When I was a baby bearkeeper I had a liking for music even then and Granny had an old 1950s portable record player. I can’t remember the make or model but I know that it was red and looked somewhat like the picture to the right. It was a fantastic machine with a volume, bass and treble button on the front and a switch inside which had a stop, start and auto function on it. It also had a speed selector which would set the turntable to spin at 33rpm for albums, 45rpm for singles and 78rpm for really old records. You placed your vinyl record on the centre spindle, selected the correct speed and slid the switch from stop to auto. The turntable started spinning at the set speed, the record was dropped gently onto the turntable and the arm would automatically move across onto the vinyl and – as if by magic – it played the record.
I just loved the magic of the whole process. Once you had started the record playing you could even watch the needle which was fixed to the end of the arm going round in the groove of the vinyl. My young brain was obsessed with the whole procedure. It was so much more exciting than today’s iPods and things.
We had a few albums but nothing really to my taste. It was Granny’s record player when all said and done. I remember we had a Frank Sinatra album, another by Tony Bennett and I think there was also one by Mario Lanza. The rest were albums from musicals like The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The King and I and even South Pacific. I listened to those things over and over again not because I really liked the music but because of the process of using the record player – it was an adventure in itself. To this day I could still probably remember the words to “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top”, “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair”, “Bali Ha’I” and “Happy Talk”, but I still hate them in particular and Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals in general.
However, there were a couple of Tony Bennett songs I did like, one of them was “The Very Thought Of You”. Whenever I hear that song today it takes me back to the days when I was a tiny bearkeeper and used to play records on that old portable record player. For a while it was my favourite toy and I can still remember Granny’s face with a look of “Oh no, not that bloody song again,” every time I played something on it.
So here we go, just let me select 33rpm and slide the switch to auto…