Saturday, 13 September 2008
I am starting out with the family's biggest windup gramophone because I now realise these wonderful machines were my first introduction to steampunk, when I was a small kid in the 1950s. I cannot remember a time when I havent had one. The lovely big one in the picture is still at my dad's house until I can figure a way to bring it home to Scotland by train. It weighs a tonne and the horn is of course enormous and fairly fragile, being papier mache with fake snake paper on it. The shape of the horn was designed for hifi sound reproduction and a really amazing loudness. We have often had to shove pullovers and cushions in the horn to keep from annoying the entire street.
I have 3 portable windups and one transition one which operates more or less like a windup but is actually electrically operated. I have had (now sadly gone the way of many windups in the 1970s when no one repaired them) a lovely cabinet machine but this big one was a gift to the family from a colleague of my father's. She lived in a tiny house and couldnt take this in when her own mum died. Most of my parents 78s were jazz and blues but mine are mostly swing, crooners and musicals' hits. The first record ever bought for me, when I was preschool, was a 78 of Perry Como's most famous hit: Catch a Falling Star. I also had lots of childrens novelty songs on 78, such as "Two little tom tits were tweeting" and of course teddy bears picnic. When I was in nursery school in the late 50s, the end of the day was always a windup playing 78s of our choice, while we waited for our mums to fetch us. Now my kids are intrigued and one of my wee portables occupies the coffee table in the living room.