Saw the film The Prestige via Lovefilm the other week. I wasn’t sure what to expect as it passed me by on original release, but we (J and I, as usual) ended up quite liking it. Magic! Bowie! Two of our favourites. And, in a nice bit of musical synchronicity that same day, I had chanced upon a Prestige Juke Box and been enchanted.

The Prestige Juke Box in question was a 1982 model, holding 80 7″ singles. For those few of you unacquainted with seven inch singles, these were one way people used to get their own copies of recorded sound… At time of writing (late 2012) they have been pretty much superseded in the mass market, first by CD singles in the 80s and 90s, and now by mp3s and other formats.

Bear with the level of detail, and a perhaps slightly starey eye on “the reader”, whenever this may find them. I’m labouring the contextual point because when I saw this juke box… well, let’s come back to that. Let’s start with where I saw it, which was in Handpicked Hall, in Ripon, Yorkshire.

Handpicked Hall, indeed, I thought cynically on entering. It looked discouragingly wholesome, in concept and execution. Basically, it was a large, former department store-sized premises, filled with stalls touting arts and crafts, nearly new items… Shortbread and apples and gingham, oh my! However, like The Prestige, it was actually quite good. While there was over-priced organic food and a certain amount of what I shall term for kindness’ sake trucs bijoux frou-froux, pardon my French, the whole Hall set-up was a good idea, well-enacted. Small and medium-sized enterprises collaborating to utilise an unused space: whodathunkit?

Making my way further inside, I was drawn by audiomancy to the stall of jukebox lender and second-hand-record vendor, Betterdaze Juke Box Hire. The second thing that caught my eye was their prices for the second hand jazz records. A mere “£2”, which is what Oxfam and the like used to sell their sides for before they began to price themselves out of the cheapskate old sound hound market, with stupid Record Collector prices for stupid records in stupid nowhere near collectible quality.

Actually, I’ve wanted to mention this for ages, so, side-bar Exhibit A: One Spike Hughes and His All American Orchestra LP. I bought a copy out of Oxfam or the Sally Army or something for £0.99, near-perfect condition. Super.

Recently, a damaged copy in Oxfam, Micklegate, York, was going for £9.99. I mean, really damaged, though. The cover looked like it had been gnawed by rodents. This was when I stopped buying records from Oxfam. I also understand that Oxfam pulp books that “won’t sell”. It’s probably not just them, and I’ll continue to give them my cash periodically, but that’s a bookseller that *destroys books*, instead of, say, whacking them all in boxes on a trestle table and flogging them three for a pound, or something. It’s not as if they cost them anything, and it’s all ‘money in the tin’, isn’t it?

I digress testily. Betterdaze, who I recently rediscovered in Northallerton and who no longer trade within Handicraft Hall, had plentiful records, in v. good nick, for an acceptable price. Back in ripon, it was only a consequence of me having spent a tenner on, like, indispensable books in the St Michael’s Hospice shop up the road that I didn’t avail myself of a handful then. That and the fact that we don’t have a record player, something J pointed out patiently as I dribbled on the vinyl.

A record player is WAS on my ‘laters’ list, among the growing assortment of mid-life crisisery to follow when Junior eventually goes to college, or requires their synapses jacking into the Neuroframe, or whatever vastly expensive future child education cost scenario it may be.

However, the first thing that had drawn me over to the man with the records from Betterdaze was the selection of fine, fine looking juke boxes, which you can hire out, with a record selection of your choice, for any and all social functions. Check out their website, it’s quite impressive.

The Prestige had a price tag of £750 on it, which I thought was a bit steep for hiring, but I asked and the man said no, this was a sale price. Lordy. As if I need anything else to covet and nearly but not quite be able to afford. We had a nice chat along these lines before I went back to browsing the records.

Then, and this links to all that contextual overkill from earlier, a guy of about my age brought over a sceptical-looking teen lass to talk to the salesman. He said she wanted to know what a juke box was, is.

