Friday, 15 June 2007
I was turned on to 78rpm records by Mikkel van der Meulen. We shared an interest in rock’n’roll and we visited many concerts all over the country. He had a leguan as a pet. The animal rarely moved, except when Mikkel came home. It knew him coming long before you could hear or see him, which I found strange behaviour for a reptile. This leguan only ate fruit, but I never liked to watch it eat. I am scared of reptiles, even of leguans, who don’t have a history of killing humans. On warm days the animal escaped every now and then. But since leguans are coldblooded they cannot move when the temperature drops, which it usually does at night in Holland. I remember that they had to fish him out of the local pond a few times per year.
One day Mikkel and I went to a concert in Antwerp, where we arrived so early that we had time to visit the Antwerp Zoo. Mikkel was an attraction: he wore the best fifties suits available and his hairdo raised comment from passers by every ten meters. In the zoo we went straight to the reptiles. To my amazement (and that of the other visitors!) two giant leguans immediately rushed up to Mikkel as to welcome him.
One other day Mikkel invited me to come and listen to his 78rpm record collection. I cannot remember that 78’s meant anything to me before that evening. But I remember the records he played for me very well. And not only the records, but also the sound coming from the old grammophone. I was amazed that a machine that worked without electricity or batteries could produce such a loud and great sound!
Among the records that I heard that night were acetates that a war correspondent had recorded on the front line. The guy spoke French, and we couldn’t figure out whitch war it was or what he was saying, but we did hear the bombs explode very close near him. It is a weird idea that people in such situations were able to make records, because it was not an easy job: you had to prepare the shellack and you only had a few moments to use it, because the stuff hardened quickly. We could play these records only once, because the shellack curled up behind the needle, exposing the metal disk.
But the best thing I heard that night were three records by Ruth Wallis. Later I found out that Ruth Wallis has made many records, and maybe he still does; she seems the surviving type. All her songs are about sex, but her later LP’s lack the magic that those 78’s have. Not only was she a great and sexy singer in those early days, she also had a band that sounds as if all the members were from the Count Basie orchestra, having a great time backing up Ruth Wallis in the studio.
Today I have been recording some of my favourite 78’s on a CDr. I never collected 78’s, I just kept the nice ones. But the result is more than I thought; I guess that I can fill at least six CDr’s. I don’t expect others to like these records, but one never knows. If you are reading this blog, you must have a taste not too different from mine.
Here is Ruth Wallis with Long Playing Daddy. To get an idea of the situation in which I heard this song for the first time, imagine a leguan staring you in the face while listening to this song.