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Book: Turntable Stories

Chapter: Chipboard and Smoked Glass

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.46283


In 1983 my father inexplicably decided to buy a stacking hi-fi system to replace the 1960s Boots amplifier and turntable that sat on a teak effect sideboard in our living room. This resulted in a trip to the big city – Sheffield – to a specialist audio store. Not normally one to spend so freely we came home with boxes of the most expensive Technics equipment, soon to be encased in a self-assembly dark oak chipboard and smoked glass cabinet. My brother was at the time too young to have his own records and so my records went in the lower section of the cabinet, carefully filed away slowly being added to by purchases from Our Price, Andy’s Records, Foxes Music and Track Records from Doncaster’s Arndale Centre. As the teenage years took hold I naturally withdrew to my bedroom and my Walkman and cassettes took over. Then I moved to University and the stacking hi-fi system became unloved and unused. Furniture was placed in front of it entombing my records inside.

Around thirty years later the cabinet remained where it had always stood, now seemingly part of the fabric of the house. In a moment of nostalgic yearning I unearthed these signifiers of youth expecting to find the coolest of albums. In the subsequent years my collection of tapes had been discarded and I had built a collection of CD and playlists. Yet this cabinet held a physical archive of who I had been and therefore who I was.

Initially met with the kind of record I had expected, a rare Beastie Boys white vinyl 12 inch of Pass the Mic and a Dinosaur Jr 10 inch of Just Like Heaven. Further excavation led swiftly to forgotten prog rock, a momentary dalliance with metal before comedy records, Neil’s Heavy, Heavy Concept Album, and then artefacts from childhood; Favourite Children’s TV Themes and Willy Rushton and Johnny Morris reading Thomas the Tank Engine. I was beset with an overwhelming sense of melancholy.

This chapter will examine the function of the physical artefact as a tangible connection to the past. Via an analysis of the melancholia associated with hauntology and the concept of ‘lost things’ the narrative will speak to the importance of the record as archive and as central to self. It will also speak to the physical presence of the record player in the home, something lost in a digital age.

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