Filling a Jukebox & Thinking Nostalgically About Vinyl (Part 1)
Last December I purchased a 1965 Seeburg Discotheque jukebox from a woman in Nowthen for $375 and had it brought up to Duluth.
It was a mammoth undertaking in searching, researching, and finally finding a jukebox that would fulfill my needs. I didn’t want anything new enough to hold CDs, I wanted as much chrome and glass on the thing as a muscle car, and it needed it to work properly.
The idea of adding a jukebox to my home was a slow progression down the black road of vinyl addiction. I like to blame Jack White of the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather for planting the seed in my brain.
White, who owns Third Man Records out of Nashville, Tennessee, has been creating vinyl releases throughout his career. He has produced extremely valuable 45rpms records that sell for hundreds of dollars from his early career and ones even more valuable that were more recently produced.
To begin a true vinyl addiction one must go back to when that technology was in its prime, the 1980s. Sure cassettes were great, but when I was given Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album when I was eight it played on our console stereo endlessly. Some of you may remember the giant wooden stereos that took up an entire wall of a home and had a great sound. Eventually I cut our console up when I got my first car for the large speakers inside, but man were those things behemoths.
It was really the album art back then was what initially sucked me into loving vinyl. It also made me appreciate the art that went into music and the mythology it allowed an artist to create visually. I remember looking at a blue Beatles’ greatest hits record that had a photo of the band looking out over a railing from their early days on the cover. When you opened up the LP it had the band standing on that same railing, but this photo was from a few years later when their hair had grown out.
There was John Lennon’s “Imagine” album with the clouds rising up around him and a Rolling Stones cover with a tattooed face that intrigued me. This art stuck with me through my CD/cassette days in high school. When I reached college in the mid-nineties I took my parent’s limited selection of vinyl and began searching out my own finds.
Picking records in a pre-internet (or pre-EBay) world was pricey and took some real old fashioned detective work. There were flea market and antique stores that had boxes stuffed with crappy big-band standard music and jazz records everywhere. Finding a Doors, Beatles, Stones, or other top-tiered band’s record was tough. For example, I paid about $30 for an Abby Road first pressing never opened from an antique dealer back in the day. That was cheap, but a White Album from any pressing also ran around the same price, as did most records from the 1960s era.
Some of you may have read my previous article about the flood. I lost all of my records when the Duluth Deluge of 2012 drowned my entire collection. Sure the records will play, but the art was ruined. All those hours of looking through box after box at some obscure flea market in towns like Annandale, MN was wasted. Even sadder is that you can just go on the internet and find the same records for really cheap today, so the thrill of the hunt is kind of gone.
This past fall I also broke my record player. I had owned it since my college days when I worked at Fingerhut and purchased it at their store for cheap. Fingerhut in Saint Cloud sold expensive junk with a huge interest rate through their catalogs. The original owners made some big bucks and later sold the company to a corporation that pillaged it to oblivion within a few years.
Today Fingerhut it is just a collection agency, but in late 1999 it was a huge employer in Saint Cloud. They also had a store for broken and returned items that employees received a hefty discount for shopping at. I found three record players on a shelf one day with each missing different parts. I took the pieces from each one and made one that worked. In the end it ended up only costing about $10. It was all plastic, which eventually led me to break it this past fall, but it worked great for many years.
At the time when my record player broke I had amassed about fifteen to twenty 45rpms records. This led me to begin to dream about getting an old-fashioned jukebox. My thinking was that if I didn’t want to get my dirty fingerprints on these smaller records why not get a machine that would carefully play them for me?
My first stop was EBay to look at jukeboxes, but eventually Craigslist was where I found mine. Sure they are about 4 feet wide and tall, and yes, they do weigh upwards of 400 pounds, but they were so cool looking. They light up when you play a song and have this aura about them. What also was nice in the search was that I could look at a jukebox on EBay or Craigslist and then type the model into Youtube.com and see it in action.
I had my heartbroken near Christmas when one I wanted was sold before I got down to the Twin Cities to look at it. In the end it was a blessing in disguise as I ended up buying one much cheaper and cooler looking. My 1965 Seeburg Discotheque originally cost $3500.00 back when it was new for a bar to lease the machine for three years. The club was also instructed to hang up “go-go” artwork on the walls and have special dance nights where patrons would all shake a tail feather doing the frug or swim.
