Hello all. With the release of Fallout 76 and the 10-year anniversary of Fallout 3 coming up, I wanted to share with you a project I have been working on for the past couple of years. I have been trying to collect the music of the Fallout series on the original records as a way to bring the games to life.
I’ve been working on other similar video game record collections, however, the Fallout series has proven to be a combination of both fascinating and frustrating in tracking down the original versions of the songs used in the game which run the gamut from shellac 78s, vinyl LPs and 45s to enormous 16 inch transcription discs, radio broadcasts, re-recordings, Snader Telescriptions, 8 tracks, and stock music.
For those of you impatient with this wall of text to see another wall of text, but with far more pictures, here’s the link where I try to document every single record used in Fallout 3’s Galaxy News Radio.
Even though there has been a vinyl LP soundtrack release for Fallout 3 (and 4), people have been wondering why there hasn’t been one for the radio songs. Aside from the usual licensing issues, the original formats themselves pose a bizarre stumbling block.
Most people would expect Fallout’s music to be songs released around “the 1950s” and that their grandparents would have been able to purchase these songs in a record shop in 19XX. Frustratingly, this is not the case all of the time.
Sometimes the exact versions of songs are actually later re-recordings done decades later by the same artists. Some songs were recorded around the 50s, but were unissued at the time. Others were not meant to be sold to the public and/or made on publicly inaccessible formats like 16″ transcription discs.
Let’s take a look at the only time that a Fallout game had an official physical distribution of the licensed soundtrack:
The promo CD sampler given with pre-orders of Fallout 3 way back in 2008.
It contains 3 licensed tracks:
I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire (Decca Records 3987)
Way Back Home (Standard Program Library U-286)
Butcher Pete (Part 1) (DeLuxe Records 3301)
It’s only something like Fallout who could bring together a song from a pop record, a race record, and a transcription disc into a game. However, due to the disparate sources and sizes, it’s probably the first time all three original records have been in the same room together.
The transcription disc contains all three Bob Crosby songs: “Dear Hearts and Gentle People”, “Happy Times”, and “Way Back Home”. “Dear Hearts” was only used in the Fallout 3 E3 announcement trailer and not put into a Fallout game until Fallout 4.
“Butcher Pete (Part 2)” was not included in a Fallout game until Fallout 4 after years of listening to Roy Brown shout “Say, turn this record over, you ain’t heard nothing yet!”
That’s not to say that all of Fallout 3’s radio songs come from bizarre sources. Many were old enough to be originally issued before the invention of the vinyl LP in 1948. Though in the case of all format changes, vinyl reissues were common.
You may have noticed that most of these records are shellac 78s, the precursor to vinyl. It’s sort of the forgotten format even with the vinyl resurgence and all, but since 78 production largely stopped by 1960, songs found on 78s are guaranteed to be from Fallout’s era.
You likely have seen them before without realizing it since the vinyl LP only came out after WWII. Cartoons like Tom and Jerry frequently show them being thrown against the walls while Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life demonstrates a key attribute of 78s.
Despite their brittleness, 78s are the only records that can be played on mechanical gramophones which require no electricity to spin the record and amplify the sound. And in a post-apocalyptic world with limited access to a reliable AC electricity source coupled with lots of dirt and grit, vinyl’s up for a steep challenge. Plus you can use renewable cactus needles to replace that gramophone needle when it wears out.
One of the most unusual sources for Fallout 3’s music are the enormous 16 inch transcription discs which feature the Bob Crosby and Tex Beneke songs. As shown in the pictures above, they are massive especially compared to a normal 12 inch LP.
Unfortunately, players that can accommodate 16 inch discs are as rare as hen’s teeth and simply don’t fit on standard record players.
As for why 16 inch discs were used, it was very difficult to record more than 3 minutes at a time. 78s with the high RPM could only fit so many grooves. Vinyl and the smaller microgroove would come after the war in 1948. Magnetic tape had not been invented yet and overdubbing was very difficult to accomplish. Studio time had to be done in one take and direct to wax discs.
Events like the Hindenburg disaster nearly were not recorded because the shock waves from the blast jarred the needle cutting the disc live at the scene.
The Germans had actually invented magnetic tape, but there was a slight thing called WWII going on. Allied forces were wondering why German orchestras were playing in the middle of the night on the radio because the sound quality was so good.
16 inch transcription discs allowed for longer programs to be recorded with minimal interruption. These in addition to wire recorders (sound magnetically recorded onto lengths of mile-long, hair-thin wire) were used for the famous Ghost Army in WWII as part of their audio deceptions.
For more information about transcription discs in Fallout and its impact on future Fallout games, I wrote a post some time ago.
As for the tape recorder, some guy named Bing Crosby helped to popularize it after the war because he was tired of the schedule of doing live radio shows coast to coast and the radio networks refused the audio quality of various air checks done direct to disc. Some of his radio show tracks circle back to feature in Fallout.
Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” is a bit of an odd duck. It’s simultaneously the oldest and newest licensed song in Fallout.
is just him singing with piano.
The version used in Fallout
It uses his original vocals, but overdubs instruments done by Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks in 2004. You may recognize from performing in Boardwalk Empire.
