The world of the 78rpm collector is unlike anything I can imagine but we occasionally get a glimpse of what drives them. Here’s two that give a great insight: Ian Nagoski and Jonathan Ward, you’ll come away understanding and possibly with a new bug.
My first introduction to Ian was through Harry Wheeler when he introduced me to the release of To What Strange Place : The Music of The Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916 – 1929 (Tompkins Square). As Harry mentions in his review 78 shellac records actually had a commercial life span of around seventy years, that even today beats the current life span of 12” vinyl LPs, CDs and of course Mp3s. Developed by Columbia Records the format wasn’t marketed until 1948.
Here is Ian talking about To What Strange Place which had the biggest surprise of all for him when he initially thought he was collecting music of the former Ottoman Empire recorded in Greece, Turkey, and Syria. What he learned instead was that he was collecting some of the earliest recordings made in America which until this release were almost completely forgotten.
In 2011 Jonathan Ward compiled Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPM on the fabulous Dust to Digital label. There’s a whole heap of new releases in the pipeline from the label including this one Excavated Shellac: Reeds which includes 78rpm era reed performances from around the world including Tanzania, Kurdistan, Turkey, China and more.
In this ‘Vinyl Aside’ video he talks about and shares some of his collection:
With collectors like this and labels like Dust to Digital and Tompkins Square re-releasing such music back into the world we’re all the richer for it.