The Suitcase of Wonders


As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I’ll expand my words about my musical birthplace – My first record player. It accompanied me, placed in the room’s corner on some cabinet while it plays and plays… My parents taught me how to turn it on since I remember myself. The amazing thing is that I didn’t have a clue then that this is a changer turntable, one that can play six records continuously, as a matter of fact, six sides of records. You can watch this clip with my lovely first record player:

I discovered this trick only much later. As a child, I listened to the records in the usual way – one by one. A typical picture you could see if you entered my childhood room in my parents’ home was a small child sitting on the rug and playing with Lego for hours while listening to records from the 1960s. In much fewer times I listened to some children records, especially the Israeli Children Music Festival records that were very popular in Israel while my sisters and I had grown. These were the only newer records that my parents bought beside those 1960s records my father purchased in his teens. One of my first memories as a young child was that I wanted to have a good stereo system. (How many toddlers in the age of 2-3 you know that wish for a good stereo?) Probably at this age, I was already aware of the existence of lower and higher frequencies that this record player couldn’t produce. It is a device that plays through one built in speaker (as is, it is Mono), the sound quality is minus mediocre, especially because of the use of a Ceramic cartridge. In general, this piece is very primitive built, even though it contains vacuum tubes (something that considered good these days), it has a small diameter speaker that can’t provide impressive sound quality. I must point that the suitcase and the internal amplifier built in Israel (there is a label of the manufacturer inside the case). The turntable itself made by Garrard, which was one of the most famous British brands that era. It is an ‘autoslim’ model which means it senses the size of the record automatically while it drops down through the long spindle. There is a side lever that moves while the record falls to the platter, and then the arm knows where to land, whether it’s a 7, 10 or standard 12-inch record. The wish for a good stereo system fulfilled in a later age, and maybe because of this first absence, I collected (fixed and also gave to others) many types of record players through all the years.
And now for the music itself. The small record collection I had back then (which still exists in my current library) included mainly Rock’n’Roll, Twist, Blues, Soul, and some Israeli music that my father bought as a youngster from the early 1960s until 1966. After that, he was drafted into the military service and didn’t buy any new records. When I was ten, I started to buy my own records.

Here are some things he shared in response to my questions:
“The first album I remember having was by Chubby Checker, the singer of ‘Let’s Twist Again.’ My exposure to new music, especially from abroad, was very limited. In Israel, we only had three radio stations back then, and they played western pop music very sporadically. There wasn’t a scheduled radio show for this music or a special DJ that played it. We occasionally listened to some broadcasts from abroad, like the BBC stations on shortwave, and got some exposure from there. I don’t remember any specific record purchasing experiences. In the Qrayot area (Haifa’s suburbs), there were no record stores, and in Haifa, there was the ‘Hataklit’ record shop on Herzl Street, which was quite modest. Some non-dedicated stores, like toy stores or stationery shops, also sold records. I remember visiting a record store on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, but that was it. Unlike what today’s media say about the 1960s in Israel, that the establishment was against pop culture from the USA and UK, I didn’t feel it. I was a cadet in the social youth movement and then a guide. At youth movement activities, we had a very ideological environment, yet I remember a club called ‘Fulfillment’ [how ironic…]. In this club, they played dance music, and we went there right after our meetings at the youth movement house, so I don’t remember any sense of rebellion among the youth. On the other hand, there wasn’t a typical engagement or craze for the culture or fashion from abroad, especially not for Rock music. I don’t remember any Rock concerts in the Haifa area, and I don’t recall anyone having an electric guitar at home or any groups playing around.
About the record player, it was placed in my room; my parents didn’t care much about music. I knew about the automatic record-changing function, but I didn’t like it as I thought it could damage the records, so I didn’t use it. Later, I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and liked the idea of choosing the music myself [My father made mixtapes!!]. I didn’t have to depend on the fixed playlist of a record, which sometimes included songs I didn’t like. I recorded music from the radio or borrowed records from friends, and that was enough for me. The songs were what mattered, not the audio quality. That’s why I never bought a stereo system. Even though I always found music entertaining, it has never been a high priority. When I went to military service, I visited home only once a month. Besides relaxing, I had other things to do that were more important than music.”
A significant number of records in this collection were various artist compilations edited in Israel and published under the ‘Hataklit’ label in Haifa. I found an interesting interview with ‘Hataklit’ owner, Dov Zeira, who briefly talks about his pioneering efforts in distributing such music in Israel. He said, “I had the sense to know what would be a success, that’s all.”

In this picture, you can see the back of the sleeve of one of these records, which says:
For You Only!
That’s our slogan!
This record is designed and produced for you only!
You can say – every record is created for me – I’m the customer.
And therefore – we wouldn’t contradict your words, the customer…
But go out and see how many records can’t adjust themselves to the average music lover. ‘For You Only’ is produced just for you, whether you like Dion’s singing or the theme from the film ‘The Guns of Navarone,’ or if ‘The Shirelles’ voices are your favorite or Craig Douglas or John Leyton.
This record contains a song like ‘Teen Queen of the Week’ together with the fantastic tune from the movie ‘The Singer, Not the Song.’
This record features Twist with the voice of Jack Scott; this is a record for you, and for you only!
We hope that you will enjoy the songs as much as we did while compiling this record.
‘Hataklit’ LTD Haifa”

As Dov Zeira’s words suggest, like my father, there was a lack of particular interest in that era for this music. They probably accepted things as they were and didn’t feel that something new or important was happening. Interestingly, those collections primarily shaped my music taste and helped me understand how music has profoundly changed over time.

Hearing these insights from an authentic source who lived through those days gives me a stronger and more accurate perspective compared to the nostalgic portrayal of the 1960s by current media. There wasn’t a significant resistance to things from abroad, but people, especially youngsters, weren’t running after it either; they were busy with other things. I feel lucky to have been accidentally exposed to that kind of music. Here is a nugget containing a good selection from the soundtrack of my childhood. Most of these songs didn’t become classics, but they hold a lot of musical value for me, more than just personal nostalgia. I made this nugget from the actual records, which, to my great pleasure, survived the years, even after being handled by a small child. I even connected my old record player to the computer to transfer this experience in the most authentic way possible, with limited monophonic sound. For those with sensitive ears, you might notice the slightly faster playback speed. That’s how this record player works; it doesn’t have a pitch knob like advanced turntables where you can adjust the speed accurately.
That’s it, now click the play:

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