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1920s 78 rpm 8" Nineteenth Century Pop

There are even apples

Do you know the song, “Danny Boy”? ‘Course you do. The pipes, the pipes are calling. Do you know who wrote the words? Almost certainly not. Frederic Edward Weatherly was born in England in 1848. He was a successful barrister – the photograph shows him in 1895, in his legal robes – but he was […]

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10" 1950s 78 rpm Pop

As cowboy as an Arancini ball

I had always thought of Frankie Laine as a country singer. This was partly because the song of his which I knew best was “High Noon,” the theme song from the film of the same name. If you have not seen High Noon, I seriously recommend it: a cinema masterpiece, moody, tense and strange. Unlike […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Jazz

Likeable rogue on guitar

Astonishing, the human stories which lie behind the neat gold lettering on a gramophone label. “Never heard of him,” I thought of Vic Lewis, placing this 1946 shellac disc on the turntable. Lowered the needle. And, wow. Lovely jazz guitar in front of a tight band. But not just tight, there’s real feeling in this. […]

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10" 1950s 78 rpm Children's Spoken Word

Birthday Elf unmasked!

One of the annoying things about being a parent is that, for years, Santa gets the credit for the best presents at Christmas. Same with Easter. If you grew up in rural Australia, where rabbits are loathed as a destructive environmental pest, letting the praise for the chocolate eggs go to a magical bunny is […]

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10" 1940s 78 rpm Gospel Jazz

The name suggests a gangster

Muggsy Spanier. The name suggests a gangster from the Al Capone era, but Francis Joseph “Muggsy” Spanier was a musician. Given that the mob controlled all the best nightclubs in those days, and that, like Capone, Spanier was a native of Chicago, they might have crossed paths. Muggsy played the cornet. The what? It’s a […]

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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" 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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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, […]