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12" 1970s 33 rpm Classical LP World music

Admire the calligraphy

Hearing the traditional music of China is like admiring a piece of calligraphy hanging in a temple. It is beautiful, no question. Clearly, great skill is required in its execution. But it can’t be escaped that this is a minute fragment of a rich and complex culture. The daunting truth: without a lifetime’s study and […]

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12" 1970s 33 rpm Country LP

Coal miner’s daughter

Like any self-respecting country singer, Loretta Lynn was born into poverty in a colourfully named Kentucky hamlet – Butchers Hollow, in this case. The daughter of a coal miner, she was married at 13, though happily not to Jerry Lee Lewis. She does not quite complete the c.v., not having been to jail, but this […]

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12" 1980s 33 rpm Classical LP

Life intervenes

Catching the shuttle to Planet Vinyl can be hard. There is work, there is family, there are bills and tax returns. There is illness and stress. Life intervenes. But though I have been too busy to write about music, I have been listening, with open ears, and discovered some strange and wonderful things. Here is […]

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12" 1950s 33 rpm Classical LP

Carmen was a boy

Carmen Dragon was the stage name of, well, Carmen Dragon. Slightly unusual name, especially for a male born in California in 1915. His first claim to public notice was as the composer of a theme song for his local high school. A local newspaper gave the composing credit to “a high school girl, Carmen Dragon”. […]

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12" 1970s 33 rpm LP Pop

A homogeneous plastic mass

When I was growing up, there was a thing called “Kraft Cheddar Cheese”. This revolting, yellow foodstuff was nothing remotely like cheddar. In fact, it did not have much to do with cheese, either. As kids, we called it “plastic cheese”, and we were actually close to the mark. The origins of Kraft Cheddar lie […]

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12" 1960s 33 rpm Jazz LP

A strange democracy

“Jazz is a team game”. This was said a few days ago by T. S. Monk, a stellar jazz drummer who is touring Australia. Monk (son of Thelonious) was chatting on community radio about his art. “In a jazz group, everyone gets to solo. No one is the star, because everyone’s the star.” I’d never […]

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12" 1970s 33 rpm Folk LP

Marking time

It is marking season at the university where I work. I love my job, but not this bit of it. I once wrote a song about it: The unmarked essays pile high I start to scan with dread The words of those who cannot write ‘Bout books they have not read To make the task […]

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12" 1980s 33 rpm Compilations LP Pop

Show the bones

Back in the early 1980s, some seriously weird music came out of what was then West Germany. The spirit of surrealism, da-da and futurism thrived, especially in West Berlin, where rents were cheap and young men could dodge national service. So when you find a pop compilation record published in 1981, which has a cow […]

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12" 1970s 33 rpm Folk LP World music

Mountain music

The things I know about Nepal can be put in dot points: Mountains (generally, and one very big mountain in particular) Sherpas (who help rich westerners climb said mountains) Kathmandu (the city, not the clothing franchise) A Maoist insurgency Yaks That’s about it. Of the music of the people of Nepal, I had never heard […]

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12" 1960s 33 rpm Dance Folk LP

Kali or an octopus

The uilleann pipes is a musical instrument of such extraordinary complexity it could only have been invented by the Irish. It is related to the bagpipes, but you don’t blow into it. The uilleann pipes is inflated with a small set of bellows, strapped around the waist and the right arm. It has three sorts […]