Of all the record players that have ever been marketed, perhaps the most misconceived — but still, the most brilliant of all — were those that featured an elongated spindle, six or so inches high, onto which one could stack a heap of 45s… five or six tended to be the limit… in the knowledge that as soon as one finished, the playing arm would lift, the next record would fall, and it would play without you needing to raise a finger.
Albums, singles, EPs, the players were up for anything. They even came with an adaptor for playing the 45s with a pinch-out center hole. Truly, you could while away years before you started to wonder… what, if any, damage were you doing to your records?
Probably, quite a lot. There was no form of cushioning involved, so each record would come slamming down onto its predecessor, and you always knew when you had too many lined up because, sooner or later, one of them would slip as it played. When that happened, you’d scoop them all off the turntable, scraping against one another as you did so, and though I do not recall ever sustaining a genuine casualty, surely a few new scratches were added every time the unstoppable platter met the immovable disc.
It probably didn’t do the stylus any good, either.
But there are times when you just don’t care about such things. Home from a day at the record fair with your bag bulging with cheapo 45s, not one of which could be accused of being in “very good” condition… and you’re looking at your hi-fi set up and cringing at the thought of what might befall such a beast of beauty should you dare to suggest it try plowing through such jetsam. Plus, who wants to get up and change the record every three and a bit minutes? You’re meant to be listening to records, not working out at the gym.
That is when the old stack ’em and whack ‘em player comes out of the closet. Because that’s what it was for in the first place. Non-stop listening, non-stop partying, and when you’ve heard the a-sides one after another, you just flip the stack and play the b-sides.
So next time you spot one in a thrift store or the attic, don’t look down your nose at it and tut in disgust. Just dig out your scratchiest old 45s, and enjoy them for what they are.