Here’s how it started. During a rough patch in my mother’s marriage, she took my sister and me to live with her mother in Tupelo. Grandmother had a console Motorola Stereo Hi-Fi. This thing was humongous—measuring end to end at least as much your typical wide screen TV today. The words “Stereophonic High Fidelity” were emblazed across the front. Inside the dark wood interior lay the mysterious workings which, if arranged just right and operated just so, would allow one to play records. I fell in love with Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (did I mention I was about four years old?) You may have heard the signature hit from this album, the smash single El Paso. The cover featured Marty wearing all black and sporting a pistol against a lurid red background.
|"Ballads" in its intended native environment|
Now, here is where nostalgia sets in. Many years later I bought myself a replacement for that record. To my dire disappointment, however, the record label had changed. The album jacket was still the same, sporting a huge stereophonic logo featuring black arrows pointing to the left and right, which was the logo Columbia used when it was introducing stereo to the planet (most of the recording companies did it up equally big with their logos). But the inside label was very bland, a simple red label with orange and black lettering and no stereo logo at all. So much for my nostalgia trip. But sometime later I came across a used copy sporting the original label at a flea market, and bought it. This led me to gather up a minor collection of early stereo records on their original pressings.
|Another childhood favorite, original pressing|
|My beloved Ventures,original pressing|
Well, as I’ve observed in previous posts, due to my medical issues I do have some time on my hands. So, I’ve been working with the interior mechanism. And guess what—I got it working, at least somewhat, restoring the ability to play 33 rpm records in manual mode (as opposed to automatic mode, where the records could be stacked for playback, allowing you to play six singles or six sides of an album without having to get up and fool around with the machine).
|The classic Capitol label|
That said, this thing is junk with a capital J. The thing could be fully refurbished with not without professional assistance. And then when you’re done you’re left with a big ole console for which the finish has been allowed to deteriorate. By the way, did I mention that the previous owners used it to provide background music in a funeral home? We’ll let that thought lie.
Meanwhile, I took a bunch of photos showing some of those old record labels I’ve collected lying on the platter. That really allowed me to get my nostalgia ticket punched for the day; they’re right where they belong, in many cases with big stereo marketing logos set against the similar logo on the machine, just as intended.
|My first single, presented as originally played|
Things certainly have changed since then. Whether they’ve changed for the better we’ll leave as an exercise for the class. I don’t plan to give up my iPod. Yet, interestingly I haven’t given up my singles either. I never play them, mind you, but every now and then will get them out and rifle through them. I still have a lot of vinyl LP’s as well; but only those not duplicated via CD tend to get played—and they do, from time to time. In any case, there is something about being able to hold a record in your hand that
|Another childhood favorite - "Rag Doll"|
So, this was a unique day for me. Until today, I had not heard “Gunfighter Ballads” played back on a Motorola since 1962. That’s a trip.
If you have any interest in the console, let me know. Free to a good home. Now that I have my curiosity satisfied and have taken my pictures, it’s going to get hauled as junk sooner or later, sad to say. Maybe I’ll see it on Flea Market Flip!
|Records could be stacked for playback|