Sunday, November 13, 2011

On the turntable this Sunday...The Golden Age of Wireless

The Golden Age of Wireless is a 1982 album by Synthpop pioneer Thomas Dolby. The album is notable for containing the pop hit "She Blinded Me with Science" in its later resequencings (see below). Following the album's overall theme of radio are the songs "Airwaves", "Commercial Breakup", and "Radio Silence," along with songs about the modern world ("Windpower", "Flying North", "Europa and the Pirate Twins"). At the time of the original US release, the moody and cinematic tone—a major departure for most synthesizer-driven records—prompted Musician magazine's reviewer to declare it "The best damned synth-pop record ever, period."
The album is notable in that it was released a total of five times. All five releases appeared on vinyl and cassette (though the cassette release for the fifth version is unconfirmed), but only the third and fifth resequencings appeared on CD, with each changing the order of the songs, replacing the album mixes with extended or single mixes and even adding and removing entire songs. In the case of "Radio Silence", a completely different recording with prominent guitars was the version used on the early US incarnations.
The first US version, issued by Capitol-EMI's Harvest imprint, excised the instrumental "The Wreck of the Fairchild" (loosely based on the1972 Uruguayan plane crash) and added the two sides of Dolby's first single, "Leipzig" and "Urges". Additionally, Capitol swapped the original synthpop version of "Radio Silence" for a much more rock-oriented version that had previously only been available as a single B-side in the UK. Capitol also opted for the single edit of "Airwaves" and abandoned the original UK "comic book" cover in favour of a shot of Dolby on a stage during the production of Bertholt Brecht's "Galileo". This image had previously been used as the cover of the "Europa and the Pirate Twins" single in the UK.
When Dolby released the single "She Blinded Me with Science" backed by "One of Our Submarines" in late 1982—complete with a music video for the A-side—Capitol saw a golden opportunity. They removed "Urges" and "Leipzig", added the extended version of "Science" (also known as the "U.S. Mix") and "Submarines", and changed the album's cover art back to its original "comic book" design. Capitol also swapped the full-length version of "Windpower" for the single version (with an edited intro and outro). The strategy worked, as The Golden Age of Wireless sold better and "She Blinded Me with Science" became a major hit, with constant radio and MTV airplay.
In 1983, the UK record label, Venice in Peril, followed suit and reissued the album with a similar track listing to the second US version. They opted for the short single version of "Science" but retained the full-length versions of "Airwaves" and "Windpower" and the original synthesizer-driven version of "Radio Silence", just as all three had appeared on the first UK edition. This is the edition that is widely available on CD to this day, on both sides of the Atlantic.
The successive resequencings occurred largely because different territories preferred different mixes of songs to others; for example, the extended mix of "Science" was the version that became a hit in America and thus the American cut of the album was swiftly resequenced to accommodate the tastes of that particular territory.
A remastered "Collector's Edition" of The Golden Age of Wireless was released on 13 July 2009, complete with bonus tracks, personal sleeve notes and a DVD of the Live Wireless music video.

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