Saturday, 11 January 2014

78 rpm Shop Record Covers

A second look at 78 rpm record sleeves provided (sold!) by record shops. (If you missed the first one then it can be viewed here: Record Shops to 1960)

I have 78s from all over the place. Although I started out with a fair collection inherited from my parents, a few of which were bought with me and/or my brother in mind, I have bought quite a lot from collectors and antiques shops and warehouses and a very few by mail order. I have also been given some collections by people who knew they would be going to a good home.

So there's quite a few shops and towns represented on the sleeves of some of the records in my collection which is currently heading towards 700 in number. The above sleeve is an early thick cardboard sleeve, stitched on both sides and on the base. This method provided a very robust sleeve and although these tend to be quite early - 1930s-40s mainly - there are as many of these still surviving as the thinner card that was folded and then glued to form a sleeve. Many of these latter bear signs of wear and repair. This example was bought originally from Kenneth Gardner's shop on Penny Street, Lancaster.

In those early days records were sold by musical instruments shops, who diversified into selling gramophones. Specialist records shops would not come along until later. Even so most towns had a choice of establishments who sold records and in Lancaster, over on Rosemary Lane, Albert Shaw was in competition with Mr Gardner's business. This is another stitched thick cardboard sleeve which has survived well. A little bit of staining but no rips or tears as that is exactly what the stitching technique was designed to prevent.

We'll digress a little bit here, because it's interesting to look at some of the record label names listed down the left hand side. There's no way to prove that the record that the sleeve now contains is the one bought with it and it is probably very unlikely that it was anyway. The record is After The Ball Is Over with a B side on the reverse of Two Little Girls In Blue by Gerald Adams and The Variety Singers and it was released in 1930. Both songs are quite well remembered songs even today, especially the former. They are, in fact, so similar that you could be forgiven for thinking that they were written by the same person, but no - though both composers were named Charles, being Charles K. Harris and Charles Graham respectively.

Regal merged with Zonophone to become er... Regal Zonophone... Odeon must have merged with Parlophone and became Parlophone Odeon with the same design label as before.

Winner was an early label, appearing in 1911. It was owned by a syndicate and that may have inspired the name and label illustration perhaps. It lasted until 1933. No one wanted to buy it and most of the properties were taken over by Decca. The record illustrated - Old Tennessee and Me coupled with Palm Tree Island by The Elliotts - was released in 1919 and we can see from the stamp pasted onto the label that the proud new owner paid three farthings tax on it!

Carlisles shop on Darwen Street, Blackburn, sold a rather vivid colour don't you think? Most card sleeves were a plain brown colour - the colour of the card in fact, as to colour them would only cost money. So coloured sleeves are not as common as brown card, though there are a few to be found. The card here has started to fray and come apart where repeated insertions of the record have snagged it top centre. It is made of two pieces of card bound together by tape which must have at some point split and the repair is a somewhat rare technique - I'm glad to say... It's been sewn by hand by someone unused to wielding needle and thread by the looks of things!

It's probably fair to say that Crane's of Deansgate in Manchester were probably not first and foremost a record shop! Their head offices in Liverpool is described as having a concert hall attached and branches existed in Bangor, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Seacombe, Sheffield and Wrexham. A well-established firm, they started in 1850 and the record sleeve does not mention all their branches! There's a nice 46-page catalogue dating from 1910 available to read for free from The Internet Archive which has many photos of their piano and organ models. They are of superb quality with even the upright pianos having little hinged candelabra sconces that swing out to illuminate the player's music score!

Incidentally, the record is from 1916 by the comedian and Music Hall artist Tom Foy. I listened to it for the first time last night - a sort of stage patter tale of the style adopted by many of today's self-proclaimed comedians. It's a bit like listening to George Formby telling an anecdote but right at the end it turns into what today can only be thought of as a racist joke which spoils it completely for anything other than a historical interest.

Now here's a sleeve dear to my heart. We used to live in Rochdale, I was born there and I well remember Shorrock and Shorrock's huge shop filled with pianos on Drake Street, just up from the Odeon cinema. My Dad used to go there to buy records and I have quite a number of these distinctive green sleeves containing both 10" and 12" 78 rpm records. I remember they used to display records in the window, hung on wires inserted into the holes in a hardboard stand.

Dad would ask which one we wanted and - not knowing one from the other at age 3 or 4 - I would point in the general direction and Dad would say "Good choice!" and go in to buy something he knew we would enjoy. Where's the joy in downloading something off the Internet and not having the bus ride home to anticipate listening to it? Music has become wallpaper. I find that incredibly sad. Go to a concert now and people stand watching their tiny phone screen that is busy turning the exciting performance into pap.

My final sleeve for this time is from the legendary Mazel's in Manchester. "Legendary" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have such memories of this shop that is certainly legendary in my mind. A quick search online will convince you lots of other people think the same. It wasn't just a record shop. Certainly by the 1970s when I was a teenage rocker in a local band, trying to get sophisticated sounds out of 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars and a basic electric guitar without the aid of FX pedals, Mazel's was the place to spend Saturday mornings. They sold second hand everything connected to the music business. Records, musical instruments, amps and microphones...