Because of this and various other quirks, Fallout actually has music licensed from every decade past the 50s.
60s: “Blue Moon” and “The End of the World” were recorded in 1961 and 1962.
70s: “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” was originally recorded
. But the version used in New Vegas is a
00s: And of course “Anything Goes” recorded in 1934 and 2004.
Then we get to the library music also known as stock music or production music.
There’s an enormous number of stock/library/production music tracks licensed from APM music that were never meant for public sale. These include “I’m Tickled Pink”, “Jazzy Interlude”, “Let’s Go Sunning”, “In the Shadow of the Valley”, and all of the instrumental tracks on the radio and the Mysterious broadcast in New Vegas.
For all the other vintage songs, they are credited in the end credits with the song and artist information. For these in Fallout 3 they simply read “Courtesy Of APM Music Inc.” New Vegas omits these songs entirely from the end credits. All of the “missing” songs that were not reprised in Fallout 4 from 3 were from APM Music.
The problem with stock music is that they were never meant to be sold to the public. As a result, it’s difficult to find artist and recording information since they were only meant for the film and TV industry. Film directors like to use these soundalikes for an instant vintage sound without having to pay expensive licensing fees. Artists tend to forgo royalties in favor for one lump payment. Bethesda seems to be using these songs to pad out the soundtrack.
However since the artists aren’t restricted with trying to get their songs on the radio, there’s a surprising amount of creative freedom. Unfortunately, they aren’t usually credited and it’s hard to find artist information.
You may recognize many of the same artists providing the background music for cartoons like Spongebob and Ren & Stimpy whose APM Production Music documentation is a whole other topic.
Unusually for Fallout, these songs are played in full on the radio instead of being confined to a short snippet in the background. As they are played next to genuine vintage songs, it has caused a lot confusing.
Even still, I did manage to find some of the original 78 records of “Swing Doors”, “Jazzy Interlude”, and “Rhythm for You” from dead stock someone was throwing out of a radio station library. As shown in the pictures above, “Jazzy Interlude” was originally called “Jazz Interlude” which is a lite version of a common library music practice, relabeling tracks.
Sid Phillips’ “Boogie Man” is actually a early entry into what would become the famed KPM music library. However, the strangest thing is this song does not match the one in Fallout for two reasons.
1) The flip side is called “Treadin’ Light” and does actually match the one in Fallout 3. The mists of time have apparently swapped the titles or this could be a pressing mistake.
2) Even accounting for “Treadin’ Light” being the original title for “Boogie Man”, a whole 15 seconds is missing. Preliminary analysis shows that a motif is repeated on a solo clarinet and a full band, but Fallout 3’s version replaces both motifs with the solo clarinet version.
Just another library music thing.
“Boogie Man” was later reissued in 1970 onto a vinyl LP compilation. These would be the “Brownsleeves” or “Orangesleeves” which formed KPM’s reissues of their early 78s.
There’s definitely a swap between “Boogie Man” and “Treadin’ Light”. The tracks themselves announce the name. Somehow, time has swapped the titles…
All of the albums had identical covers. Later, KPM would begin to issue their more famous “Greensleeves” or the KPM 1000 series.
Jack Shaindlin is a difficult one to crack. “I’m Tickled Pink” was only ever played in the 1952 anti-Communist film Walk East on Beacon!
Conversely, the other Jack Shaindlin song “Let’s Go Sunning” was recorded for the 1954 nudist film, The Garden of Eden.
I was able to track down copies of both films, the latter being a DVD-R of a very poor quality film transfer, but the original records have not surfaced.
Gerhard Trede is also another stumper. Even the CDs are hard to find which apparently are reissues of his archive material, but there’s little documentation on where they come from. “Fox Boogie” and “Jolly Days” elude me for now aside from the CDs.
All in all, trying to find recording dates for these songs is like pulling teeth even after consulting BBC test card music archives, the Austrian Arnold Schönberg archive, Dutch music archives, National Swedish Film database archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation archives, nudist film directories, and of course trawling record stores for “library music” in order to make makeshift record catalogs.
Especially considering that the licensing company itself doesn’t know where the tracks come from.
After that “brief” sojourn, here’s short go-over of the rest of the radio stations in Fallout 3.
Agatha’s station is of course recorded for the game by by Heather MacArthur’s violin playing. These songs can be unlocked by completing her quest.
Enclave Radio appears to be new recordings of public domain patriotic songs. Fallout 3’s imdb page mentions that they were licensed from Westar music, another library music company.
The Vault 101 PA System (also used in Fallout Shelter) also appears to have been licensed from Westar. However, there appears to be multiple names for the same track where the Essential Jazz Masters play “And All the While I’m Loving You”, Jason Nyberg plays “Consortium of Cool”, and Craig Riley plays “Frank’s Place”. These all point to the same piece of music, another characteristic of library music renaming.
Just to show the ubiquity of library music, that mentioned track also features in Bioshock in the audio diary “New Year’s Eve Alone” and in LA Noire as part of an
Fallout’s music sourcing is bizarre and defies a lot of people’s exceptions.
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