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10" 1950s 45 rpm 7" 78 rpm EP Soundtracks Spoken Word

Hurry back to your seat

It is 1957. You are sitting in a cinema in Melbourne, Australia, and it is Interval. Younger folk may never have experienced an “interval” in a cinema, but it used to be a thing, equivalent to half time at the football. As the house lights brighten and you rise, contemplating whether to buy an ice-cream, […]

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1940s 78 rpm Classical

Looking at a Foxconn factory

George Orwell was one of my first literary heroes. I got hooked by Nineteen Eighty-four, and went on to read everything he wrote. I don’t recommend this. His best work stands up: brave, clear sighted, a voice raised against tyranny. But don’t seek out the B-sides and rarities. Having once been an uber-fan, though, I […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Country

Never shoot first

Gene Autry was the first great singing cowboy of American popular culture. Not a type of performer you see much anymore. We still have western movies, but they tend to be grim and bloody, and there is not much time for singing around the campfire, faithful horse in the background, between two cardboard boulders. It […]

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10" 1930s 78 rpm Pop

Our Glad

She was HUGE. Her first name all you needed. That was her, the famous singer, the Australian girl who had gone to England and become a star. It was the 1930s, when Australia was self-consciously claiming its place in the world. We loved an international champion. There was our great aviator, Charles Kingsford-Smith; our great […]

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10" 1950s 78 rpm Country

Young Turk

Torok is an unusual name for an American country artist of the 1950s. Country is usually the domain of the Anglo name: Nelson, Cash, Jennings, Parton. Even those not born with one used to put a suitable name on with the cowboy hat. Baldemar Garza Huerta did better as “Freddy Fender”. Torok means “Turk” in […]

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10" 1930s 78 rpm Jazz

Liquorice stick

On Sunday, my wife and I saw a jazz band, Sandra Tulty’s Swing Quartet. Australians all, and all stellar musicians: one of those jaw-dropping jazz ensembles, which sing, play multiple instruments, and take on solos without so much as raising a sweat. I was particularly impressed by the clarinettist, Michael McQuaid. He moved in and […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm

After the movie finished

Australia and America have been close friends for a long time. It dates back to the Second World War, when Australia found itself facing a Japanese invasion. Traditionally, Australia had looked to Britain for protection. But Britain was in a desperate struggle for survival herself, and unable to help. So on 27 December 1941 the […]

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10" 1950s 78 rpm Pop

Early-model Bieber

Paul Anka was a sort of early-model Justin Bieber. A Canadian-born singer who became a star at a young age, and was a bit of a honey. This was his first big hit: a love song in which a young man expresses his undying devotion to a lady by the name of Diana. Lyrically, Shakespeare […]

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10" 1930s 78 rpm Jazz

A man of appetite

A man of appetite, was Fats Waller. Like many a sensualist, he was the son of a preacher man, born in 1904 in New York State. Astonishingly gifted, he was playing piano and organ in churches by the age of ten, and worked as a professional cinema organist while in his teens. He moved into […]

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12" 1920s 78 rpm Classical

But is it strong enough?

Ninety years ago, George Dorrington Cunningham, one of the most popular recital organists of his time, made a recording at Kingsway Hall, London. It was released as a 12-inch 78 rpm shellac record by His Master’s Voice. One copy, manufactured here in Australia, turned up in an op-shop in Geelong in 2016. I bought it, […]