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The Columbia "Underground" Quad Reels of the late '70s

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JonUrban

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From time to time, questions come up here at QQ when someone mentions a Columbia quad reel. We all know that Columbia did not release quad reels in the '70s, even though they sold stereo reels via their record clubs and in some cases at retail.

There was a quad collector named Mike Robin, who is no longer with us. He somehow made a connection with an "insider" at Columbia and was given access to about 45 quad masters of early Columbia quad releases. These masters were in some cases early discrete mixes of what would eventually be released on SQ and Q8 media, and in some cases they were the exact mix that got released.

What makes these tape desirable is that because of the limitations of the SQ encoders and decoders of the time, the only public way to hear the discrete mix of these titles was on the Q8 tape. We all know that even though Q8's can sound good at times, they in no way can compete with a 7 1/2ips reel created from the 4 channel master.

Anyway, allegedly Mike Robin made first generation reel copies of these 45 albums, some of which never got released officially, and proceeded to sell copies of these copies to quad collectors through quad publications and through word of mouth.

Unfortunately for me, I was somehow unaware of this effort, even though I had dealt with Mike Robin from time to time. I do not know how much he charged or when these were exactly offered by him.

There are members here who actually purchased these reels from him, but it's more of a code of honor to keep quiet about them, as their production and sale was highly illegal.

At any rate, 30 years later, these reels have been copied and copied and traded and shipped around the globe to quad collectors, but the prize first copy tapes that Mike made from his direct copy of the master are the true gems of those Columbia quad reels.

These are usually Maxell UD reels with an index card in the box with the title and a sequence number. If you don't have the index card, it's probably a copy of the copy (or the card simply got lost along the way)

I could probably come up with a list of titles if I looked through my emails over the years, and if anyone's interested, I will.

If any of you guys who have these reels feel like sharing the story, go ahead. Just be aware that if you "decloak", you are liable to get showered with PM's and emails from folks wanting copies, etc, so use your best judgment.

I would never out the people that I know that have these reels. It's not fair to them.

However, if anyone else knows more about this story, or feels like sharing some info, this thread is the place to do so.

It's been 30 years, Mike Robin is gone, and the reels are an artifact of a time gone by that even the label may not have at their beckon call. In that spirit, it's a tribute to Mike Robin and his source that some of us had the chance to hear these very rare and very special reels.

OK, let the comments begin.................

EDIT (9/2/2010): Thanks to a QQ member giving me an actual copy of the Mike Robin list, I have created a web page at QQ with the official list. The list contains 52 tapes (not 45 as indicated above). The above post was created before I obtained the list. You can check out the web page I created HERE
 

MyCuff

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It would be nice if they were all transferred to DVD-Audio or BDA, hence preserved forever without degredation...
 

Q-Eight

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45? Yikes. I would like to see that list. I'd love to get my hands on the 'Cheap Thrills' album that several have confirmed exists.
 

JonUrban

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Here are a few titles I've seen on different lists:

Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
Blood, Sweat and Tears - (Second Album - Different Mix)
Santana - Abraxas
Janis Joplin - Pearl (With 2 versions of "Mercedes Benz")
Paul Revere and the Raiders - Hard N' Heavy
Blood Sweat and Tears - Child is Father to the Man (Portion of the Album)
Ten Years After - A space in Time
Sly and Family Stone - Greatest Hits
Paul Revere and the Raiders - Greatest Hits
Live Adventures of Bloomfield & Kooper- (Two Reels)
Big Brother - Cheap Thrills
Edgar Winter - White Trash
Johnny Winter- Johnny Winter
Laura Nyro - Eli and the 13th Confession.
Byrds - Byrdmaniax
Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Barbara Streisand - Barbara Joan
Kooper/Stills - SuperSession
Poco - Deliverin'
Don Ellis - Tears of Joy
Morton Subotnick - Sidewinder
 

Quadwreck

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I believe he charged $50 per reel at first, but that jumped to $100 in 1984. The person who actually owned the reels lived in California, and it could take months for the reels to get dubbed, shipped to Robin, and then mailed to the purchasers. I may have lost my list in my house fire 5 years ago, but I remember it also had the Flying Burrito Brothers "Panama Red" and the Byrds "Younger Than Yesterday" was not the actual album, but a few takes of a few songs from the 4-track session tape. The Raiders tape had a song "Here Comes The Pain" instead of whatever song comes first on the regular version. Dealing with Michael Robin could entail some aggravation, or bewilderment, he was "odd". A local person (who is not a member here) and I shared expenses on some tapes, and he still has them.
 

Q-Eight

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The Raiders Hard & Heavy is missing the songs "Without You" and "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon" along with all the intro's to a few songs. Added were an unreleased song "Get it Yourself" and "Here comes the Pain" from Alias Pink Puzz.
 

westgate

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jeez!!! santana! (or any of the above mentioned titles) on quad 7.5 ips reel to reel.
what i wouldn't give...
 

jefe1

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Well, at least Sidewinder came out on a DVDA, there were two volumes released by Subotnick. Probably hard to find now. And Supersession, the SQ mix is available on a Japanese cd. I got my copy at the Tower Records store in Osaka.
 

timbre4

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THIS thread is the stuff of legend! Thanks Jon, let's not badger the reel folks if we can help it. Exciting nonetheless.

One correction or two above, Panama Red (commercially issued as SQ/Q8) was by New Riders Of The Purple Sage and Poco - Deliverin' was their live album (it's not banjo music!)
 

JonUrban

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Tim,

I fixed Poco (How'd I miss that?), but where's the Panama Red?
 

mool

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Well, If someone has a way that one can aquire the Laura Nyro conversion, I would be most grateful if you could PM me with the details...
 

zobalob

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I believe he charged $50 per reel at first, but that jumped to $100 in 1984. The person who actually owned the reels lived in California, and it could take months for the reels to get dubbed, shipped to Robin, and then mailed to the purchasers. I may have lost my list in my house fire 5 years ago, but I remember it also had the Flying Burrito Brothers "Panama Red" and the Byrds "Younger Than Yesterday" was not the actual album, but a few takes of a few songs from the 4-track session tape. The Raiders tape had a song "Here Comes The Pain" instead of whatever song comes first on the regular version. Dealing with Michael Robin could entail some aggravation, or bewilderment, he was "odd". A local person (who is not a member here) and I shared expenses on some tapes, and he still has them.
I'm intrigued, what is on the Byrds "Younger than Yesterday" tape and are they proper Quad mixes or the unmixed 4 tracks? Sounds like it could be similar or identical to the "Younger Than Yesterday" sessions boot from years ago with a lot of takes of "Thoughts and Words".
 

rustyandi

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I have a list from Michael Robin
of 52 tapes
I will put it on when I can find a friend to show how
Sorry but I was born a long long time ago
your mother should know
ron
 

JonUrban

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Ron,

If you want to make a photocopy of the Mike Robin list and mail it to me, I'll scan it and post it here. Let me know.
 

rustyandi

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Ron,

If you want to make a photocopy of the Mike Robin list and mail it to me, I'll scan it and post it here. Let me know.
Jon
could you send me your E/mail address
I hade it but a friend was doing things to my computer
and asked me if I wanted something I said no so he
deleted all my addresses and old in mail Duh.
I have made JPEG of the lists but they won't go on the board?
I am bloody hopless with these things
Ron
 
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