This is a post I never expected to write: the return of the 78rpm record. What the heck! The message came from the label TOMPKINS SQUARE, announcing the first of a series of releases in the 78rpm 10inch vinyl format. They are previously unreleased recordings by from Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) and Ralph Stanley. A limited edition of 500 copies of each will be launched on Record Store Day 2012.
Josh Rosenthal, owner of Tompkins Square comments: “A lot of new turntables play 78’s, and many 78 collectors listen to their records on modern equipment. Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe have all recently released 78’s. So I thought it would be fun to start a line of them.”
On November 19th, 2009 Preservation Hall Recordings released 504 limited edition hand-numbered 78 rpm vinyl records featuring two tracks by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with very special guest Tom Waits. The tracks are “Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing” , and “Corrine Died On The Battlefield’ , originally recorded by Danny Barker in 1947, and considered to be the earliest known recorded examples of Mardi Gras Indian chants. The tracks are taken from Preservation: An album to benefit Preservation Hall and the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program (available on CD). Other guest artists include: Richie Havens, Ani DiFranco and Pete Seeger.
THE GENERALIST was fortunate to see The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in Brighton in June 2007, in company of the great maestro of New Orleans music Alan Toussaint [who I interviewed] You can hear the interview on the AUDIO GENERALIST: www.thegeneralist.co.uk See also Previous Posts: New Orleans Preservation Band and New Orleans/Allen Toussaint
In 2010, Elvis Costello released four tracks from his album ‘National Ransom’ on two limited edition 78rpm discs. The whimsical message on his website still reads as follows:
LUPE-O-TONE: PURVEYORS OF FINE FLAT PHONOGRAPH RECORDS & CYLINDERS SINCE 1913. OUR MOTTO IS “EGO SUM SATUS INFREMO”
LUPE-O-TONE PRESENT 78 RPM DISCS IN FULL LYCANTHROPIC SOUND. TWO VERY LIMITED EDITIONS, JUST TWENTY-FIVE PRESSINGS OF EACH TITLE, NUMBERED AND AUTOGRAPHED BY THE ARTIST
“A SLOW DRAG WITH JOSEPHINE” b/w “YOU HUNG THE MOON”
AND “JIMMIE STANDING IN THE RAIN” b/w “A VOICE IN THE DARK” BY THE LUPOTONIANS WITH VOCAL REFRAIN BY ELVIS COSTELLO
The Nick Lowe ‘78, now on Ebay.
Rock ‘n’ roll 78s are a hot, but sometimes overlooked commodity
An extract from a great 2011 article on the website of the excellent Goldmine record-collector’s mag. Read full version here
Today, rock ’n’ roll 78s are among the hottest commodities in the record-collecting world, with any survey of America (or the U.K.’s) most-valued records of the era literally bursting with high-ticket 78s. ..
The reason is that 78s were not built to last. They were manufactured from shellac, a compound derived from a natural resin secreted by the Lac beetle of southeast Asia. This material is extremely durable and was ideal for the 78s’ primary purpose – being rotated at high speeds while a thick steel needle passed over them. Unfortunately, it is also frighteningly brittle. Even with the most stringent precautions, mailing a 78 means taking its life in your hands, while simply transporting one from one room to another can feel like juggling fine crystal. The 78s that today sell for high prices on the collector’s market are not rare because few were made, as is the case with many of the most valuable 45s of the same period. They are rare because few have survived unbroken.
The 78 was developed by Emile Berliner, a German citizen who emigrated to the U.S. in 1870. A pioneer of sound technology, he developed the flat disc technique (to replace the bulky cylinders then in use) during the mid-1880s, unveiling his prototype at the Franklin Institute in 1888. His first discs were etched in zinc using chromic acid; from there he moved to celluloid and rubber before hitting upon shellac in 1891. It is a testament to his foresight that shellac remained the industry standard for the next 50-plus years. (Vinyl began creeping into fashion during the mid-1950s.)
Jenny Hammerton - a DJ of 78s - explores why the old discs are still alive and kicking. The 78rpm record lasted longer than any other format. Enrico Caruso recorded on 78s and Beatles records were cut on 78s in India in the late 1960s. And for some the old grooves and the heavy shellac discs are still the best. Record collectors swear the sound quality of 78s has never been surpassed and young aficianados are cutting their new pop songs on 78s. Sound artists and composers meanwhile are drawn to the patina of age that the old records carry in their scratch and hiss and some are making new music out of old noises. In the digital world where music has shrunk to invisible sound files, the wind up gramophone, a metal stylus and a box of heavy aromatic 10 inch discs seem more and more like precious and necessary demonstrations of the reality of things.