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iPods aren’t as much fun as Hi-Fi’s

December 3, 2008 - Kevin Sweeney
My mother recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I’m not joking when I say she doesn’t look a day over 70. We had a nice party up in the Cities with as much of the extended family in attendance as possible, including my brother, Dennis, who traveled in from Portland, Ore., for the occasion.

The big party was on a Saturday, and the following day all seven of Mom’s kids attended mass with her, and then went back to my sister’s house for a big brunch, the kind my dad used to cook every Sunday. Dad, who died about five years ago, knew exactly how we liked our eggs cooked, and the bacon was always done just right, not too crisp and not too raw.

We spent a great morning remembering the fun we used to have around the table and around the house as we grew up. But one memory came to me later, and I’d like to share it, just to show this generation how we had to make our own fun.

In the days before iPods and even before tape recorders, we listened to music either on the radio, or on the stereo record player. Mom and Dad were very tolerant about letting us use the record player and scratching up their vinyl.

One feature on the stereo that today’s MP3 player doesn’t have is the switch controlling the speed. Old, old records used to be recorded at 78 revolutions per minute. Singles were recorded a 45 rpm, and the modern LP (long play) albums chugged along at 33 1/3 rpm.

It was great fun for us kids to play the LPs at 45 or 78. Frank Sinatra sounded like Alvin the Chipmunk at 78 rpm.

The best album for this treatment was the classic Harry Belafonte calypso album that included the “Banana Boat Song.” You’ve all heard it. Harry starts the song by hollering “DAAAAAY-O! DA-A-A-AYO! Daylight come and me wan’ go home. DAY! IS-A-DAY-IS-A-DAY-IS-A-DAY-IS-A-DAY-IS-A-DA-A-AY-O! (etc. etc.)”

Imagine how cool that sounds at 78 rpm. There was another song, “Dolly Dawn,” that started with Harry yelling “Oooooh-OOH! LOOK1 LOOK AT DOLLY1 PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY PRETTY DOLLY! O-o-o-o-o-oh HERE SHE COME, HERE SHE COME, PRETTY, PRETTY DOLLY!”

We’d play these at high speed and scream with laughter, trying to dance along to the hyper-fast calypso beat.

Since then I’ve played video games with the kids, and listened to awesome sounds from CD players and iPods, but nothing compares to the fun we had with the old stereo.

 
 

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