Artifacts from Bygone Days
Edited by Rob Millis, Jeffery Taylor.
A staple of the 1920s parlor-room, the Victrola was a wind-up gramophone designed to play 78-rpm shellac records. Victrolas were hard on 78s: “each plays slightly different than the last as the needle bites deeper into the groove,” says Robert Millis, co-compiler of this seductive homage to both the Victrola and the 78. With Victrola Favorites, Millis and Jeffery Taylor, both musicians (in the band Climax Golden Twins) and collectors, aim to recreate the Victrola listening experience—clicks, pops, hums and all. “The surface noise as the records played was engulfing and warm,” writes Millis; “You could walk into it.” With the rise of the phonograph came a fascinating print culture of logos, slogans, hand lettering, mailing labels, postcards and ephemera, and Victrola Favorites reproduces a hefty sampling of these colorful gems of design along with two CDs of recordings made between 1920 and 1950. These CDs are packed with what you could call aural “bugs in amber”: Chinese Buddhist nuns chanting circa 1915, Japanese bamboo xylophones circa 1910, London traffic noises circa 1929, Burmese guitars, Chinese opera, Persian folk songs, Fado, hillbilly and lost stars of jazz and blues such as The Tennessee Ramblers, Slim Lamar's Orchestra, Jessie May Hill and many, many others. Richly illustrated throughout, Victrola Favorites is an already widely acclaimed secret history of ancient objects that digs all the way down into the history of recorded music.