There are many people of my generation who would have grown up listening to vinyl records. I must have been about 7-8 years old when I first encountered these black colored discs. There was a very sophisticated music system with huge speakers at the club that we used to frequent. Those black discs used to be popped on to a turning base and out would ensue the divine sounds of music! A year later we had our own “record player”- a smaller version of the system at the club. A Philips model, where the cover of the player used to double as a speaker.
The vinyl records used to come in cardboard casings with a thinner paper inside. One had to be very careful while handling them – no dirty fingers or long nails were permitted. Appa used to take them out carefully and pop them on before carefully placing the needle on them. Each record came with a specified “rpm” or revolutions per minute. There were LPs or long play records which has a 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm records which were smaller and 78 rpm which were medium. Actually the 78 rpm records were becoming obsolete by the time we got our record player.
As the music played on, I used to turn over the cardboard cover and gaze at the picture of the dog looking into the speaker. I used to imagine a lot of stories in my mind about this dog-he was a very loyal fellow obviously. His master was this lonely old man who lived inside that huge speaker and one day disappeared leaving the dog alone and sad. My friend who had the knack of fooling me about most things once told me that she knew the name of this dog. After a lot of cajoling she revealed it – of course, it had to be Tommy!
Between myself and my friend we used to sometime change the rate of revolution of a record making a 45 rpm play at 331/3 or vice versa. This change used to produce sounds that we found hilarious- high pitched fast sounding ones or deep throated groaning noises. This would go on for a while until Amma would rush in and pinch me hard for being naughty while my friend whose idea it often was ( you see she was the more creative one when it came to mischief ) would watch the fun – her eyes dancing with laughter.
I still remember those records from my childhood. There were a few Carnatic music ones and some Kishore kumar ones. I think we also had a Ravi Shankar one. Records were expensive and one bought them carefully after a lot of planning. We used to go to a shop called “Melody” in Calcutta ( I don’t remember where exactly it used to be but I guess it was somewhere around Esplanade/ Dharamtala). “Melody” was filled with records and as my parents had serious discussions on what to buy, I used to dance around the shop picking up records and reading what was written on the cardboard case. The salesmen there I must say were rather tolerant.
As the years went by, the cassettes made their arrival on the music scene. The cassettes had an advantage- you could tape songs on them. I think somewhere just before the arrival of cassettes existed a strange entity called a tape- which was a plastic disc with tape running around it. It used to turn around like a record – I don’t remember it very well because its life was rather short.
Cassettes stayed right through my college days- they were cheaper ( or may be we had more money) and we had loads of them. We had empty ones on which we used to tape radio programs like “ Man Chahe Geet”. Sometimes we used to tape ourselves singing. .
The record player stayed on, gathering dust until my parents decided to get rid of it. I am not sure what happened to those vinyl records. I wish we had saved at least one of them. My father had designed a glass case for the player and a teak wood box for the records. These things remain, albeit serving different uses. The box that used to house records was for a while serving the role of a side table at my sister’s flat at Ahmedabad.
When I first set my eyes on a CD I thought it was a “ baby record”. Though CDs are still around, music today has taken a different form becoming digitalized. With ipods and mp3 players around, one can never imagine that there was a time when people had to sit somewhere to enjoy good music. And in those days, we never imagined that one could carry music inside one’s ears as we went about doing things.
Like the music, the devices that played them changed and evolved. His master’s voice lived through the evolution adapting and changing itself. But the fact that it will now be silenced forever is difficult to accept. Guess it had to ultimately happen. That little girl who made up stories about the loyal canine will turn forty five in a week’s time and the little girls of today relate more to images of apples on musical devices than of dogs
RIP – HMV , you will be missed…!