When I began collecting it was fairly simple; you bought a 78 rpm re-cord, played it to death and then bought another one. The same applied to LPs and it was only when cassette tapes arrived that we started mak-ing up our own collections and copying other people’s records and CDs (we’d had open reel recorders, of course, but they were strictly for the cognoscenti who didn’t mind and even took delight in their fiddliness). I’ve kept up with the changes fairly well but I’m still using my tried and tested Sony Minidisc recorder (now reportedly obsolete, Sony having ceased production a year or two back. The word ‘obsolete’ is relatively meaningless, however, as I know quite a few people who still collect and play 78 rpm records believing that the sound is superior; I even have one pal who is stuck firmly in the mud and owns a Betamax video recorder and a collection of tapes. Welcome to the twenty-first century, lads).
When visiting my brother recently (he’s a Minidisc man too – we like to keep things in the family) I noticed he was playing a disc that he was compiling from his huge collection and that, using the LP format, he had managed to include around seventy-eighty tracks with more to come.
Never one to be outdone and rising instantly to the challenge, I has-tened home, plugged in and started compiling my own disc, beginning with Louis Armstrong’s Savoy Blues (1927) and going through the his-tory of jazz from the first half of the twentieth century (all the tracks were originally on 78 rpm discs) through Fats Waller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington and ending up with Gerry Mulligan’s Walking Shoes (1952).
By the time my ball and chain was preparing dinner I was up to track 84 and feeling quite smug and pleased with myself; after all, pretty soon I’d be able to sit back and listen to the best part of five hours of “Purslow’s History of Jazz” comprising most of my favourite tracks from the twenties to the fifties.
Well, as Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley and lea’v us nought but grief and pain” and the old Scots bard wasn’t wrong.
I took the disc out of the machine so I could record something else and, when I put it back in, to carry on producing my mammoth compilation, the entire contents of the disc were deleted at a stroke (which is what I almost suffered when confronted with the words “Blank Disc”).
Dinner had to wait as I was in a state of stupor and almost comatose in front of the hi-fi. I have a spare Minidisc machine but lately it has re-fused to eject discs and is consequently in the hi-fi hospital (and will remain there until I can rustle up the bail money – times are hard). So for now, folks, I’m well and truly cattle trucked (that’s cockney rhyming slang – you’d better work it out for yourselves) and contemplating hi-fi suicide if I don’t get things back to normal soon.
What is it with these machines? My CD player tells me that certain discs won’t play but, when I eject them and re-insert them, all is well. My DVD recorder refuses to play a recording I made from TV a few years ago and, as soon as I bring it up on the menu of the Hard Drive, it switches the machine off so I have to wait fifteen minutes for the player to start up again.
Do these contraptions have minds of their own? Are they in collusion and out to get me? I’m scared.
This depressing tale reminds me of Woody Allen’s account of the time he gathered all of his electrical appliances in his living room and threat-ened to beat up on them if they didn’t behave. His TV continues to give him trouble so he gives it a good hiding but, when he gets into a down-town talking elevator a few days later, he hears a menacing mechanical voice ask, “Are you the guy who beat up the TV?” and he gets thrown around and winds up in the basement.
I can’t say the experiences I’ve been suffering have been as hilarious as Woody’s tale – far from it – but, after encountering what seemed like a concerted effort by my recording and playback equipment to make my musical life as difficult as possible, I’m seriously beginning to think they’re ganging up on me. From now on, elevators are out and I’ll be walking up the stairs – better to be safe than sorry. Right, where did I put that old wind-up gramophone? Happy listening, folks.