Snippets 173. In 1877 Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. By 1903, use of phonographs to play music had become so popular that it became viable to publish a monthly title “for users and makers of talking machines”, The Talking Machine News. Some early issues have recently been added to the British Newspaper Archive. 115 years ago, the following amusing article appeared in the November 1903 edition:
“What is the average duration of life of a record?” asks a correspondent. That is a question at which the heart of the stoutest actuary might quail. We would recommend our correspondent, having collected the necessary data, to occupy the coming winter evenings by calculating it out by the law of mathematical probabilities. We shall content ourselves by saying that it depends entirely upon circumstances. Naturally, discs and “wax destructibles” have a better chance of life than records. In the case of a wax record it all depends, bar accidents, upon the user and the use. If you use a record often, of course it won’t live as long. Equally, if you use it carelessly it won’t. A wax record may last a year, or even longer; it may last a week, or even shorter. We have a wax record which we have had in use for two years, and which is still in good order. But we do not use that record either for our own or anyone else’s entertainment. It is a magic record. For example, we had a caller at this office the other day, who had really nothing to say, and had already said it several times. We were very busy, but still he stayed on. At last we said gently, “We have a record we should very much like you to hear, it is a magic record.” He stared, and said he should much like to hear it. We put it on. And as the first bars of the melody floated through the ambient air of Tottenham Street, our troublesome visitor flew as though ten thousand tax collectors were at his heels. The spell had worked. The name of that magic record is “Dolly Gray.”
Goodbye Dolly Gray was a popular record from 1901, a recording of a Boer War anthem. Presumably by 1903 people had had enough of it. But was it all that irritating? Judge for yourself:
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