By Parson Thru
Words from a half-forgotten past: “radiogram”.
Appearing in an English translation of Solzhenitsyn’s “Matryona’s House”.
I half-remember those pieces of furniture with a grille at one end from which the sound escaped.
Lifting the lid on its metal stay, one would find a glowing console illuminating various mysterious names: “Light”, “Luxembourg”, “Athlone”.
Behind the controls sat a turntable with heavy cream-coloured pick-up arm and a means of stacking records to be automatically played one after the other – more often than not dropping all at once down the spindle.
The sound was always rich in bass, living deep within the cabinet. It had the texture of mahogany. Early Beatles tunes will never sound right on anything else.
Am I imagining it, or were the stereo versions called “stereograms”?
Older examples were heavy and dark, like grandparents’ sideboards and bed-sit wardrobes.
Better-off relatives had the modern sort in teak. Light and airy to fit with the room, slim tapered legs and wooden strips in front of the speaker – clean and new.
Radiograms were furniture first, their playing being an event in itself, often necessitating the removal of doilies and vases – far too much trouble unless warranted by guests.
I don’t remember seeing them disappear. They just became forgotten.
Only Solzhenitsyn’s English translator brings them back.
And now I see those warmly-lit corners and recall the sound of lost voices.