I remember drooling over a dirty great 15" speaker labelled "Victor" that my Dad owned the match to. Dad always used to say it had come out of a cinema from the sound system there... We had a very imbalanced stereo system during my early teens. The left channel came out of the afore-mentioned cinema speaker from a mono Stevns amp (there was no second 'e' before you write in to complain) and the right channel came out of Mum and Dad's 1950s wireless set...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year and Celebrating The Year Just Past

Happy New Year to all my readers! According to the stats, on average the blog is read 200 times a day, that's a bit awesome from my point of view, so a very huge thank you to all of you for helping make it a success and for allowing me to think it's worthwhile!

Whilst it's a time for looking forward - and there are some great things to look forward to in 2014, of which more later - it's also a time to look back over 2013 and celebrate all the things we got up to.

The year started with the release of my book, Blackpool Then And Now and I spent an afternoon in Waterstones, signing copies and enjoying meeting a few people from various Blackpool-related websites and Facebook pages.

I was also getting to grips with a new guitar - looks great, sounds.... well... let's say it had a few peculiarities about it that has since caused me to revert to the red Stratocaster! This was taken down in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, at the "Remembering Sunnyside" event in March and we are looking forward to going down this year too to meet up with our Billy Fury friends.

Later in March we had a great day up in the Lake District, with snow on the hills and a wonderful meal waiting for us in Kendal at the home of David's sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and Dave. A great night and a very cold and icy getaway around half past midnight, slithering down the roads!

The cold spell lasted ages. The year before at the Northampton do we had walked to the venue from our hotel in shirt sleeves. This time it snowed all the time we were down there. This photo is from Witton Park in May, usually a warm family day out, yet we were layered up and the proceedings came to an end in the late afternoon with a downpour. British weather!

Luckily the weather just a week later was absolutely fine on the Mediterranean as we went off for a week's cruise with Jeannie and David, taking the band on tour to visit Corsica, Italy, France and Spain and sample a few cocktails along the way! This was a glorious week - just don't mention olives to Fran...

June is always the band's busiest month and 2013 was no different. We were featured in this newspaper report of Myerscough's open event, which was just one of several events which drew large audiences for us.

Miss Franny kept up the pressure until I eventually cracked and we added a conservatory to the house. It's a nice quiet place to sit and read and we left things like computers and televisions out of it. The only time it gets noisy is when it rains... oh... it is now in fact...

In August we took a trip to Norway and although the dreaded rain came with us for half of our time there, the other days were glorious and more than made up for the wet days with some beautiful scenery of mountains, fjords and waterfalls. We loved it and a return trip will have to be done at some time or other!

Of course we enjoyed our home town of Blackpool also and there was lots going on this year as always. The Air Show was spectacular and changes in the town centre gave us plenty to watch and photograph. We went to a few shows and continue to delight in the good food and atmosphere in Quilligan's thanks to Sean and his team.

We had an extra trip this year and what a trip it was, taking us to the Holy Land for some unforgettable sights and tours. This really was an experience to remember. The detail of all the travels can be found on the blog, by looking at the navigation in the left hand panel, so you can join us to see more of our time on the Med, in Norway and to the Aegean and Holy Land.

The Holy Land trip also gave us a chance to meet up with our friends, Tomas and Maris who perform in the Horizons Bar onboard Thomson Celebration. This was our third meeting and we look forward to seeing them again in 2014.

Creeping Bentgrass continued to go from strength to strength - we have had strangers recognising us all over the place and have been told were are folks' "favourite band". All very pleasing and ego boosting - we think it must be the way we laugh off mistakes... lol. Christmas 2013 saw us rack up 13 years as a band and we have no intention of giving up yet!

Miss Franny embarked on a massive craft project, to make a quilt for our granddaughter's bed. This took ages and she press-ganged me into helping cut straight lines in material. In the end it all came together after we had to make up a few bits due to some incomprehensible or missing bits from a pattern translated from some obscure dialect of a tribe in the wilds of a hidden forest on top of a plateau somewhere... Grace seemed to like it anyway.

Fran and daughter Gill along with Miss Jeannie have taken stalls at several craft fairs and Gill's "Little EGG Craft Company" (named for her immediate family Edward, Gillian, Grace) has gone online and started to attract a following.

For the second year running we went to see Andre Rieu on his tour of the UK and had a great night just before Christmas, bouncing up and down, swaying and clapping and singing along in half made-up German and Italian that the natives of those countries definitely would not have understood!

Fran's brother Bob turned the big 6-0 on Christmas Eve and we had a surprise party in Blackpool which went off very successfully considering people came from Swindon, Bristol, Belfast, Warrington and Manchester to get there. My niece Sarah claimed to need rescuing and against all expectations he got there all unsuspecting, even to the extent of arriving in the restaurant where she was waiting and seeing our name in the bookings list and thinking "Now that's a coincidence!" before seeing everyone waiting to cheer him!

It will be my turn in 2014 to turn 60 myself. I've taken the decision to retire from my work with Jisc and the University of Northumbria at that time and have more projects lined up, including more books and more gigs and just spending more time with my beautiful granddaughter and family. A few health niggles have proved taxing for the last couple of years. I worried for ages before one was proved not to be too serious and have occasion to grit my teeth more than I used to, so it will be nice to work at my own pace on things I want to do. If they want to call me back every now and then, that will be ok too!

At an engagement party just before Christmas, Grace saw us perform for the first time and we had to try to keep a straight face as she looked, ran away to hide and then kept coming out to peep at us! 2014 will be good!