Finally getting around to the ever-growing “have yet to listen to” pile. Spun some Dust Brothers, Negative FX, Rocket from the Crypt, The Kinks, Refused, Mike Watt, Misfits and now some Weezer. Stay warm out there, kids.
Tag Archives: record player
Mining the Bowels of 50-Year-Old Technology
RV Outing, Day 1
Listening in Depth
Listening in Depth, as apposed to listening in width, I suppose, is Columbia’s new (at the time) marketing gimmick to sell their “360 High Fidelity” phonographs. “Choose from more than 35 new Columbia phonographs in a wide price range and variety of cabinet designs and colors.” The phonograph featured here, Model 532, is available in mahogany, blonde mahogany, dirty-blonde mahogany, sandy-blonde mahogany, unnatural-blonde mahogany, ditsy-blonde mahogany, or walnut.
Announced in this ad-sert is Columbia sound laboratory’s own Directed Electromotive Power, or D.E.P. for short. This new feature “seals the sound chamber for tonal balance throughout the entire listening range.” (Seals it with a kiss, I suppose.)
Considering a phonograph upgrade to your own private domicile? “We invite you to inspect these portables, consoles and combinations at your Columbia Phonograph showroom today.” Update: All former Columbia Phonograph showrooms have, rather unfortunately, been converted into Jo-Ann Fabrics stores, with the exception of Wisconsin. Those have been transformed into Ben Franklin discount stores.
Magic Brain: A VERY Brief History
Starting around 1934, the term Magic Brain was given to high end, and often-expensive (especially for the time) radio receivers manufactured by RCA Victor. This new, futuristic, prewar technological improvement to the widely used radio receiver, allowed the heavy-pocketed user to 1) enjoy their favorite radio programs with new, higher fidelity tone performance, 2) tune in to more stations, 3) get exclusive access the RCA Victor’s “X” band, the same station aviators heard for up-to-the-minute, U.S. Government weather reports, and 4) the apparent alleviation of physical pressure when tuning into specific frequencies. (Citation)
Paralleling the start of the Second World War, RCA Victor released the Magic Brain RCA Victrola. This new, music listening wizard provided the same, groundbreaking, and industry redefining, features of the Magic Brain radio receiver, in a state-of-the-art radio-phonograph. The Magic Brain RCA Victrola offered a 180-degree shift in the way records were played, and how phonographs were manufactured. This model offered a tandem tone arm, which allowed the unit to play both sides of a record without having to flip it (there is something romantic about manually flipping a record, but there are certainly times when I’d love the ease and convenience of the Magic Brain). In addition to the tandem tone arm, the Magic Brain RCA Victrola allowed for up to two full hours of continuous, uninterrupted listening pleasure by the oversimplified ease of a single, pushed button. Mechanical noise was eliminated, the need to lift a lid was done away with, and the overall capacity was increased, housing up to 15, 10” records, or 12, 12” records.
Certainly an interactive jukebox for the family living room, this ingenious machine would unfortunately live an exceptionally short life. Due to the U.S. Government’s need for shellac, the material in 78rpm records as well as the main ingredient in U.S. made bombshells, it obtained nearly 70% of the nation’s supply, forcing two revolutionary music listening necessities. 1) With nearly no shellac to make new records, record companies began buying back out dated and/or unwanted records from the public (paying 2-3¢ per disc, equaling close to 500,000 lbs of shellac), to grind down in order to make new records. 2) With the short supply of shellac, and the high demand for consumable and obtainable mediums of portable music, the experimentation, and eventually the manufacturing of the vinyl record was introduced, and the rest is record collecting history. (Citation 1, citation 2)
With a new format, the Magic Brain RCA Victrola was rendered obsolete, and therefore was swiftly removed from production. A video of this monster in action can be found here.
Records Are Square, Man
Records ARE square, man! As well as being insanely difficult to photograph (unless of course you WANT the stupid reflection of that “deer in the headlights” expression haunting your photo for the rest of eternity), they’re completely inconvenient! Say you’re in a dead run from a meathead and his meathead girl because you accidentally mistook his 1989 Ford Ranger for yours and were perplexed when your key didn’t open the door. Now say you look behind you and Mr. Meathead is gaining ground. Well, if you had your iPod or other digital music device, you could pop in your ear buds, scroll to your favorite “get me the hell out of here” track and voilà! You’d instantly become a cheetah, and Mr. Meathead would be left wondering why he stupidly began chasing you in the first place. Now, imagine the exact same scenario, but instead of an iPod, you were carrying your record player. Can you picture it? HOW RIDICULOUS DO YOU LOOK RUNNING DOWN THE STREET CARRYING A BULKY TURNTABLE?!
Still not convinced? Really? The image of running down the middle of the street lugging a turntable while trying to drop the needle on your favorite track to escape almost certain physical confrontation isn’t enough for you to see the downside of records? Well, since you enjoyed the last scenario so much, here’s another. Say you’re trying to impress a girl. Or a guy, I don’t judge. Say it’s a Saturday night and things are going well. Say you get a wild idea and decide that Dean Martin’s Gentle On My Mind is that little edge that will propel you both over love’s mighty cliff. Now say (well, don’t actually “say” these things. I’m not being literal), you’d acquired Gentle On My Mind from Goodwill and you’d forgotten that track two’s, That Old Time Feelin’ skips like a bastard (presumably because the previous owner didn’t respect the gift of music). Uh-oh! The gal (or guy) whom, in your head, had just agreed to spend the rest of their life with you, just stormed out of the room in a fit of rage because such a romantic moment was rudely interrupted by a skipping record. Don’t let your imagined life partner storm out of the room in a fit of rage because such a romantic moment was rudely interrupted by a skipping record. Go digital. It’s what your ancestors would have wanted.
Wait… you mean the SHAPE square, and not the slang word for unhip? (Scratches head) Gotcha. Well, then this post was a complete waste of your time. My apologies. Carry on.
The Perry V (Model DP-641)
I’ll admit, the majority of the antique record related gems I find are sheer accidents. This manual to a 196? Decca Portable Phonograph called, The Perry V, was found lodged in a random LP sleeve I recently picked up at my local, “Save the Kids Because They’re Dying” thrift store. Being someone who, on occasion, doesn’t mind kids, I decided to offer my contribution by purchasing a few albums. (By the way, I love kids, so don’t get crazy.)
Now, I’ve never owned The Perry V, nor have I ever known anyone else to own it, and since copies go for an outrageous $5 on ebay, I’ve decided to keep this little 40-year-old manual and offer its contents to you. That’s right, I’m saving you $5, NOT INCLUDING SHIPPING! You can thank me later, but please notice the subtle illustrations on pages 3 and 4. The man’s name is Perry. He comes from a long line of Perrys and he is here to help you “to prepare unit for operation.”