Alan Freeman’s Saturday Show ‘Xmas Eve Quad Special’

24 Dec

Alan Freeman Quad Christmas Eve Show DS330f front

Withdrawn due to pending new ‘Hydra’ decode


During the BBC’s experimental quadraphonic broadcasts during the second half of 1977, producer Tony Wilson took the bull by the horns and remixed some of the sessions recorded for the John Peel and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman radio shows for broadcast on Alan’s three-hour Saturday rock show. One thing about these quad mixes is that they were mostly artists that never had any commercial quad releases, which makes them even more interesting.

Alan’s show was held in such a high regard that Pink Floyd allowed the quad mix of ‘Wish You Were Here’ to be broadcast, complete without interruption, during one show.

Although the experiment ended during autumn of that year, due to Matrix H being scrapped, during his Christmas eve show Alan broadcast a one hour special highlighting a small selection of “Tony Wilson’s quadraphonic creations”. In reality it would have been easy to fill the whole three hours of his show, and it is sad to say this was the last time any of the quad mixes were broadcast.

This release has been decoded from a reel-to-reel recording of that show, which thankfully in the most part was in good enough quality to allow an ‘almost’ faultless decode.

Artists include: The Steve Gibbons Band, Racing Cars, Andy Fairweather Low, Colosseum II, The Stranglers, The Motors, Phil Manzanera & Lone Star

“Alright?…  Not ‘Arf”

Release: DS330f

Source: Matrix H Radio Recording

Process: H-77/II



23 Responses to “Alan Freeman’s Saturday Show ‘Xmas Eve Quad Special’”

  1. atq May 6, 2017 at 14:46 #

    Love this! Sound is not perfect, but it’s very good for an off-air recording. Decoding working well, all four speakers get a workout.

    Mixes are generally great, too. Lots of action but nothing silly. Although it’s a compilation, it sounds homogenic – they are all “modern” music from 1977 so I suppose that makes some sense. Seeing as this is from a time with very little surround music, this feels like a real treasure. Thanks for this. If only the Beeb would dig some more out. The Stranglers did No More Heroes at the same session, that would be good to hear in quad.

  2. atq September 19, 2015 at 10:02 #

    Would be interested to hear this when it becomes available again. Nice to have a bit of later 70s material included – quad is, for obvious reasons, mainly about ‘prog’ and similar, so a bit of 4 channel Stranglers sounds like a nice change!

  3. rayc2 January 9, 2014 at 12:06 #

    Excellent stuff. I’ve been an Manzanera/801 fan since the 1st album, 801 Live, came out in 1976.
    The 801 stuff is ripe for quad isn’t it! The album references made by the announcer are wrong re this band though. The two tracks on this compilation, Law & Order plus That Falling Feeling are from the 2nd 801 album which is entitled Listen Now. The album 801 he mentions is, I presume, in reference to the 1st LP LIVE. A 3rd 801 album was released not so long ago – another live album; Manchester. It’s not as clean a sound as LIVE and has a few off key backing vocals but features live tracks from Listen Now.
    The Original LIVE album & Listen Now are available remastered with extra tracks:
    They’re all available from the Expression records site. I managed to get mine with Manzanera’s autograph on the inside cover!

    Most of the quad mixes on theis com. really showcase the music though the 2nd Motors one seems to make the rhythm section sound small for such a thundering band.

    Many, many thanks OD.

  4. Owen Smith January 8, 2014 at 18:38 #

    I finally got chance to listen to this now I’m back home. The bands are not all to my liking but the quad does sound good with nice separation as others said some time ago. This bodes well for other Matrix H releases (well, H-77 anyway). Well done!

  5. lizardking430 January 7, 2014 at 02:44 #

    Thanks for this – I’m a big fan of Phil Manzanera…

  6. quadro2013 January 1, 2014 at 17:28 #

    What a big surprise!
    Thank you for sharing these rare recording!

    A Happy New Year to anybody!

  7. crispin14 January 1, 2014 at 01:11 #

    The brief sections of the announcer speaking seem not to be in quad, unless it is mixed to be very close to the listening position, but clearly the soundfields of the quad recordings are a good contrast to the soundfield of the announcer.

    My real question is this: was Matrix H used to mix the quadraphonic program material for broadcast, or was Matrix H also used for the musical selections?

    Given the date, these could have been discrete recordings with the 4 (or more L-R, Surround L-R) or more feeds plugged into a Matrix H encoder for broadcast. They sound too discrete to have been SQ/QS decodes, with the decoders of the day, fed into the Matrix H.

    Any idea of what the recording systems of the pieces might have been? All give very good surround imaging (owing in part to OD’s expertise).

    Just curious, here in Canada.

    • oxforddickie January 1, 2014 at 09:42 #

      Alan was in stereo and he was playing pre-encoded material.

      These tracks were some of the session recordings done at the BBC’s own studio and mixed by Tony Wilson for these sessions. To this day the BBC broacast session recordings done especially for them, which gives the corporation a massive library of rare and interesting performances.

      There were many sessions broadcast in quad during the quad experiment, including (from memory) Queen & Jethro Tull. The hunt for these rarity’s continue…..

  8. Owen Smith December 26, 2013 at 16:32 #

    Several people have commented on the separation here. Is Matrix H particularly good at that? It’s a pain to decode, so there must have been some point to it being so complex. Perhaps the payoff is the good separation?

