What If There Were No CDs?

PostsWhat If There Were No CDs?

I was just retagging some of my music.  I ran across an interesting set of unexpected issues with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (by the Beatles, duh!).  The end was cut off of some of the song names, so I wanted to fix it up.  I looked up the album on the Internet and began fixing song names.  Immediately, I noticed that the number of tracks in my list didn’t match the number of songs on the record.

After some headscratching I realized that the songs were listed by side of the record.  After smacking my forehead, I started thinking about how iTunes indexes songs.  It has metadata for multiple discs, but not different sides.  My immediate thought was, “What if there had never been CDs?  Would there be extra data for which side of the disk the song was on?”
After pondering this deeply philosophical alternate history, I noticed on the above Wikipedia article that the original release had some interesting quirks.  Specifically, after the last song was a 15 kilohertz tone designed by John Lennon to annoy people’s dogs, followed by some jibberish studio noise put into the gutter track.  So, the original record would end by annoying your dog and then playing gibberish endlessly.
Apparently the CD re-release only repeats the noise eight or nine times and then fades out, since CDs can’t really simulate an infinite loop like you get out of the gutter track.  Similarly, I’d imagine that the 15 kilohertz tone might not survive the MP3 encoding process.  Even though the tone and gutter track magic are really just tricks of the vinyl, it’s interesting to think that these aspects of that album are effectively forever lost on future generations of Beatles fans.
Oh, well.  Endlessly repeating gibberish probably doesn’t have much of a place in the world of iPod playlists.  Still, I can’t help but feel that a little something is missing…

About Jayson Vantuyl

I live in San Francisco, California; have an awesome son, David; and make machines do (subjectively) interesting things. I'm generally an all around handy fellow.


  • Reply Sherwood said: February 7, 2009 9:51 pm

    Hey, interesting thing about the Beatles record! I don't know if you can STILL do it, but back when I worked at Swaitek Audio (recording studio in Dallas) our CD mastering system allowed you to put tags in the CD data that could skip to a different track. We used it to make hidden tracks, i.e. tracks that would be auto skipped unless you used the search function to seek to JUST before the track marker (where the tag was stored).

  • Reply Ilguiz Latypov said: March 11, 2015 10:53 am

    I thought audiophiles favoured lossless digital formats?

    • Reply Jayson Vantuyl replied: March 14, 2015 12:41 am

      Well, audiophiles also often prefer vinyl. Lossless is in the ear of the beholder. For my part, I sample my MP3s with settings that get close enough to the original for any stereo I'll ever own to reproduce. That may not satisfy some audiophiles, but the mathematician in me is satisfied.

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