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If music be the food of love...
MALTON, April 17. Playing a few 78s last night (Ebb Tide – Jimmy Young, April Showers – Al Jolson, Harry Lime theme – Anton Karas and others)
I was reminded of the radiogram days. Did you have a radiogram?
What a wonderful piece of musical equipment that was, bringing quality sound to us for the first time.
Usually a good-looking piece of furniture into the bargain, our first was bought from the Co-op, who had their own radio label in those days. It came from their furniture shop in Wheelgate, where Yorkshire Trading now reside, and I expect I bought it on the never-never.
Lift-up lid, hiding the turntable and the radio tuner dials. A wonder of wonders that brought more musical pleasure that I can claim to have experienced ever after. This was followed by an HMV model, purchased from the TV and Record Centre, where Wallis’ now ‘live’ and when John Frankish was running his business.
This served us for many years until ‘separates’ became the order of the day. With them came a pair of huge wooden speaker cabinets, with their enhanced sound, such as the wooden cabinet of the radiogram gave us, and by which time an audio tape player was taking root, starting to push out the record disc.
I’m not sure that musical ambience was improved, but it allowed for the separate placement of the sound sources, and so we thought it must be better.
Today’s multitude of musical sources, relying on transistor amplification, don’t seem to match the ‘proper’ sound we got from valved equipment, and the valve today is in great demand for the connoisseur who demands the ultimate in sound reproduction, with speakers costing as much as £5,000 a time.
Wonderful stuff, but to the everyday listener, who still likes music for its own sake, the choice is very limited within a reasonable price range, otherwise you’re landed with a tin box, enclosing a couple of speaker units of small diameter, and unless you have your own cherished sound sources, you could be landed with what the radio stations put out, disguised as music.
I once made an effort to get another radiogram, a year or so ago, when one appeared in St Catherine’s. I was beaten to it and so someone else will be enjoying the quality of yesteryear.
It’s all subjective isn’t it, for the youngsters in their small hatchbacks who drive by with a banging sound coming from the car still call it music – no difference to an auctioneer banging on a tea chest with his gavel.
• I came across a lovely item in a ‘Book for Boys’ with the emotive words to The Londonderry Air spelled out in full. Danny Boy, no less, which became an Irish anthem, deservedly.
I read it over several times and found it to be written by Frederick Weatherly who also penned Rose Of Pickdardy, my mum’s favourite.
Eric Coates, whose output of songs, with words by Fred Weatherly, wrote The Green Hills Of Somerset, popular without a doubt.
Determined to find out something about Fred, I looked through the index of authors in at least seven or eight poetry books, and nowhere does his name appear, despite having written thousands of poems, with at least 1,500 being set to music, which made me wonder why.
He must have been popular judging by the quality of the three I’ve mentioned – perhaps ballad writers aren’t classed as poets.
• I was at York Crem on Friday where I take a posy from the garden each year, and paused near a stretch limo, whose driver was awaiting his passengers and we got chatting.
A double-barrelled name on the oval, blue name badge. One I didn’t know, and have since forgotten, so I asked the driver what make of car it was.
A beautiful vehicle, three doors down the side, shining like a new penny and oozing quality.
He gave me an apologetic look and said, ‘Ford’, thinking perhaps I might be disappointed, and expecting some less-popular make. No need for disappointment, as with all the Ford products today, for their quality stands out in design and development – how Henry would have been delighted were he to see today’s world-wide range.
Anyway, the driver told me that his firm had three of these, all made in Australia, no less. He thought they were based on the American Ford Fairlane.
Wasn’t sure about the motor, but thought it was a straight six, but said that the drivers don’t go under the bonnets very often as the vehicle seldom does more than about 30mph.
Interesting, the stuff one learns. It’s a long way from Oz and makes me wonder about the ways of things.
No problem driving, he tells me, steering lock a bit limited but one gets used to it, and with seven up (ie seven passengers), one has to take it steady over hump-backed bridges or even traffic humps.
• I read in one of Baker’s diaries, the 1803 one, he mentions that a stone ‘from the atmosphere’ came to earth at Wood Cottage.
Now I expect that name was common knowledge in 1803, but I know not where Wood Cottage is, or was, or if the ‘stone’ is still there. Anyone heard of this one?
I’d be pleased to hear about it.
• Have you noticed how the old expressions still hang on, although they’ve long since left behind their originals.
Take BT for instance, we still hear the expression ‘dial’ or ‘redial’ and the other one, ‘ring-off’.
Well, dialling, many of us remember, I even have a pencil with a special end for use by telephone operators, which just fitted the dial fingerhole, to save their finger from getting sore with all-day use, and the other one ‘ring-off’.
Don’t suppose many will remember these, but originally to call the operator, you turned a small handle, which in turn spun a magneto which caused a bell to ring at the exchange in order to speak to the operator.
At the finish of the call, and before the days of the ‘eye’ which gave visible info, one had to ‘ring-off’ to let the switchboard girl know that your call had ended. Railway signalmen had them in their signal boxes for many years after the GPO had stopped their use, but that’s about the only chance you’ll have of picturing what they were like.
• ‘If music be the food of love, play on’. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act One.