This week’s Near Mint show on Resonance FM is something very special indeed. We’re taking a trip to Ray’s Record Room in Akron, Ohio, where proprietor Ray Carmen has prepared a selection of vintage one-off records from the 1940s and 1950s for your delight. The first of a two-part special, these are direct-to-disc affairs either made at home (or in a couple of examples, possibly in a Voice-O-Graph booth) by the men, women and children of the Akron of yesteryear.
Either inherited from family members or found in thrift stores and junk shops around his home town, Ray has loving preserved and restored the audio secrets contained within these unique and precious discs to take the listener on a trip back to a lost world and a bygone era. There are drunken(?) carousers, the ghosts of Christmas past, a couple of love-letters that go slightly off-topic and an accappella tribute to unorthodox footwear by a small child known only as Claudia. It’s impossible to listen to these long-ago voices without wondering just what became of them all. Did Rose ever receive her visitor? Did Lennie and Laverne live happily ever after? How long did the fire engine Ray’s future father-in-law got for Christmas last before the wheels fell off? The chances of ever discovering the answers to any of those questions are practically nil (with the possible exception of that last one – I’ll ask Ray if he’ll check).
One person we are able to trace a little better is Dodie Stevens, whose 1959 hit ‘Pink Shoelaces’ was the subject of Claudia’s aforementioned accappella treatment. You can find the low-budget, cable-access footage of her performing this song many years later that Ray mentions here, though for my money this original video from 1959 featuring Dodie as a wide-eyed and tomboyish 13-year-old is infinitely more charming. I suppose it makes sense that such a breezy and innocent teenybopper classic is far more endearing when sung by an actual teenybopper. Anyway, part two arrives next week and if you can’t wait until then there’s plenty more lost voices and rare recordings on the Ray’s Record Room Soundcloud page. Well worth an hour or two of your time!
You might also remember the name Ray Carmen for his abandoned playground project and the collaborative track ‘OH’, produced with Howlround and featured on our last LP Tales From The Black Tangle. Hopefully they’ll be more collaborations to follow, schedule-permitting!
Speaking of Howlround, please do come and join us at Vinyl Deptford this Saturday, where I’ll be spooling up as part of the latest Linear Obsessional event, alongside Phil Maguire, Project Mycelium and the duo of Phil Durrant & Richard Sanderson. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Vinyl Deptford is a rather super little record shop / arts space / cafe and I’m really looking forward to catching up with some old friends, playing some new loops and rifling through the racks (time-permitting). The Facebook event page can be found here and it’s a suggested donation of £5 to get in. What better way to spend a Saturday night in South London? Apparently Linear Obsessional label boss Richard Sanderson is going to use the event to unveil a new album, so I’m willing to bet I’m going to leave the event slightly poorer than when I went in.
Finally, thanks to everyone who came down to Homemade Disco at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney this week, especially those of you who ended up getting roped into holding tape loops aloft when I wildly under-estimated their length and ended up having to cause some entanglements. A great venue and a splendid crowd, including my first ever baby (who seemed to quite enjoy it) and my regular unofficial biographer Zoe Plumb, who captured this rather super short video on Instagram. Zoe also makes music and sound pieces under the name Electric Elisabeth and that’s worth a listen as well. So many creative friends!