Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg

Announcement: I am pleased to inform Listener readers that I have recently won a landslide victory, and have been elected the Mayor of Vinylville USA, America’s No.1, music resort. In no way will this interfer with my dutes at Listener

The social responsibilities of a society editor are considerable, and it is not always fun. I recently received a note from Prince Charles thanking me for sending him a condolence letter on the passing of his wife, Princess Diana. In my note I suggested the Prince might find solace in the Mahler leiders he wrote to express his grief over the death of a child. What was surprising about the Prince’s note was that he mentioned his expansive record collection, knew the Mahler leiders, and pointed out that he was the Honorary Chairman of The Royal Vinyl Arts Trust, and sent me a great deal of information about it, which I am now passing on to you. I also did some advanced vinyl research on the Internet, which will shock you. What follows is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Cameron Diaz.

Being an old audio dog, in1953, I was permanently infected with the Hi-Fi disease. It was common knowledge, even back then, that British vinyl was the finest in the world. If you owned an Angel Record, well, you were cool. Of course all of my Angel records were played on my Garrard turntable that flipped records over. Why have the British been such a dominant force in the vinyl arts? Is it because these charming people, who live on small damp islands, talk funny, and drink their disgusting beer, warm? Or, is it because they drive on the wrong side of the road? Or, perhaps it is their love of cigars that explains their sensitivity to vinyl?

The geological truth is that, in the same way South Africa was blessed with its diamond deposits, and America was blessed with its gold and oil deposits, Britain was blessed by having the world’s richest and purest deposits of natural (not synthetic man-made) vinyl. During the Dark Ages and Renaissance this "black magic stuff" was used by English alchemists, folk doctors, quakes and fakes in healing potions. For a period of time it was even claimed that vinyl was an aphrodisiac. Henry VIII used a vinyl potion in his seduction of Anne...it is rumored. Irish folklore tells of leprechauns smoking vinyl and dancing wild gigues.

And if truth be known: during the Golden Age of Hi Fi, in the 1970s, like every other segment of the music business, there was heavy use of psychedelics. It was not an uncommon practice, at the CES show, after the exhibits closed down at the end of each day, to walk into a manufacturer’s room and see a slab of mirror with a mound of very fine black vinyl powder, a razor blade and a straw. That’s right. I confess, I too snorted vinyl. It was a common practice to snort long lines of powdered vinyl to get that special musical high. Every famous English rock group did it, as did executives and producers at the BBC. I remember one night when a famous British audio journalist (whose initials are KK) and I stayed up all night, snorted about ten grams of vinyl and ruminated about black magic, while Jimmi and Janis oozed from the speakers. I can attest to the fact that the high achieved was quite mind blowing, and much more lucid than the finest Colombian cocaine. Once you got the aroma of vinyl in your system you were hooked. The only nasty side effect was rock hard gigantic black buggers would form in your nose, and when you sneezed they shot across the room like a dangerous missile, often hitting a friend in the eye, causing permanent damage.

According to the Prince Charles, when it was realized in the1920s that vinyl was the right stuff for making records the new British music industry immediately realized that they had a competitive advantage. The finest Grade AAAA vinyl ore was kept for domestic use, while the inferior grades were shipped to export markets, like America. This rare natural resource was the stimulus to the British vinyl arts industry that developed over the next seventy years. When you are a member of The Royal Vinyl Arts Trust, that is saying something quite substantial about your artistic and engineering competence. Vinylmaniacs know that the classic British labels like Decca, EMI and Angel produced the finest pressings.

Why the Royal Vinyl Arts Trust was created is a fascinating and unexpected story. Truth is stranger than fiction: because of a violent vinyl miners strike in 1932, in which two hundred vinyl miners died, Britain was able to take the lead in record production.

While the British mining companies knew about the deep veins of natural vinyl that criss-crossed the British Isles, like their coal, there was no demand for it until the new home entertainment business exploded in the mid 1920s. The combination of radio and vinyl was changing everyone’s life, and there was an enormous demand for pure virgin British vinyl.

Vinyl mining became big business, and like all of the mining operations during this period in Britain, there was much suffering for the miners and their families. Every student of contemporary British literature knows the vinyl miner’s plight was a political cause celebre that even aroused the ire of George Bernard Shaw. D. H. Lawrence mentioned the violent conditions of the vinyl miner’s lives in this famous work, Lady Chaterly’s Lover, on page132, paragraph three.

