We did not have a grammophone at home, only few relations and friends had one, something like this.
I took this photo at an exhibition in our area. We were the poor relations, but my aunt and uncle had a grammophone At Christmas we would gather around and play the old 78 rpm records on it: all party songs for a good old singalong. I remeber the problem with the grammophone needles. Although aunt and uncle could afford the grammophone, they had to save on the needles, so they bought them in boxis of about 50 pieces. They were small pointed steel needles and would last to play 10 records. The shellack surface of the record soon wore them down and so there was a pause to change the needle. Eventually the grammophone was moved to the room where we cousins had our own celebration as it was getting a bit loud and hectic s the beer bottles were emptied where the aunts and uncles were celebrating and “Knees up Muvver Brown” was not exactly our thing. We had already progresse to “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley or “Rock Island Line”.
And then the record player arrived. We no longer had to change the needles, I believe they were sapphire and if you were really into the good stuff, you might have had a diamond needle. Records became 45 rpm and 33 rpm but there was still a nostalgia for the old 78 rpm.
For the youngsters here, they looked like this. They were big, heavy and if you dropped one it would break, so you had to be careful. They only had room on one side for one song so you were cramped for space. I asked Mr. Swiss if we had any, and he disappeared in the cellar for half an hour and found a box full. I only wanted them for a photo, so they have now been returned to the cellar. I noticed they were all jazz, one of which was Stan Kenton.
My friend’s father in London was an opera fan and so he would buy complete operas on 78 rpm. this meant many boxes and about 500 of these records, if not more for a complete opera. Yes, La Traviata on 78 rpm was a collection. You spent more time changing the record than listening to the music, but it worked. He had recordings of Beniamino Gigli and Caruso. I must ask her when I have her on the Facebook messenger, if she still has them.
We had a Sunday morning market in the east End of London, Brick Lane, This market was famous all over London and it was a popular place to visit on Sunday morning. Dad would often take me there, usually because we were in the way when mum was cooking the Sunday lunch. We always aimed for the same places. As I was still a kid I visited the comic shop where you could buy 4 comics for an english shilling, which was quite a bargain at the time. Superman, Batman, Hoppalong Cassidy, they were the classics. I do not know where the comics came from, but they had the traces of family usage on them. They were probably more than second hand, more like 100 different fingers flipping through the pages.
On the same market there was a stall where they sold old records, 78 rpm, known as shellacks and that was where you found dad, with me at his side. He would search through them all and found some old gems, for his musical taste. I remember the delight he showed when he found an old record of the “I’m the Guy who found The Lost Chord” by Jimmy Durante, which he bought. As I do not want to withhold the delights of this music, I found it on YouTube.
Again it was the magical price of 4 records for a bob (shilling). I wonder what happened to those gems he bought down the lane, but I suspect when he eventually moved house with mum from the East End they just left them all in the house. I am sure they would have been a treasure today.
And today there are no more records, except perhaps in museums. The shops where they were sold are gradually disappearing, the good old days of having records are almost no longer. My son still owns about 2000 CD’s and Mr. Swiss still has his treasured collection of jazz bebop and mainstream on LP’s. I remember by oldest cousin in London, whose music taste is the same as Mr. Swiss. He said he will not buy CD’s because the quality is not the same as the origianl LP’s. Yes, they are the experts.
The word “record” in this sense is probably disappearing from the english language. Today you can make and break records, but no longer listen so much. We have ear pods for our amusement, but I suppose you cannot take a walk with a record player, it would be too heavy and uncomfortable.