A number of years ago Max Schmid of WBAI told me about a collection of
very early Jean Shepherd airchecks from the mid-50s that were unplayable
because the oxide comes off the base in long strips.  A few months after
that I had the exact same thing happen with a short segment of tape from
about 1957 of about five minutes length alone on a reel.  In both cases
we had no identification of the tape type.  

I just received the Basta CD (30-90312) of Andre Popp's 1957 masterpiece
"Delirium In Hi-Fi" originally credited to Elsa Popping and Her
Pixieland Band or in the original French Elsa Popping et sa Musique
Siderante.  It won the Grand Prix Academie Charles Cros.  The rear cover
of the CD booklet shows the orange box of the master tape with the label
for Agfa Magnetonband FR.  Here is a portion of the liner notes by Piet

"The original [1957] mastertape of Delirium in Hi-Fi, untouched for
exactly thirty years, was flown in from a Parisian archive to Wisseloord
Studios in Holland [in 1987].  The tape box (reproduced on the back of
this booklet) had fallen apart and was only held together by a rubber
band.  The tape had partly detached itself from the spool; sound
engineer Emile Elsen spent anxious hours winding it back on.  When
[producer] Gert-Jan [Blom] and Emile started listening to the tape
machine, they watched in horror as the tape disintegrated completely
after passing the playback head, leaving only the tape base and a heap
of useless emulsion powder.  Clearly this mastertape could be played
back only once--and for the final time.  It was decided then and there
to copy it to a digital Betamax machine.  You are witnessing that final
playback, saved for posterity in digital format and now, almost ten
years later, [1997] issued on CD."  

Unexplained is what part of the tape was destroyed before stopping the
first time -- maybe blank or test tones?  Also unexplained is what is a
"digital Betamax machine" although I assume they mean a Sony F-1 digital
encoder into a video recorder.  As those who have used the F-1 will
often tell, that format is itself in peril, not qualifying for the
assurance that the recording is "saved for posterity"!  At least IT was
usable for mastering the CD ten years later!  Imagine their horror if
the Beta tape couldn't be played!!!!  

Further unexplained is if this is the actual studio master or a
work-master for cutting the LPs.  Are there splices within some of the
selections, because there have to have been some edits.  Where are the
alternate takes?  Where are the inserts for the overdubs?  Where are the
masters for the segments that were played at double or half speed or
backwards?  Were these segments spliced into the master that they
played, or is this a mix-down?  And lastly, what tape does Columbia in
the U.S. have?

Is Agfa FR a tape type or is FR an overview name for their tapes?  Was
it back-printed so it can be type- and maybe batch-identified so there
can be confirmation of what the tape actually was in that Afga box?  Has
anybody else had exprience with Agfa FR tape from 1957?  Of course the
two examples I mentioned in the first paragraph were American
recordings, and Agfa was rarely seen in the U.S. as raw blank tape.  

Anybody have contact with the people in this company so we could get
these questions answered?

Mike Biel   [log in to unmask]