Tom Waits Releases New 78! Wait, What's a 78?

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waitsplayer452.jpgMusical legend Tom Waits is putting out a new 78. Yes, not a standard 33 LP or a 45, but a 78. 78 refers to the number of revolutions per minute the record makes, and that speed was the original standard for American records.

It was worked out on an ad hoc basis, it seems, but it had a major impact on the music you know and love. Because a 12" 78 can only hold about three and a half minutes of music, recordings had to be written to fit into that space. The tight little pop gem? It was, partially, an artifact of the recording and playback technology of the time.

In any case, few record players can actually spin at 78 rpm, so the first 100 presses of the new Waits benefit album -- recorded with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band -- are being bundled with a turntable that can give you that extra speed you need. For $200, you'll get two remakes (one per side of your 78) of the earliest known "Mardi Gras Indian chants" and the beautiful machine above.

Mr. Waits traveled to New Orleans in 2009 to record two songs with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the critically acclaimed project Preservation: An album to benefit Preservation Hall and the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program, "Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing" , and "Corrine Died On The Battlefield".

Originally recorded by Danny Barker in 1947, these two selections are the earliest known recorded examples of Mardi Gras Indian chants. The two tracks will now be packaged in a special limited edition 78 rpm format record, each signed and numbered by Preservation Hall Creative Director Ben Jaffe. The first one hundred records will be accompanied by a custom-made Preservation Hall 78rpm record player as part of a Deluxe Donation package. The remaining four hundred and four will be available as a standalone record for the Basic Donation package.

This special limited edition recording will be made available in two different tiers, based on the level of donation: Deluxe Donation Tier: $200 - Limited Edition 78rpm record featuring Tom Waits & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band AND a custom-made Preservation Hall 78 record players - and Basic Donation Tier: $50 - Limited Edition 78rpm record featuring Tom Waits & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Via Pitchfork, read the full story at TomWaits.com.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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