Friday, September 07, 2012

PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT: how things have changed

1930s gramophone: note the crank!
A lot of things have changed over the sixty years I've been alive. When we were children, the milkman and the baker used to call daily. And the baker had a horse and cart! I've looked for a picture of the kind of cart, but haven't been able to find one. The baker would stand on a very short cart behind the horse, and would sometimes give us a ride to the corner of our little street.

Sometimes we would go out with a shovel and scrape up the horse manure for the garden.

When we went to the butcher's, Mr Fox would give the kids a free saveloy.

And hasn't sound reproduction changed! My Nanna's gramophone was a wind-up 78 revolutions per minute set-up. You didn't have to connect it to electricity: just give the handle a crank.

Nanna used to play old-time Scots dance music on her player, and enjoyed listening to Harry Lauder singing songs like Stop your tickling, Jock and I love a lassie. Both Nanna and Mum and Dad had recordings of Jimmy Shand's Band. I never knew they played Mairi's wedding which I only heard in the 80s, played by Van Morrison and The Chieftains on the terrific Irish Heartbeat CD.

Our old phonogram had a good sound and a nice big speaker. Dad used to play lots of Broadway musicals on it; sometimes setting the speed at 45 RPM, instead of 33 1/3 RPM, and wondering why the record had ended so quickly. He loved Brigadoon and Oklahoma! Mum didn't think he should play Oklahoma! on The Lord's Day, because she thought it was a bit risqué, with songs about a girl who Cain't Say No and strippers in Kansas City.

But I wanted a stereogram, so that we could hear the new records with different sounds emanating from the left and right channels.

Mum ordered one from The Store (if my memory serves me correctly), and I can remember muttering the line from I Am The Walrus
waiting for the van to come
while we waited!
It was 1968 and I had bought a copy of the The Beatles Double Album, which I was eager to play on the new system. But although the new player was supposed to be the latest thing, records tended to jump. There was a spot in the song Birthday that always skipped a beat or two, and later a spot in George Harrison's song Something, on Abbey Road.

And also, the cabinet of the new stereo may have looked nice, but it hid quite tiny speakers. There was a depth in the sound from the old mono speaker, which was missing from the tiny stereo speakers. Bummer!

When our cat scrabbled around inside the cabinet and disconnected one of the speaker cables, I found that it was actually quite interesting to listen to the left channel only: but we did get the cabling repaired so that we could have stereo again!

But from then on, Christopher and I used to sometimes deliberately listen to one channel only, and hear interesting parts isolated from the rest of the mix.

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