Sunday, 24 January 2010
Voices from the Forces
Just got back from the lunchtime bootsale with not a great deal to report. Well not Hip-Hop or breaks wise anyway. I did pick up a copy of A.Z.'s "The Format" 12" for £1 which I was happy with as I missed it when it first dropped. Came from a guy with about thirty other twelve inches - all cra*ppy dance stuff mainly on the Ministry Of Sound label. Christ knows why he had this in his collection?!!
I'm not gonna bother talking about that record though. As nice as it is, there's nothing particulary out of the ordinary on it. Primo beat with A.Z. on the M.I.C. Straight East Coast banger. What more you need to know?
I did, however, find a couple of very intriguing items which I've never come across before. Tucked inside a little paper bag amongst a box of house-clearance records were these two 'shellac' coated 5" 'singles'. Now, I've seen 5" records before, which, 99% of the time, are Nursery Rhymes pressed on novelty size vinyl for children. I've also had a few shellac 10"s over the years so this was nothing new to me either. My curiosity stemmed from the fact the printed labels also had hand written (in pencil) details, which automatically suggests something quite unique. Usually 'test pressing' or, in some cases, promos will have credits and the like written on the label, but the writing on these appear to be far more personal. The printed design features blank spacing with three categories; 'To', 'From' and 'Regt.No'. Above these categories is the title (or record company name if you will) 'Voices of the Forces'. It then dawned on me just how 'personal' these records actually are, or were.
I'd already worked out by the time I got home and googled for confirmation that these records were 'one-off' messages recorded by members of the Armed Forces on international duty which were shipped back home to loved ones. I've been unable to find any specific details as to this service which, it looks like, the Army provided, but I'm guessing it would have been fairly costly so not widely available to personnel throughout the ranks.
The two examples I bought today read 'To: Mrs Nicholls, From: Sgt Nicholls' and 'To: Irene, From: Jack'. I much prefer the more heart-felt and intimate addressing of the latter but they could well be to and from the same persons, which seems very likely, as they were both grouped together in the same bag. Unfortunately I am unable to listen to them since they play at 78rpm and the grooves are pretty worn to say the least. The fact that the bronze playing surfaces display considerable signs of wear and tear demonstrates just how cherished and comforting these recordings must have been to their recipients, more than likely being played over and over again. It goes without saying that this was at a time long before skype, video messaging and even email, so to receive a 'letter home' in a more 'physical' type form must have evoked a huge wealth of emotions. I can only imagine how heart breaking it must have felt being miles away from the dearest person to you, at a time of great uncertainty, and not be able touch, see or even speak back to them whilst they speak to you. In fact as I am writing this I've just realised it's probably best I can't play the records anyway. They were obviously only made and intended for the persons closest to them, and to be listening in, no matter how many years later, would be insensitive and an invasion of privacy.
So, why do I buy records like these? Well, for a start they are cheap. Twenty five pence each in this case. I wasn't expecting samples or any other type of Hip-Hop related content with these particular pieces, although that usually is my motive when buying vinyl for pennies at the bootsales, charity shops, dumps, etc. If a record is cheap enough, something I've never seen before and looks like it has a bit of potential I'll buy it. If it's cr*p it gets thrown back into the cycle of unwanted wax. Nothing lost. Remember, you can't even buy a chocolate bar for the price of most of the records I buy. Over the years I've found a hell of a lot of known gems or 'holy-grails' that would cost an arm and a leg on eBay or any other online spot. I've also found a good amount of unknown heat that you couldn't turn up, or even know how to turn up, on eBay. That's the joys of digging in the real world. When it comes to the type of records in the this post though, it just comes down to a love of all things vinyl related. I'm old school like that. I mean, what interest would I have in an unknown soldiers message home via an email or telephone? Absolutely none. It's only the fact that I've just found out records were once used to provide this service that intrigues and fascinates me. It's kind of hard to explain to an 'outsider' (i.e. MP3 leach) but I'm sure there's plenty of other vinyl nerds out there who understand and relate...That's why you read this blog right?