Saturday, March 21, 2015

Blind taste test: world's most primitive record player

This is the one that started it all. But when I saw it a couple of years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into.

YouTube is choked with DIY methods of playing records non-electrically. If you had an old Victrola, the problem would be solved for you. But people figure things out in the damnedest ways.

I have one of those impossibly vague, grainy memories of seeing something on TV - it had to be something like the Goon Show or Beyond the Fringe, surely one of those zany British things, but definitely not Monty Python. Something else. Anyway, the sketch depicted a huge record sitting on the ground, and a maniacal person with a big stylus running in circles all around it. Thus playing it.
But I digress.

I was all set to think this was the simplest and most innovative way to play a record manually, when I came across THIS:

For the love of lovely Christ - this is even simpler, if you're to believe it. I saw another video similar to this one which had an old stylus taped inside a cone of paper, but fuck that, this is so much easier! If it's a fake, well then it's at least an elegant one. And good night.

OK, it's the next day, and I'm not satisfied with those couple of videos. Here is something I have imagined only in my dreams - a record that you can actually eat. As with most impossible things, on YouTube it turns out to be possible, if highly improbable. And as usual, there are at least two people to have created the "first", but both look viable to me, unless the whole thing is faked. Send me a couple, and I'll do a taste test. 

I can see Bentley doing this - but no. He'd take a flying four-footed leap straight up in the air and land on the record, this creating musical havoc. 

POST-BLOG GLOB. So this got me thinking about the old record players of my youth. For the most part we weren't allowed to use the deluxe model, the Seabreeze, which was a large wooden cabinet with a record player inside it. I kept using it well into the '70s. No, these were cheapie things that often incorporated a carry-case, so you could do up the fastenings and tote it around with you. These things had cords, as I remember, so toting might be a problem.

A lot of them were branded: Woody Woodpecker or Howdy Doody or Mickey Mouse or some-other-type. Things sounded best on Howdy Doody.

But there was a whole generation which must have been older than my late-'50s models. They're hideous enough to be completely fascinating to me. I just don't "get" the construction of these. They look like sewing machines, or else curling stones (coffee grinders? Primitive space crafts?). I don't see speakers anywhere. Tinnyness was a prerequisite of these things, and since they were made of tin, boy would they be tinny.

I tried to make a photoshop collage of these tiny little eBay-sourced pictures, but gave up because it hit new lows of ugliness. Many of these are in the same strange form. so there must have been a lot of them around. The tone arm would weigh approximately one thousand pounds, so a well-played record would be worn out in about a week.

I don't see why it is that I imagine water dripping from these. They have a sort of pumplike quality - or no, is that a flatiron? You could iron your clothes with the top one. The second one down seems well ahead of its time, in that it looks to be playing a chocolate record.

This is a tin model of the Titanic. The black pancake on top of it is a mystery. I wonder why turntables needed to be 1 1/2 inches thick.

Did it need to be so ugly? 

This is a carefully-arranged portrait from a vintage site. Pretty gorgeous, I'd say, but it still looks like some sort of drainage system. Or the Starship Enterprise.

All right, here it is, my collage, and it's ugly - but the whole ugly to begin with.

"You had me at hello"

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