Luckily this was a snowless winter as rolling a 400 pound jukebox on a dolly with plywood laid out would have been a nightmare in the white stuff. When I finally got it all set up I found that the music inside sucked. I shouldn’t say “sucked”, as 1981 had a few good tunes, but this thing ended its career at a horrible moment in music. No one had ever changed the records inside as creating labels poses a huge problem to most jukebox enthusiasts.
After learning how to properly change the records I began replacing the selections inside. I would remedy the lack of labels by writing the new song titles on the backs of the labels that were initially in the machine. That looked hokey, so I came up with a better way.
I took several of the original record labels and used the most basic of modern technology to recreate them, a scanner. Throughout the era of the jukebox there were many different colors and styles used in the labels that record companies produced. I scanned several from different eras and then brought them up on my Windows’ Paint program. The next step was to remove the original band name and song titles from the label to start fresh. I also really wanted to maintain the original yellowing and aging of the paper, so after a few different techniques I came up with one that was successful. By using the “select square” function I copied a blank square area of the original label. I would then paste that blank section over the top of the writing on it to cover it up. After repeating this several times with the different sections of the label it was blank, but it still looked old.
The next step to creating an authentic label was to find a modern font for the text that matched what was used back when the labels were new. I found that using Franklin Gothic Heavy font in Paint worked excellent for the song titles. You also need to remember that everything was usually capitalized on the label. The band name was also a skinnier font and so I settled on using a bold TW.
One trick was to type the song title outside of the label area, select it (making sure you don’t select the background around the letters), and then drag it onto the label. This way you can center it properly on the label.
The last step was to select the label from Paint, copy it, and paste it onto a Word document. By putting them onto one sheet I could save money when I professionally printed them for $1 a sheet. To get to that step I printed out a few ahead of time to make sure they were the right dimensions, but you can adjust that when you paste them into Word from Paint. Eventually after some time and fiddling around I filled an entire sheet of a Word document with about 20 labels. I then took them to Paper Hog and had them printed in color on a slightly thicker paper.
The end result was better than what I had expected. The labels look slightly aged and very authentic. I even played around and made a Rolling Stones’ label with their trademark lips and Jack White’s Third Man Record labels in their signature yellow color.
Now that I could make new labels the hunt was on for records I would want to listen to on the jukebox. The Vinyl Cave in Superior became my destination as they boast over 300,000 little 45rpm records with most costing $1. The key to enjoying a jukebox is to change your records frequently or you will grow bored with the machine. The Vinyl Cave has sucked me into amassing a 45 collection with over 200 little records now. The jukebox holds 80 records at a time (160 songs) so now I can change what is in there often.
Next week I am going to go through the records in the jukebox and why they were chosen. There is new music, old music, and silly songs abound coming in Part 2. Visit www.fheads.com to see a video of the juke in action. Feel free to email me if you are interested in learning more about purchasing one for your home or need help making labels.
Filling A Jukebox & Thinking Nostalgically About Vinyl (Part 2)
So what does a rock writer have in his 1965 Seeburg Discotheque jukebox? Last week I discussed vinyl in general, but this week I want to explain how I filled mine with 160 records.
I have found that putting the records in the jukebox by era makes it easier to understand for the song chooser. There are ten columns of labels with eight record labels to a column. The first column has early rock & roll going back to the 1950s. Right this moment the first column has two records that I found on Ebay that were made for this specific Seeburg Discotheque jukebox. They were in a sealed box from 1965, but they were all just basically background music. They are LPs that are 7inches, but the songs are covers done by big bands from the era.
The first row following the LPs begins with The Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll”, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”, Fats Domino’s “My Blue Heaven”, Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and “Peggy Sue”, Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and “Roll Over Beethoven”, and Rick Nelson’s “Lonesome Town”.
The column focused a bit more on Nashville and has two more of those special Discotheque LPs. The labels for the LPs is made of plastic and lights up nicely when the juke is turned on. The next record in that column is a Patsy Cline LP that I found at the Vinyl Cave. The LPs were a money maker for the proprietor because you paid extra and got more songs for your money, usually 3 songs. Following Cline is Elvis Presley singing “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, Jerry Lee Lewis singing with Elvis and Roy Orbison on “Save the Last Dance For Me”, Johnny Cash singing “Walk the Line” and “Get Rhythm”, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’”, and Elvis doing his anthem of “Blue Suede Shoes”.
The next column’s records were picked after staying up late and watching a Time-Life infomercial on the songs of the early 1960s. The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby”, Frank Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year”, That’s Life”, and September of My Years”, The Platters’ “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “Twilight Time”, The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Top Gun)” and “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”, Skeeter Davis’ “The End Of The World”, and Phil Phillips doing “Sea Of Love”.
