Memories of Mad Magazine’s “Super Spectacular Day” – The record with random endings

SuperSpectacularDay1979-A When I was a kid, I like my friends loved to read Mad Magazine.  I picked up a $1.50 mega-issue one day back in 1980 and to my delight there was an actual plastic record in it.  It was called a “flexi-disc” and was basically a thin piece of square black plastic that bent & warped very easily but could be placed on a 33rpm turntable and played like any other record.

The flexi-disc/record was entitled “Super Spectacular Day”.

1979’S MAD “MYSTERY” RECORD
What made this record special however was that depending on where the needle was when the song was playing, you could end up with COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ENDINGS to the song.  Seriously!  The song could playback one of EIGHT different endings depending on how the needle of the turntable went, which was actually only somewhat random, meaning that there were often endings that rarely if ever got played. 

Y’see the “randomness” of the playback was determined by the needle hitting a groove in the record that wasn’t really a groove.  It was basically sheer, ungrooved area of the disc that allowed the needle to float randomly for a brief second and land on one of 8 grooves “end grooves” after rotating through the sheer area of the record once.  This provided a unique level of randomness to which “end groove” would be played back however there was definitely a predisposition as to which would be played back, simply because some grooves were easier to hit than others.

As a result, I would play that disc over and over and over and over and over just to try to hear all 8 endings.  Of course I never had the lyrics or anything so listening to the endings were quite a surprise whenever I managed to hear one that I hadn’t heard before.

2010:  THE INTERNET BRINGS BACK “SUPER SPECTACULAR DAY”
This all happened in the 6th grade for me.

For the past 30 years, I have had the song from this disc stuck in my head.  I’m not joking.  All throughout my life, I’ve had moments where this song has sprung up from my memory at the strangest of moments.  Usually during times of stress, boredom, work, or just plain “time-to-myself”. 

  • I can remember when I was a sophomore in high school, this song would creep into my brain during ultra stressful oral Spanish tests.
  • I remember having this song pop into my head during a long walk from the Student Commons back to my dorm when I attended UCLA for my undergrad.
  • I recall humming this song while moving furniture into my first new apartment after getting my first job out of college.
  • And just a moment ago, I found myself humming the song while in the kitchen of my condo – 30 years later – now that I’m married and have a baby boy.

But the difference is, today, I have the Internet at my fingertips.  So on a complete shot in the dark, I decided to BING the search term, “MAD SUPER SPECTACULAR DAY”.

SuperSpectacularDay1979-BLo and behold, there it was.  Back in 2006, someone published some photos of what that very magazine looked like along with a photo of what the flexi-disc looked like.  BTW:  If you look at the disc photo, you can see the back area in which the needle would play.  There is light “white” groove in the middle – that’s the sheer area that I was talking about that provided the random jump to one of 8 different endings.

ANNNNND… SOMEONE RECORDED THE MUSIC!
But to my surprise someone actually digitized all 8 tracks!  No one knows who it was that did it or where it was they got it from (I mean, who really saved that disc?  My disc, as I recall was in TERRIBLE shape, because I’d played it over and over and over again and the disc’s grooves had been overplayed after a while) but sure enough, there it was for download.

I’ve had some problems playing the MP3s back.  It seems like the same ending (#2) is played back for many of the recordings… that being said, 3 of them appear to be unique and that’s better than nothing.  However given the quality of the recordings, there’s very much a distinct possibility that the recordings came from someone at Mad itself.  If so, thank you so much Mad.  This is definitely a blast from the past for me.

REFERENCES:

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13 Responses to Memories of Mad Magazine’s “Super Spectacular Day” – The record with random endings

  1. Bob says:

    i have a copy of this issue in very good shape, including the record, which plays all eight endings.i\’m not looking to sell it, but is it worth anything?

  2. Kurt says:

    I wouldn\’t be the one to assess the value of something like this. Sorry.

  3. Isotonic says:

    Ha my story is just the same. This morning I was humming it in the shower and decided to hit Google up. At random times I’ll burst out with “It’s a… great big beautiful…”. Back in grade school one of my friends wanted to tape it off my record. I can still remember the deflated look on his face when I told him he would only get one ending that way.

  4. Me says:

    I recall a sort of spiral groove at the end, it was interesting to see how that worked. MAD bonuses were like prizes or something, it was something I looked forward to. As I recall, the Summer Special came out that year (1980) but your heading says 1979.

    • kurtsh says:

      I might be wrong. I’m not trying to be historically precise. I just remember this disc being really cool and something triggered my memory of it a while back.

  5. Mark says:

    This record was a big part of my life. My friends and I memorized the entire thing.

  6. Jeanette says:

    This popped into my head earlier, while doing dishes. I was 6 or 7 when this came out – my brother got the Mad Magazines. I somehow ended up with the disc, and I thought I reluctantly threw it out some time ago. I remember hovering it over the garbage can! I don’t know which ending I heard the most, I remember the melody but not the lyrics. I couldn’t believe it was so easy to find online!

    • kurtsh says:

      Yeah, it’s amazing what is available on the Internet these days. Which has me trying to figure out what the implications of that are. I mean, if something so esoteric as the “Super Spectacular Day” record from 1980 is posted on the Internet, how does that change how kids grow up? I ask because I was a kid when I had that record and played it on my parents turntable. And back then, if you wanted to buy something or you wanted to research something… odds are, it wasn’t going to happen. Research was so difficult back then and libraries were weak sources of information. In the end, you just dealt with it. Nowadays, kids type in something into an search engine and BAM: It’s there. Instant gratification. I personally had to dig up the info I posted about “Super Spectacular Day” and since then a lot of people have read my post… but now it’s easily discoverable.

      I guess I’m thinking a lot about this these days because I now have a kid of my own and he’s going to be growing up in a world of cell phones, iPods, DVRs, laptops, and an unlimited resource called the Internet. And what I’m perceiving as the expectation of instant gratification. Because everything is so easily discovered these days.

      I wonder if “Super Spectacular Day” would have been interesting to me back in the day with the Internet around, ‘eh?

  7. fred says:

    Awesome! But I’m also looking for the “Disco” record they did like this. It had the songs “Disco Suicide” and “Sorry No Words”… anyone?

    • kurtsh says:

      Yeaaaah, I remember that record. From the Disco issue. Damn, that was great. No I have no idea where to find that unfortunately. This post was entirely focused on the Super Spectacular Day record. Sorry.

  8. Helvecio says:

    I just found this post by chance. It was like travelling down memory lane to a moment when I was still start learning english here in Brazil. I loved Mad Magazine (both brazilian and american versions). The magazines are long gone, but, to my surprise, I found I still have this record!! Thank you Kurt!!

    • kurtsh says:

      Glad you appreciated the post! Yeah, I feel the same way. If you were like me, you could recite every word from all the endings that the record would play for you. The problem was that SOME endings were extremely rare as the record tended to favor playing some endings more than others. But as you can see from the link, now you can play back any of them in MP3 format to your hearts content. Ain’t the Internet awesome?

  9. Funny, because I have almost the same story. I was born in 1964, and this song still runs through my head on some days. However, the way it worked was that there were 8 complete tracks all starting it the outside at the compass positions N NE E SE S SW S NW that were interleved through the disk. Depending on where you put the needle down at the start, you would get one of the different songs. The intro to each track was the same however, so it seemed like the randomness wasn’t until later. If you used an automatic loader, you would frequently get the same track because it would set the needle down at the same point in the rotation.

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