Straight from the lathe

To make a vinyl record, the master tape of your recording is played into a machine called a lathe. This has a tiny, vibrating stylus which cuts into the lacquer coating of an aluminium disc, the “acetate”. Acetate discs are usually part of the process of manufacturing vinyl records. They are cleaned and further processed, and used to make moulds, which … there’s more, it gets complicated.

1018-labelBut, here’s the thing. An acetate disc can also be played on an ordinary record player, and it sounds exactly the same as a vinyl record. So sometimes acetates were used where only a few copies of the record were needed. These turn up from time to time, with typed or handwritten labels, or no label at all. It’s always fun to play one: it might be a radio advertisement, a church choir’s Christmas set, or a demo by an actor or singer who was seeking glory and fame.

This record was produced by an Adelaide label SATE Recordings. I am indebted to Michael de Looper, a fellow vinyl tragic who has compiled a list of independent Australian record labels, for the information that SATE, which stood for Sound and Television Engineers, was a “prolific custom recording label”. The owner and engineer (and, one suspects, also publicist, technician, bookings coordinator, receptionist, best boy and accounts manager) was one William Harrison.

The record is untitled, and has no catalogue number. It is a ten-inch LP, with six songs sung by one Maurice McIlvena.

One of them is a work by one of Australia’s most successful ever songwriters, Mary H. Brahe. No, I hadn’t heard of her either, but she was born in Melbourne in 1884, and was a prolific composer of popular songs, more than 400 in total. Her biggest success was “Bless This House”, a huge hit in both Britain and America. Brahe’s songs were, no getting away from it, sentimental, but there is a place for that. This is one of her other big successes, “To a Miniature”.

Of Maurice McIlvena, I know nothing. Was this a demo, which Maurice hoped would help him get a gig on radio, or on a variety show? Or just a present for his mum? Who knows, but he had a good baritone voice, and his love of singing comes through.

 

  • Artist: Maurice McIlvena
  • LP Title: untitled custom record
  • Side 2, Track 2: “To a Miniature”
  • Format: 10” acetate LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: SATE Recordings
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: no date (early 1960s?)

Many of the records featured on this blog are for sale via Discogs

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