As I see a resurgence of interest in records (or “vinyl” as many seem to currently refer to them) I wonder if there will be a next generation of collectors for 78 R.P.M.s.
Admittedly, I was a strange kid who began collecting 78s when I was around nine years old (1972).
My parents had a stack of these in their linen closet, that would sometimes be brought out late at night when their old friends were over for drinking and dancing. Some of those records had actually belonged to my great grandmother (I found out years later).
Over the years, speaking with other people my age who also collect 78s, it seems that we showed an initial interest in the format because our parents had a stack of them left over from their youth. It seemed that our parents were also born in the 1930’s or before, whereas our other friends’ parents were younger and had 45s or LPs.
As a child, there was something mysterious and otherworldly about how fast the records spun on the turntable; almost haunting.
There was also a time travel aspect to listening to them. With most old records, and especially with 78s, I wonder about the people who owned them before they came into my hands, or how many times they might’ve changed hands before they came into my possession. Especially with a genre that was cutting edge in its day, like Bebop for example.
Sometimes I try to picture the person returning home from the record shop in 1947 with that brand new Dial label Charlie Parker 78, when it was brand new to the ear (and a somewhat controversial genre) and spinning it for the first time.
I wondered about their lifestyle. What sort of tragedies and triumphs did they end up facing over the course of their lifetime? How did they die? Or, are they still alive somewhere?
Before the advent of CDs, there really wasn’t a lot of music from 78’s being reissued (in the scope of how much music existed on the format).
By the late 80’s and through the 90’s, quite a bit of rare items surfaced as reissues that hadn’t yet been available otherwise, but there is still a vast amount of music that will probably never see it’s way onto a reissue or even the internet.
The format lasted around 60 years, from the late 1890’s into the late 1950’s in the U.S., while other countries stuck with the format as late as the early 70’s. While I am not a world authority on 78s, I do have some knowledge, and
I wonder what might happen to these records as time moves forward if there aren’t any younger people to continue collecting them.
Especially certain records that are now extremely rare and/or expensive, and the wondrous music they contain.
We don’t yet have any true gauge as to the lifespan of a digital transfer stored in a “cloud”,
but what’s clear to me is that I’m still capable of playing my great grandmother’s records with a good sonority, and their condition hasn’t seemed to decay since I first heard them as a child. I wonder if my great grandchildren will someday be able to access my “cloud” to listen to my MP3s, view my pictures, watch my videos etc., or will it all be wiped out through the course of time due to sunspots or something. Only time will tell.