picture disk: the holy grail and silly little moments

by Art Chantry (art@artchantry.com)

THIS is a vogue picture disk. vogue was a record label that only released picture disks. they started in 1945 and released maybe 100 or so records of lightweight popular period jazzy stuff before they went under. among record collectors, these are highly prized, but not because of their relative rarity. they are just likely the most beautiful series of records ever released by a single label.

nothing is hard to find anymore. ebay took acre of that. where these records would often change hands for into healthy three figures (for select issues), nowadays you can find them all on ebay for around $40 each or so. the internet changed the rules of collecting. what was once hard to find has become easy to find and therefore less scarce and less valuable.

but, it’s still a holy grail among junk store record pickers. i’ve been collecting weird old records (and cool covers) and the like for 40 plus years. i’ve gone through LP’s and 45’s for decades. i recently started eagerly checking out stacks of old 78’s to see what i can find. at this point, i’m extremely late in the game and all the good stuff left the thrift stores a very long time ago. but, the stuff i like is not the stuff that’s considered ‘good’ anyway. i like the CRAP. the stuff nobody knows what it is and can’t be bothered with it. there’s where you find real treasures.

AC:the photos were done when she was about 17. the story goes that after they'd taken some glamour shots, the photographer wanted to her start stripping down (for the "art"). she was a good girl and got all freaked out and split. the photos supposedly made their way up the food chain into this artist's hands through stock photos or something. dunno the truth.

but, still, the one thing every collector i now wants to find out there is a vogue picture disk. you just NEED to find one to be able to say you’re for real and not a dupe or an idiot or a fool. or a dork. or a loser. well… you get the picture.

i used to own a copy of a vogue picture disk that sort of ‘came down’ through my family. it’s the one pictured above. the family legend has it that the image of the young woman was drawn from a posed photo of my mother. i have no idea of that’s true, though. it’s a family myth.

my copy of that record got accidentally mixed in with some records i sold to a dealer (i had to sell my records to pay my rent. it was a moment of hard times, not uncommon). that dealer later called me up IN TEARS and thanked me for the vogue picture disk! he claimed he’d been waiting for one to ‘walk in his shop door’ for decades – and it finally showed up! i wanted it back. he said, “no.” oh well.

i have a buddy named dennis flannigan. among his many illustrious attributes, he’s the closest thing to an expert i’ve ever met when it comes to old weird 78rpm records. check out his facebook™ page where he likes to professionally digitize and post some of his finds. it’s pretty cool to see what he finds. and even cooler to actually hear it. i recommend it.

one of the most interesting things about digging through 78’s is that so little of that early american music ever made it onto the commercial LP or the CD. some claim that only some 10% of that music survived into the contemporary era. so, hunting down this material is an essential part of saving american history. if it wasn’t for all these mad diggers (and the internet, thank god) all of this stuff would be lost forever. our shared archive of our own musical history would be in a landfill.

he and i accidentally discovered a stash of old dusty 78’s in the back of an antique store specializing in pianos and asian antquities. how did they get there? the owner started his career by opening the first ‘hi-fi’ store in the area. this was all that remained of his old personal c

ction of music. they’d been sitting there unpicked for decades. we were the first!

so, it was an real education to be able to sit there with denny and sift through these dusty old records. i don’t collect records any more, so i helped out by using what i knew to sift through the things. if i found something that was peculiar (aka – not glenn miller or tommy dorsey or doris day), i’d simply bring it to his attention. boy, that was fun. he’d tell me all about it and whether it was worth picking up or not. if it was really cool, he’d add it to his growing stack that he was going to purchase.

i picked up an ‘album’ (like a photo album. that’s where the term record “album” came from) of children’s records. one thing i learned a long time ago is that when you find an album, you check it all out – no matter what the cover says it is. people seldom used these things as anything but storage units for their records. they would get all mixed up. i find the best stuff usually in the back section where others had given up looking.

this children’s record album had some cool stuff in it. but children’s records takes a thorough knowledge that’s very specialized – like collecting children’s books. it’s a niche market. there’s all sorts of interesting singers, celebrity imagery, movie tie-ins, exotic histories and cool packaging. one company (red raven records) even had giant oversized labels on the disks with little drawings that would, if played on a special turntable with a little mirror attached, created an actual a cartoon to watch while you listen to it. those are pretty cool.

but, guessed what popped up? yup, a vogue picture disk! it was in beautiful unplayed condition, too. so many 78’s are so badly handled and so fragile now that if you even pick them wrong, they can shatter. this was a ‘holy grail’ moment. i held my breathe. i showed it to denny. he said, “wow, there ya go. i’ve only ever found one of those.” i was finally legit.

i gave it to denny and he gave it to the shop owner, who was thrilled see it. it turned out to be a special and wonderful day for everyone concerned. sometimes it’s these simple silly little moments that make life worth living. corny, but true.

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Music/Composition/Performance and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>