Column four focuses on the mid-1960s with a slight bias toward the British Invasion. The first song of the row is “Draggin’ The Line” by Tommy James and the Shondells followed by Mary Hopkin singing “Those Were The Days” and “Goodbye”. The one song that everyone from that era plays when they go to the jukebox is “Those Were the Days”. It has this nostalgic property to it that I will never understand being that I was born at least 10 years after the song was made. “Goodbye” was written by Paul McCartney circa the Sgt. Pepper years and is a nice cover. Mary Hopkin’s voice rides an extremely fine line between being nice and annoying though.
The rest of that mid-60s column has Otis Redding singing “The Dock of the Bay”, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich performing “Hold Tight” (Death Proof), “Have I The Right” by the Honeycombs, “Light My Fire” and “Crystal Ship” by The Doors, “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks, and a great Beach Boys Medley on one side and “God Only Knows”.
The next column focuses on the psychedelic rock of the mid to late 1960s. The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” are at the top. They are followed by my parent’s favorite song by The Moody Blues, “Nights in White Satin”. “Over The Hill & Far Away and “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin, “Little Green Bay” (Resiviour Dogs) by The George Baker Selection, “Sunshine Superman” and “Mello Yellow” by Donovan, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Honky Tonk Woman” by The Stones, “Down on Me” and “Bye, Bye Baby” by Janis Joplin make it complete.
Because I love the music from that whole late-1960s wave I continued that trend to the next column that is in the same area. At the top is “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Nilsson, “Down on the Corner” and “Fortunate Son” by CCR, “Mrs. Robinson” and “Old Friends-Bookends” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Brown Sugar” by The Stones, “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newton, “Baby It’s You” by Smith, “Closer To Home” by Grand Funk Railroad, and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. The last two are two of my favorite three-piece bands.
The next two columns are a mish-mash of 1970s and 1980s stuff. The whole nostelga wave for me is tougher for this era, but the first section has Supertramp’s “Bloody Well Right”, “Angie” by The Stones, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” by Steely Dan, “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine (HAIR) by the 5th Dimension, “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, “Maggie May” and “Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart, and “Space Oddity” and “The Man Who Sold The World” by David Bowie. For those out there who are Nirvana fans “The Man Who Sold The World” has special meaning.
The next section has “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Stray Cat Strut” by The Stray Cats, “One Way Or Another” by Blondie, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco, “Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C., “It’s Still Rock And Roll” by Billy Joel, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and “Come as You Are” and “Drain You” by Nirvana. This row changes often with lots of 1980s and 1990s stuff.
The last two sections are more modern. They begin with “Wonderwall”, Round Are Way”, I’m Outta Time”, and “The Shock of Lightening” by Oasis. Then we have “Millionaire” by Liam Gallagher’s new band Beady Eye as my wife loves her some Liam.
The next song is a one-of-a-kind for my jukebox alone. It is a 45rpm by The Black Eyed Snakes with “Chicken Bone George” on one side and “She Moves Me” on the other. This was a gift and compliments the next record by The Little Black Books’, “They’re Never Wrong”.
From this year’s record store day I added The Black Keys’ 45rpm with “Sister” and “Money Maker” performed live. This came with the RSD release of El Camino, but unfortunately the 45 only had a small hole that is usually only put on larger LPs.
My jukebox had one of the first modern computers back in 1965. It is able to read the record and determine the speed to play based on the hole in the center. This caused many problems in England back in the day because their 45s all came with a small hole. There was a tool created to make the hold larger. The process is called, “dinking” and is kind of difficult to do properly. Luckily I found a guy out in Rhode Island who will “dink” my records for 50 cents a piece. I usually send him a few at a time and anxiously await their return a few weeks later. The Black Keys and Black Eyed Snakes records both had to be dinked and I recently got them back. They sound awesome on vinyl through the old juke.
The remaining records on my jukebox are all Third Man releases. I belong to the Vault, which sends you a new group of records every 3 months from TMR. Within each edition released there is usually a 45rpm. There was an amazing remake by Beck of The White Stripes’ “The Hardest Button to Button” as well as very early White Stripe re-releases and special tri-colored Dead Weather or Raconteur songs. Jack White also releases singles off of his new album “Blunderbuss” for $6 each and the b-side usually contains something previously unreleased. One example would be “Freedom At 21” and it’s b-side of “Inaccessible Mystery”.
Having a jukebox can be fun. With modern releases it is not just a relic of the past, it is a way to preserve and appreciate music.