So much of all of this is about design.
Edward Woodenhands, actually, Warren Woodenhand, the neighbourhood soundblender, has so much audio equipment and such a variety of patch cables, I don’t think there is anything I ever need that is not a Signal message away. So… When our 1979 JVC L-A100, inherited from my father-in-law, threw a belt, gave up on setting down the tone-arm on the record, suddenly, just as I had gathered up a pile of ironing and was setting about playing a copy of Brian Eno’s complete original soundtrack for Rams - Gary Hustwit's 2018 documentary on the legendary German industrial designer, Dieter Rams, for the first time, in an otherwise empty house, (an Eno record that my friend the artist DameHay bought for my birthday from the sale racks of The Diskery…) Woodenhands’ instinctive recommendation was to maybe seek to replace the L-A100 with a direct drive turntable. Eschewing the potential problematical belt issue in the future. Most likely, replacing it for now at least, with Outsideleft Night Out Turntable 2 since it is stored, during this Night Out hiatus, under Woodenhands’ bed.
By the way Completists, don’t go searching for Eno’s In An Otherwise Empty House, that’s not one of his record titles, silly. AC manor was empty and that’s why it was the perfect time to play Eno.
Anyway. My niece then offered to send over her turntable that was sitting on a side table looking all amazing and everything in its dotage. Her records, stored in the loft while the builders are in. They’ll be there a while.
On eBay, I found a JVC L-A100, with a cracked lid and damaged cartridge for £13 or so. It’s in Rugby. Since I have a good lid and a good cartridge, the idea of making one good 40-something Frankenstein monster turntable from various body parts appeals too.
So I was kind of spoiled for choice, already.
None of those options were wholly ideal since like most record players, the turntable, in a small home, is a much there to be looked at and to catch the corner of a passing eye, and talked about as much as to be utilized for playing records and that’s because fuck, vinyl is a fetish this house can’t afford. But like all vinyl junkies it’s taken me about a day to borderline lose my resolve. I am hanging on. But everywhere I look there seems to be a Big Thief LP on sale. Everytime I think I could send £25 to a refugee charity, what with the news, I also think I could get some splendid little something on LP from Norms Records or somewhere without having to leave the house.
Anyway, according to some audiofile blog there’s only one direct drive turntable out of their 10 ‘tables under £1000 that are just about worth welcoming into the home. To get it almost locally, I had to drive way west from here to a massively misconfigured shopping mall, further scarred by store closures and now I see dead people ins place of the (approximate) 90% of people walking around without face coverings. Mainly I see them all as future zombies, from George Romero’s ‘78 Dawn of the Dead movie, set in the Monroeville shopping mall, except the people breathing on me won’t be coming back at all. Highest deaths and infections since the Spring - watch a news bulletin people. Look out for each other. All self-identifying as ancient people say that I’d bet.
Back at the ranch, in place of the JVC, the new turntable once assembled looked way too lugubrious for a small home. Way too. A big black block. Like Hal on a bad day. At night it was hot n’ all with its red strobe controlled platter speed and cueing light. But it was just too big and at the very last moment I’d plumped for the Bluetooth version… That’s crazy isn’t it, given the maligned bluetooth compression ratio that makes mp3s sound like a symphony. Why the expensive turntable coupled with bluetooth? Whatever, the Bluetooth totally failed for me. I don’t know, it shook hands with my headphones and then nothing, no sound at all. I have Codec concerns. Like anyone would. And to be fair the turntable used Qualcomm® aptX™ Low Latency audio. There’s something to be said for that. Oh, I say used because I don’t have that ‘table anymore.
Boxed up and brought back. At the returns desk, the store clerk, inventorying the turntables' extrinsic components asked, “What is it?” Kids!
It took many hours of research cocooned in the Barcalounger to resolve onto something more appropriate for a small home. “Do you have anything at all you should be doing?” The knowingly rhetoric question came. At least once but tacitly of course several times. That’s how we do it. Anything designed by Heinz Lichtenegger, anything Austrian at all was rejected by Ms. Champion as aesthetically troublesome. No one saw the beauty in the translucent platter, even if it looked amazing to me. Vacant looks where cast when I mentioned that altering the 33/45rpm record playing speed with a push of a button and without dismantling and removing the actual turntable and having to manually adjust the belt, as is so often the way for audiophiles, was a £50.00 feature. Ponder that, vinyl revival DJs.
At my subsequent meeting with a massage therapist, I began with an apology for my even more disheveled than usual appearance - possibly related to the ongoing aforementioned non-ironing issues...
Hey, I forgot to mention that the publication of my slender collection of short stories, 6 Stories About Motoring Nowhere, is now super-imminent. At last! Here’s the cover art - thank you Mr. DameHay and thanks to Disco City Books for persevering… I’ll actually have a publication date next time I meander my way over here and way more info too.
If that's the bell, then there’s a new turntable at the door, so I have gotta go. Once it's set up I can return to my ironing and I'm keen.
Next time, my trip through, Herstmonceaux, Bodiam Castle and Battle Abbey. In an afternoon. It’s true.
Main Image: Dieter Rams, industrial designer.
Ancient Champion's Music Inspired By The Museumgoer of Baton Rouge, Louisiana is available now on CD and streaming services, here, there but not everywhere.