Three other people of about my age looked up, over-hearing the same thing, from their vinyl browsing. Glances and wry smiles were exchanged. “This one’s just about to change,” smiled the salesman, gesturing at a Wurlitzer model with a gleam of magic in the eye. The turn of the disc, the whirr of gears, the sound coming out of a speaker. Seven pairs of eyes watched it, dewy.

Juke boxes are ace. 7” singles are ace. They have two songs (usually), art work, sometimes a pithy messsage scratched into the run-out groove (check to see if any of your disks were ‘A Porky Prime Cut’!) and the kind of tactility that no amount of roundel icons can ape. Imagine not having had the joy of 7” singles – never mind just jukeboxes, but at home, dancing in bedroom, perhaps a stack of them on the autochanger… perusing the sleeves… Imagine only knowing digital juke boxes, where thousands of tracks are available because the landlord has outsourced their imagination. I think there is an impoverishment that comes from virtually unlimited choice, from reducing everything to an easily-attainable facsimile.

Well, anyway. I do like a well-stocked juke box. The right juke selection can trigger moments of afternoon triumph, as the value track that lasts three times as long as other people’s choices comes on. Even CD juke boxes have a similar kind of appeal, the album selection (like in the Note or Sleazys in Glasgow, for two examples) saying a lot about the venue, clientele, ethos.

A great example of what a venue can do with it is the one in Bradley’s Spanish Bar, one of London’s worst-kept secret best-kept secret pubs. A Prestige is the model used there. It had a splendid singles selection on it last time I was in, and the pub itself is a well-loved, nicely dog-eared establishment. If you’re in the West End you could do much worse than spend an afternoon sat in the window seat reading and feeding pound coins in to generate soundtracks while you drink yourself squiffy.

It was just such a dewy-eyed reverie that prompted me to imagine what sides would go on my Prestige when I get it. I think I dig the Prestige more than a Wurlitzer because it’s my era, maybe because the colours and lines mirror scuffed 70’s/80s architecture of the future. I’m not going to analyse the list, oppa Nick Hornby style. It is as it is, to paraphrase the Pope on Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. You have to imagine starting an argument in my pub. “Why haven’t you got…?” Inscrutably, I point to the suggestions box on the end of the bar.

For such arguments’ sake, for such choices will have to be made – because it will be mine! Oh yes. It will be mine… – here it be, in alphabetical order:

