actually, that's the flipside of the commercial issue of Strawberry Letter 23, the B-Side of that promo just has the Mono mix of "Strawberry" with all the label text in black instead of red ink.

 

Rudy

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Thanks so much for that Rudy. Sadly, that may be happening again sooner rather than later. I've already been hit with a first strike and it seems WMG is going thru my older disputed uploads and quietly muting them as they go along. :realmad: 

Hey, glad to see you here! Yeah, that really bugs me. I know some of us can (ahem) download the sound portions of these, but still, for most it is like listening to a radio station. And for some of the rarities you have up there, it's just sick how they're going after something that most people will never hear again, and yet they'll never reissue even on a compilation CD.

That's been an ongoing battle here on this site, which I've had going since 1996. I could post hundreds of sound samples, but even a 30 second sound clip is bound to raise eyebrows. At least with YouTube or other services actually hosting the physical file, we would not get in trouble here...but then that does you no good. :sigh:

Actually, that's the flipside of the commercial issue of Strawberry Letter 23, the B-Side of that promo just has the Mono mix of "Strawberry" with all the label text in black instead of red ink. 

I've been sticking to the "commercial" releases of these featured singles (which we just started featuring here), but it is interesting to see all of these promotional variations. Is your promo the same catalog number (SP-12003), or different? I always wondered how the record company could tell the different releases apart when they had the same catalog number for the "hit" side.

We will be getting more into promos in coming weeks though, as things play out here. I hope your channel is still around so we can feature some of these singles here in the forum! (I have the link to your other source though, so I may see if we can edit the embed code here.)

Thanks for stopping in!
 

Rudy

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Looks and sounds a bit off center - watch the stylus bob back & forth. Listen to the pitch varying.

Harry

I actually own a couple of records where only one side is off-center! Some older records of my dad's had worn spindle holes, but those changers back then could really tear up an LP (in more ways than one).

There are only two cures for that: enlarge the spindle hole and manually adjust it, or get one of the two turntables made by Nakamichi that could correct for off-center LPs. This one is the Nakamichi Dragon CT...watch the video to see it in action. Would love one of these myself, but even in used form, they're a couple thousand bills...

 

Harry

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There are only two cures for that: enlarge the spindle hole and manually adjust it, or get one of the two turntables made by Nakamichi that could correct for off-center LPs.

I've found that most center holes are usually large enough to allow for a little bit of adjustment, usually enough to straighten out the wobble. On those rare occasions that they're not, one can make them bigger, of course - I also used to have a turntable back in the dark ages where the center spindle was removable making it easy to adjust the spinning grooves to be properly centered.
 

Rudy

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My Walker CJ55 turntable actually has a spindle that is very slightly oversized, so that the "slop" in oversized spindle holes is eliminated. I know someone who actually enlarges the hole if the record is off-center. 45s are never a problem--you can just leave the adapter off. My first-pressing cream-label Lonely Bull/Acapulco 1922 single is off-center on either one or both sides.

I have an old BSR changer with a set of different spindles (one for stacking, and two single-play spindles, one of which activates a "repeat" function on the changer), and you can run it without a spindle if needed.

I'd still take the Dragon-CT above if someone gave it to me. :D Built like a tank, and actually could be upgraded to an even better arm.
 

Rudy

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A footnote: the B-side is at the original pitch, where "Strawberry" is a half tone higher on the 12".
 

Rudy

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It was intentional. The remix was sped up about 2% to make it more "danceable" for the discos at the time. I still prefer it at the original recorded speed.

I always knew it at the faster speed since all I'd ever owned was this 12". So when I got a compilation CD, I noted the 12" was fast, and have dialed it back on the turntable ever since. :wink:
 

Mike Blakesley

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It was intentional. The remix was sped up about 2% to make it more "danceable" for the discos at the time
Interesting! If the song came out today they could just speed it up using software, no pitch alteration required.
 
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