I am not so young that when I was child, we still listened to records. After all, I was born in 1980, only a few years after the compact cassette was introduced in America and just before the format gained popularity. Records were still very much a living and breathing format–I had a Fisher Price record player and I even remember a cereal promotion where the box contained a punch-out record. Perhaps then my love of vinyl is something deep-rooted in the comforts of childhood, along with chocolate milk and the smell of a plastic toy when you first take it out of the package.
With my grandmother we listened to children’s 45s, stuff like The Three Little Pigs and Peter Rabbit, and some song about a bee “bee-ing” good. Though old, they were no less new and enchanting to me. On the flip side of the bee record, he was “bee-ing” bad. I loved it. We played these 45s on a piece of furniture that encased the record player, had its own speaker, and stored records underneath. This is where I remember hearing music first.
When my grandmother passed away, I found some of these old records and brought them home with me:
These are 3 songs from Pinocchio, and in the lower right is the Chipmunks Song. These songs have a strange, ephemeral quality about them, much like a music box or carousel–it is too short; you get caught up in the song and before long you realize it has already ended. You get caught up in the song and before long you realize you have already grown up.
When You Wish Upon a Star is in fact one of my favorite songs, an overstatement of innocence — “when you wish upon a star, anything your heart desires will come to you.” It’s something I remember believing in as earnestly and as simply as God or Santa Claus. It wasn’t complicated. I used to look out on the night sky and wish for Nintendo games. Similarly, Alvin’s eternal longing for a hula hoop breaks my heart.
Here’s another 45, and I really like this one: the “Official Souvenir Record” of It’s A Small World at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
The Tower of the Four Winds mobile was exhibited that year at fair, and the 45 record is “a permanent souvenir of the theme music and songs from Walt Disney’s newest adventure.” It’s A Small World is “the happiest cruise that ever sailed ’round the world…a boat ride into a wonderful Disney-Land of laughter, singing, dancing, and merry entertainment…a magic-kingdom of all the world’s children!”
We’re all familar with It’s a Small World. But I’ll give it to you in my words. It’s the ride at Disney World that drives you mad by repeating the line, IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTERALL over and over and over and over. There’s a few lines in there about yadda yadda and worlds of joy and then again, IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTERALL, over and over and over and over, IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTERALL. Generally, you’d think it’s only adults that get worked up and OCD about maddening things, like collating copies (screw you broken copier). But IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTERALL has the unique capability to drive even small children crazy. I remember going to Disney World at 9 or 10, hearing the refrain 633 times during the ride, and breaking out in a cold sweat in sweltering Florida.
This particular 45 plays the song in no less than 4 languages, even including a full run-through in a Swiss yodel. Now I thought a 45 side could hold no more than 3 minutes of music, but believe me, this thing feels like it goes on for 35. Drink a six pack of beer, two cans of Red Bull, sit yourself in a cardboard box, and put this record on, and it’s just like the goddamn ride. Whee!
I wonder what made my grandparents pick out this souvenir record. Maybe they dug the song. Maybe they bought it for my Mom who would have been like 5 or 6. Whatever the story, it was a damn good choice for a souvenir. And as an expert souvenir-picker-outer myself, I gotta hand it to ’em.
Now I got a couple of long-playing records to show you. Here’s a beauty. This one found way into my collection by way of the girlfriend, who is just 24, and yet also has childhood memories of records:
I love this album cover and I think I’m going to get a frame for it. I can’t say that I was ever a huge Sesame Street fan–I preferred my entertainment a little more idiotic (Snorks, Popples, Wuzzles) and homoerotic (He-Man). Also I’ll make a Sesame Street confession–and it will surprise no one that knows me as a bit of an ego–I thought I was smarter than everything on Sesame Street, and already knew everything they talked about.
Here’s another from the girlfriend’s family:
Now I said she was born in 1984, and let me put that in perspective–in 1990, she would have been 6 years old, dancing around the room to a vinyl copy of Mousercise. 1990! That was a new dawning of time to me. The 80s were already the dark ages. The compact disc was the future. It was me and my Walkman and a cassette tape of Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.
1990! (They were also one of those families that didn’t have cable television. You remember the kids who didn’t have cable. They were peasant-like and didn’t get your references to shit on the Disney Channel.)
Another neat thing about these kids’ records is that they often came with story books with stunning artwork, such as here with this Pinocchio record:
Just look at that ink and paper and wax. I think it’s one thing I like so much about collecting these old things–that this stuff is organic and pourous, breathing as you turn the pages, the musty smell of old paper.
I have always been a Pinocchio fan, one of the few Disney animations that didn’t concern a princess. Pinocchio dreamt of becoming a real boy, and I dreamt of becoming Pinocchio, so I could go to Pleasure Island and smoke a cigar. Can you imagine a children’s character smoking today? Of course not.
But for smoking that cigar, among other things, Pinocchio also contained some of the most unsettling consequences to doing wrong–Pinocchio is kidnapped and caged, threatened with destruction, can’t find his father, nearly drowns, is almost digested by a whale, and is halfway turned into a donkey, sent to slave away in the salt mines.
Man. All for having a little fun. And all you got was no dessert. I’ll tell ya what happened to Dumbo for getting drunk another day.