I'm posting two of my favorite demos over the next two weeks and putting together a little history lesson on home electronics marketing and the changing American consumer landscape.
From the early 1970s, this album by Columbia Special Products takes you into the wonderful, then-new world of quadraphonic music. For the best effect, you'll want to listen to this one in your car, where the quad effects hold up quite nicely. You car is, after all, where quad went to die.
There's some great cuts included from Sondheim's Company, the obligatory classical cuts for the audiophile set, and some sound effects. Narration is by Michael Tolan, who played Mary Richardson's on-again-off-again boyfriend DAn Whitfield on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
There's a slightly psychedelic overtone to this at the start, but it's when Ten Years After comes screaming through in full quad that this album leaves all other stereo demos behind.
If you haven't heard it yet, go back and listen to Demonstrating Silvertone Sterephonic Sound--Store and Home. On that album, Dad is clearly the decision-maker. The family is putting pressure on him, but he's the one writing the check. There's nothing that Dad would find musically objectionable.
Flash forward to the 1970s and this album. Dad's not a Ten Years After fan, but his teenage son is, and his son now has the buying power to get his own audio system. Since this is a music company promoting the technology, there's no brands here, but there is a sense that quad is the new, cool thing to have. That follows the general tone of "impress your friends with your powerful stereo sound" that infuses all demo albums, but it also moves quad out of the utilitarian or bargain-conscious appeal and into fashion, the domain of the young.
This marks a significant turning point where home electronics move from costly luxury to a tool of personal expression, something that would open the door for boom boxes, the Sony Walkman, and the iPod. It also shows how the cost of ownership had declined since the 1950s, another factor in electronics becoming a part of our daily lives.