It was the violent vinyl mine strikes of 1932, in which over two hundred vinyl miners were slaughtered, that changed the destiny of the vinyl arts. Terry O’Sullivan, the creator of the Loricraft 501 turntable told me that his grandmother, as a little girl, was involved in that strike, and her best friend was trampled to death. Ivor Triefenbrun’s great uncle lost a leg in the strike. The famous Decca Brigade, which consisted of employees of Decca, came to the support of the workers. This was the time of The Great Depression, and though the vinyl mine operators were faced with strong international demand for Virgin British Vinyl, the mining companies kept on reducing the hourly wages for the vinyl miners. Communists, labor organizations, socialists, Bolsheviks, Ludites, and every other form of social activists came to the support of the vinyl miners.

The British government called in the Army to keep the peace, and riots and chaos led to violence. A political aspiring Winston Churchill, in support of the miners, gave one of his rousing speech, in which he used for the first time, "Never in the course of music history, has so few, done so much for so many, for so little" ( a phrase which he subsequently modified for use in another speech). International outrage, especially from Mohatmas Gandhi, finally caused the British government great embarrassment, and as a gesture to end the turmoil, the King appointed a special commission to advise Parliament on what laws it should enact to protect the vinyl miners. Parliament did the right thing and life did improve for the vinyl miners, but it was one small feature of THE VINYL MINERS ACT OF 1933, that is responsible for Britain’s dominance of the vinyl arts. A provision of this law was the creation of THE ROYAL VINYL ARTS TRUST whose purpose it was to (1) support individuals or companies that advance the vinyl arts (2) promote the highest standard for vinyl recordings.

This made sense because any activity that stimulated demand for British vinyl made sense. As you know Royal Trusts are perpetual and this trust still operates, granting development funds to British artisans who are pushing the perimeter of the vinyl arts. Which brings me back to Prince Charles, who is now Honorary Chairman of the Trust.

The good news is that to celebrate the next millennia of the British Vinyl arts the Royal Trust is creating limited edition collectible chunks of genuine and certified GRADE AAAA PURE BRITISH VIRGIN VINYL, which will be available exclusively through Listener Magazine.

I must stop here to explain a very peculiar British vinylmaniac ritual, but first...you know how golfers practice their putting in their living rooms, and fisherman are always practicing their casting on their lawn...men like to practice their favorite thing. Vinylmaniacs in Britain sit in pubs telling vinyl tales while playing with chunks of the real native stuff. They roll it around in their hands like Rosary Beads. They toss it in the air like a ball. They wrap on it with a fork and hold it up to their ear to listen to its harmonics. Some members wear chunks of the gem quality British vinyl around their necks in elaborate necklaces. Other have rings with big chunks of vinyl set in them.

In the package the Prince sent me was also a lavishly illustrated book of British Vinyl folklore featuring the stories of :




This should not surprise us, because we have all heard much stranger stories, like, Alice in Wonderland, come out of Britain.

The ending of this true tale is extremely satisfying because it once again demonstrates the eternal dialectics of art. My vinyl research on the Internet was shocking. I discovered the re-emergence of my favorite 1970s ritual with a twist. Not this time practiced by the old dogs of audio, but by the rock and rollers in cyberspace. I discovered new Internet communities of VINYL SNORTERS....a paradox...a new generation of music lovers who are crazed collectors of vinyl, and will only listen to CDs while they are snorting lines of "classic rock and roll vinyl", mostly from the 1960s. That’s right VINYL SNORTING is back in a big way.

According to my anonymous sources there is a hierarchy of powdered vinyl quality, with some dealers making so much money that they can afford to pay top dollar for collectible quality 45 vinyl which they pulverize and sell by the gram for huge profits. This is what I was told: crazed rock and rollers swear that the powdered vinyl is charged with "classic rock and roll molecules" that gets into the brain and can make CDs sound as good as the best vinyl with none of the noise, ticks and pops. Based on my experience in the1970s there is no reason to doubt these claims, and of course the best thing about this psychedelic music fetish is that it is not illegal yet!

So what advice can I offer my young music maniac brothers? If you have never had a real mind blowing vinyl high, or, if you want to improve the sound of your CDs, without spending big bucks, or, if you want to impress your friends, or, are desirous of sacred union with some awesome babe you have just met, get yourself a slab of mirror, a razor blade, a straw and some of the finest powdered vinyl you can buy...and do some groovy black lines. Let me know what happens, and be very careful of those big hard black nose buggers when you sneeze. Of course those of you who are very conservative and are afraid of intense musical highs can just rub your nose across a record while taking deep breathes....like Peter Breuninger. Experience the unique aroma of vinyl in what ever way you are comfortable.


Back to The Triode Guild               Back to Meta-Gizmo™   

e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: drgizmo@meta-gizmo.com

Copyright 2000      Meta-Gizmo.com and Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg      All rights reserved.
All the material contained within the above articles may not be reproduced without his express permission.