An(other) Audio Tale.
My first encounters with HiFi were with my father’s Fergusson stereogram. My father was a big music fan, and was very particular about his records: he had white cotton gloves to wear when handling them, and treated them with huge respect (fair enough).
I haven’t found an exact pic of it online yet, it had a Garrard deck (of course), white, with the reversible “needle” for 78s and a ceramic cartridge. A very nice sound with built in stereo speaker cabinets, beautiful veneer with a deep varnish, a real piece of furniture.
The tuner had all the European stations marked on the big glass dial of course, and a “magic eye” tuning indicator – this fascinated me as a child, and he had two – there was a Stella Tape Recorder that sat with it too (hooked to it with 5 pin DIN cables) and that had a “magic eye” record level indicator – I loved threading the tape and listening to his pre-recorded Reels (Flanders and Swann and the like) and his own recordings from radio etc.
There is a real “paraphernalia” appeal to older HiFi, somewhat more satisfying than whipping out a CD and putting it in the player (cool though that is most of the time).
It degraded a bit over the years, one channel went off, never figured out why he didn’t get it repaired etc. but he wasn’t well by this time (early-1970s, I would have been around 7 or 8 but he was a lot older (50s or 60s).
Apart from the beautiful wood etc. I always remember it had a “Reverberation” setting with 3 levels (big chunky interlocking buttons of course) - a genuine spring reverb inside (as I later discovered).
Mid 1970s he decided to replace it with a National Panasonic music centre (with Cassette!), not too bad I suppose but plasticky compared to the old Fergusson. Bought from Rushworth and Drapers in Liverpool, when it was still there.
It is with great regret that I must report he decided to convert the Fergusson into a cabinet (it had built in record drawers as well so it would remain HiFi-related). It is still in my mother’s house.
On the plus side I got to dismantle and remove all the old electronics (I was by this time taking old radios apart on a daily basis) - so the record deck ended up in my room hooked up to the guts of an old radio, giving me a bedroom player for my Abba, ELO, and Blondie LPs.
Many years later I opened up the “record cabinet” that the old Fergusson had become, and extracted the reverb spring – I have it to this day, and occasionally have hooked it up if I wanted the sound of a particularly grungy spring reverb (dub reggae of course being one opportunity). So it is still part of a HiFi, and I may yet put in in a case and put some buffer amps around it, maybe call it a “Herbert’s Reverb” in memory of my father
The Stella tape recorder is in my mother’s spare room, awaiting a refurb project at some point if I ever get time. Daren’t plug it in now, I expect it would go “pop”… The tapes still exist (with recordings introduced by various of my father’s friends) but again, playing them would probably be a once experience to digitise – I have Ampeg 456 from the 90s that is unplayable, I don’t suppose that 60s Emitape will fare any better!
On a sad note – in the late 80s my folks had to temporarily move to rented accommodation whilst subsidence in their house was fixed. There was a lot of that in the 80s, clay soil and the “long hot summers” of the late 70s shifted a lot of foundations.
The Storage/removal firm stored all his records, and at the last minute packed up the kettle and tea things and milk. In the same box. For 8 weeks. When the records came back every single one was covered in mould, both LP and cover. Collection gathered over 60 years ruined.
Still playable after cleaning, but he never ever played his records again, and never got any compensation or apology either. I lived away by this point, I would like to think I would have taken on the storage company had I been there, but they were old and frail and didn’t challenge them.
He did really appreciate CDs when I demonstrated them on my system to him though, and listened to Classic FM a lot once it got going, he didn’t spend the rest of his life in silence, I am glad to report