Doug Clark: Giant leap for mankind, mysterious step for Spokane
Today I bring to you a mystery of cosmic and civic magnitude.
It involves a still-sealed, 40-some-year-old vinyl record that I bought recently while garage sale-ing with my amigo Scott Cooper.
Actually, there were five of these mint albums. I bought them all at a buck apiece and gave three to Cooper, a vinyl aficionado with a massive collection.
(COLUMN PAUSE: You old-timers can take a moment to explain to your kids that the “records” I’m talking about are those large round disc things that we used to play our tunes on. Then iPods and ear buds came along to make our youth even more detached and antisocial.)
The album is “The Flight of Apollo 11.” It is produced by Rostan Records in “high fidelity.”
According to the back cover, the record contains authentic historical recordings of Space Age speeches as well as that fabled moment on July 20, 1969, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin cavorted about on THE MOON!
Or they cavorted on a top-secret sound stage on Earth, if you believe the government faked the whole thing.
The album’s front cover features an artist’s rendering of Armstrong and Aldrin as they planted the American flag, a triumphant moment for the nation as well as NASA’s annual budget.
But here’s where things get really interesting.
A closer look reveals that Rostan Recording Co. Inc. was located right here in Spokane.
Some questions naturally come to mind, such as …
Who was behind this record?
Is Rostan one person or a collaboration of, say, a Ron and a Stan?
How did this album come about?
Was there drinking involved?
Did the record make money? Or did somebody wind up with a basement full of unsold, still-sealed albums?
I’m hoping someone reading this knows the back story and will tell me the tale.
So far my efforts to sleuth the truth have barely left the launching pad.
Here’s what I do know:
A Google search tells me that a few copies are out there. One website has a used copy of “The Flight of Apollo 11” going for more than $40.
I’m still in the dark about Rostan.
Bob Gallagher, longtime owner of Spokane’s 4,000 Holes, 1610 N. Monroe, told me he had never heard of it.
He suggested I call John Johnson, which finally got me somewhere. I wasn’t surprised. Johnson produces the “Improbable History of Pop” radio show for KPBX-FM. He is a brainiac when it comes to the area’s little-known recordings.
Johnson actually had a used copy of the album, which he graciously dug out and put on a turntable.
I haven’t actually listened to any of my garage sale treasures: I don’t have a working record player, and I don’t want to cut into the shrink wrap and wreck the value.
Johnson discovered a code on his record. It told him the album was put together at Spokane’s legendary Sound Recording. Long out of business, Sound Recording was once the town’s go-to studio.
The information was great. But there is still so much to learn.
I want to know how the producer gained access to all of these historical sound bites, such as …
• President John Kennedy making the moon a national priority.
• Aldrin and Armstrong discussing their mission prior to launch.
• The “historic phone call from White House to Moon,” when President Richard Nixon chats it up with our spacemen.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m tickled to have this documentation.
Especially since my own recollections of the lunar landing are a bit sketchy.
This is because my parents were out of town at the time. They left their 18-year-old son at home with instructions to “feed the dogs” and “try not to get into trouble.”
Well, one out of two ain’t bad.
See, the night before Armstrong took that “one small step,” a friend came over with a gallon jug of vodka.
I supplied the orange juice and a working knowledge of how to mix a screwdriver.
Now I don’t want to glorify any of the idiocy that followed. All I can say is that when the next day came, my head felt as if I had crash-landed into the deepest dark moon crater.
Neither Armstrong nor Aldrin reported seeing any little green men.
But I sure did – when I looked into my bathroom mirror.
Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.