…and we’re puttin’ it on wax…

  • A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray/Arcade Fantasy
    Adam & The Ants – Stand and Deliver/Beat My Guest
    Herb Alpert – Up Cherry Street; Numero Cinco/Mexican Shuffle; The Girl from Ipanema
    Anthrax – Anti-Social/Parasite
    Baccara – Yes Sir I Can Boogie/Cara Mia
    Baccara – The Devil Sent You To Lorado/Somewhere In Paradise
    The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice?/God Only Knows
    Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)/Paul Revere
    The Beatles – She Loves You/I’ll Get You
    The Beatles – Paperback Writer/Rain
    Chuck Berry – Maybellene/Wee Wee Hours
    Blondie – Heart of Glass/Rifle Range
    Bomb The Bass – Don’t Make Me Wait/Megablast
    David Bowie – Starman/Suffragette City
    David Bowie – Drive-In Saturday/Round and Round
    The Bug – Killer/Version
    The Charlatans – The Only One I Know/Everything Changed
    The Crimea – Lottery Winners on Acid/Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
    Cypress Hill – The Phuncky Feel One/How I Could Just Kill A Man
    Dead Kennedys – Kill The Poor/In-Sight
    Dr Hook – The Millionaire/(?)
    Duran Duran – The Reflex/Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) (Live)
    Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues/She Belongs To Me
    El-P – Deep Space 9mm/Tuned Mass Damper*
    Fleetwood Mac – The Chain/Go Your Own Way*
    Grandaddy – A.M. 180/Here
    The Heptones – Equal Rights/Ting ‘A’ Ling
    Buddy Holly – Brown Eyed Handsome Man/Rock-A-Bye Rock
    The Honeycombs – Have I The Right?/Please Don’t Pretend Again
    Iron Maiden –Wasted Years/Reach Out
    Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild
    Ivy League – Tossin’ and Turnin’/Funny How Love Can Be
    Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough/I Can’t Help It
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Crosstown Traffic/Gypsy Eyes
    The Kinks – You Really Got Me/It’s All Right
    The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset/Act Nice and Gentle
    Led Zeppelin – Good Times, Bad Times/Communication Breakdown
    Led Zeppelin – Black Dog/Misty Mountain Hop
    Madness – One Step Beyond/Mistakes
    MARRS – Pump Up The Volume/Anitina
    Madonna – Borderline/Think of Me
    Madonna – Ray of Light/Has to Be
    Manic Street Preachers – Motown Junk/Sorrow 16
    The Mooney Suzuki – Oh Sweet Susanna/Say Man, What Time Is it?
    Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams/Instrumental
    Musical Youth – Pass the Dutchie/Give Love a Chance
    Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol/I Am The Walrus (live)
    OMD – Maid of Orleans/Navigation; Of All The Things We’ve Made
    Prince – When Doves Cry/17 Days
    Prince – Girls & Boys/Under The Cherry Moon
    Prince – Pop Life/Girl
    Public Enemy – Fight the Power/Fight the Power
    Queen – We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You
    Queen – Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls
    Rainbow – Since You Been Gone/Bad Girls
    The Rapture – House of Jealous Lovers/Silent Morning
    Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side/Perfect Day*
    S’Express – Theme from S’Express/The Trip
    Sly and the Family Stone – Stand!/I Want to Take You Higher
    Soft Cell – Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?
    Britney Spears – Toxic/Toxic (Instrumental)
    The Specials – Ghost Town/Why?; Friday Night, Saturday Morning
    Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count to Ten/No Stranger Am I
    Bruce Springsteen – Badlands/Candy’s Room*
    Bruce Springsteen – Prove It All Night/Factory
    The Stone Roses – Made of Stone/Going Down
    The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold/What The World Is Waiting For Donna Summer – I Feel Love/Can’t We Just Sit Down?
    Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday/By The Sea
    Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck/ The Man Don’t Give a Fuck, The Man Don’t Give a Fuck (mixes)
    Super Furry Animals – Ice Hockey Hair/Smokin’
    T. Rex – Hot Love/Woodland Rock
    Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere/Television Man
    Unit Four Plus Two – Concrete and Clay/When I Fall In Love
    The Wedding Present – Dalliance/Niagara
    The Wild Bunch – Danger! High Voltage/Neurocameraman; She’s Guatemala
    Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (US Single Remix)/Guilty of Love
    The Who – Substitute/Circles
    The Who – Summertime Blues/Heaven and Hell
    Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good/Monkey Man
    ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin/If I Could Only Flag Her Down
  • SO, my dream juke box list… for my dream jukebox. I should probably set my sights on a normal turntable first, of course, but if I should happen magically upon £1,000 and a larger house, this is totally happening.

    What would your selection have to include?

    “Fool’s Gold, mate. Seven minutes.”

    *The inevitable annotations:
    Beatles choices: I know, I know. I really, really would like to have the single version of ‘Revolution’, but it’s got ‘Hey Jude’ on the other side [shakes head sadly].
    El-P – Was this actually available as a 7″? I’ve got the 12″ version, but that wouldn’t really work, obvs.
    The Fleetwood Mac side was Disc 2 of a special double single for ‘Everywhere’, so I didn’t just make it up.
    I almost couldn’t believe it might be possible to get Badlands and Candy’s Room on one single, but the French did it. Un-deux-trois-quatre!

    Harvey Pekar: See this page at Metabunker for an excellent write-up on Pekar and his work.

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