    • oxforddickie December 26, 2013 at 16:56 #

      No, one of the issues Matrix H tried get over was the one of mono compatible, which as you can imagine was top priority for the BBC. This was where SQ & QS lost out when it came to the 1975 tests (but this wasn’t the Matrix H used in those tests) as well as the issue of image placement when listening to the broadcast in stereo.

      Matrix H got a bit of a knocking because the use of modified Sansui QS decoders was far from optimal, and actually provided poor separation and image placement. This was because the two really were not compatible, and the ‘modification’ came about as there obviously no Matrix H decoders available, and the BBC needed to get listeners feedback.

      There is one famous quote from a BBC engineer at the time that explains it all: “Nothing decodes H well”. And nothing ever did. There was a British multi-system unit produced that was supposed to decode SQ, QS and H, but it had no logic section, and the matrix H section was just a halfhearted tweaked part of the QS decoder. That decoder did nothing to improve peoples views of what Matrix H was capable of. The fact ‘H’ didn’t last long as a broadcast system and Virgin pulled the planned series of ‘H’ encoded albums after just one release meant there was no proper development of a decoder especially designed to decode it.

      And here’s where i get to blow my trumpet. This is the first time ever that Matrix H encoded material has been decoded to something like its full possibility’s.

      I’m pleased it’s been received so well so far.

  9. romanotrax December 25, 2013 at 20:45 #

    I have never heard any of these tracks before but now that I have I have to say a big THANK YOU for making this available. Great music and I’m amazed at how much real separation there is from this format. You have really done a great job here. And thanks for the introduction to some really great music. I will have to go snooping around to find more from all these artists.

  10. tarkus2013 December 25, 2013 at 18:16 #

    Great Googly Moogly!! What at great treat this is – a real break from all the Christmas jams I’ve been listening to… I’ve never heard of several of these artists and I am liking it a lot. The sound is (everywhere) amazing, OD you are a wizard! Thank you for the merry this Christmas!

  11. gjwAudio December 25, 2013 at 08:28 #

    Woo-HOO !!! It’s 3 am on Dec 25th, and I’m hiding out in the Man Cave doing a little last miunite Secret Santa wrapping… AND THIS RADIO SPECIAL IS SOOOO MUCH FUN !!!

    Thank you (again) OD for this time-travellin’ rarity. I don’t want to switch it off… but daylight and eager children are coming soon…

    I just love the sound you’ve achieved with this decode… even the signature hashy FM high frequencies are intact – it’s a trip back to 1977 (I was heavy into Be-Bop Deluxe and City Boy at the time). Love it, Love it, Love IT.

    The quad is wonderfully organic – yet things pop out around the room in the most pleasing way, from what is otherwise a smooth circle of sound. Good work Tony.

    And don’t forget the Solina string machines and creamy flanged guitars ! Oh yeah, those were the days. Funny, this is the first time I’ve heard half of these artists… how did I miss them the first time around ? Better late than never…

    Thank you for digging up this broadcast, and getting it out “just in time”. You’ve made the first part of Christmas Day a real blast. Another DS Triumph !!

    All the Best to You and Yours.

    [BTW, what format was the original tape recording, and which machine did you use for playback ?]

    • oxforddickie December 25, 2013 at 09:14 #

      Glad you enjoyed it. I’ve been sitting on this for some three years, and it’s taken that long to get to grips with decoding Matrix H. Time well spent, i think.

      I was wondering if the tuner was suffering from multi-path distortion and possibly poor 19k filter design, but we have to be grateful for having it at all.

      The tape was recorded at 7 1/2ips and as i don’t have a Reel to Reel deck was transfered externally, and i never asked what machine was used.

      • gjwAudio December 25, 2013 at 10:01 #

        I see… THREE YEARS… whew – must feel good to get it out and under the tree !

        Well – however unlikely – if ever I can be of help, know that my Studer B67 [7.5/15/30 ips, half track] and/or ReVox A77 [3.75/7.5 ips, quarter track] > Benchmark ADC1 are at your service. I would be thrilled to take an active part in the proceedings here at DS.

  12. sacdtodvda December 25, 2013 at 00:34 #

    What a gem! Rarity of rarities!! And an interesting Welsh bias, too.

  13. ultimatetrouble December 24, 2013 at 22:11 #

    This is a great sounding album, listening to it on christmas eve. this stuff is like 3d tv just don’t understand why people can’t see/hear that. lol keep the riches coming OD we all thrive this stuff. Your our Quadraphonic Santa! lol

    • Owen Smith December 25, 2013 at 00:04 #

      So the Matrix H decode is working well for you then? I won’t be able to try it until about 11 Jan so I have quite a wait in anticipation.

      Oh look, it’s Christmas Day. Better go to bed.

  14. Owen Smith December 24, 2013 at 00:16 #

    So why is the process called H-77/II, are you expecting to need a different process for different years?

    • oxforddickie December 24, 2013 at 00:21 #

      The answer is both easy and complex. The story will be fully told on the Matrix H (1975 & 1977) page in the new year, but basically there were two totally incompatible Matrix H’s

    • Owen Smith December 24, 2013 at 00:25 #

      And congratulations on getting Matrix H out, or at least one of them :-).

      • oxforddickie December 24, 2013 at 00:32 #

        Thanks. I do have a limited amount of Matrix H encoded material at the moment, which will hopefully be released, and as you know there’s the continual search for other ‘sessions’, which will be looked into in the new year.

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