With phonographs on my mind lately, I’ve been contemplating scores of phonograph-related ideas. Just anything that would come to mind that was related to the machine. Needle tin designs, stories, sight gags, characters, et cetera. I know, that’s a little bit strange. But healthy, I think. There are so many objects and devices we, as contemporary human beings, know a lot about and can readily employ in a piece of art, story or anything else creative. Ask any art student to come up with a humorous comic strip revolving around an iPod and they can probably do it with ease. Ask one to do the same, but about a phonograph? Probably not so easy. A basic conception of a device is not enough to perpetuate that we are familiar with it by using it in prominently a piece of creative work. That’s why I want to familiarize myself with all there is to know about the machines – how they work, the different types of records they are capable of playing and so on. And this doesn’t just go for phonographs, but anything antiquated. Vintage automobiles, typewriters, candlestick phones… anything.
I am finding, however, that when pushing the humor card with something people just don’t know anything about, folks just aren’t going to get all of the references or humor. They’re just not. You’re putting 110% into something that will elicit the response “I don’t get it” time and time again. I don’t mind it so much, as long as I amuse myself. If people know what I’m talking about, then I count myself lucky. It’s a bonus.
And so I’ve been amusing myself with a character that came to mind recently. He’s hardly defined but the most basic elements of him are there. The idea started out with the hummingbird – their beaks reminded me of phonograph needles (a phonograph needle is a 1/2 inch long needle that is attached to the reproducer and that makes contact with the record – the needle must be replaced after playing each record.) The idea of using a hummingbird as a needle for some woodland creature’s machine struck me as funny. A classic sort-of sight gag one might find in stories like Song of the South. Something that, in a round-about sort of way, payed homage to the bird-related needle brands of decades past like the British-make, Songster. But the idea progressed to other animals, and when it comes to needles, what animal is more apt than the porcupine?
The idea here is that he does not manufacture needles, as one would assume, but that he plucked them off of his own body, hence his being naked from the neck-down (he couldn’t reach the ones on his head.) The entire character is one big sight gag. And to make it even cornier, the style of collar he is wearing is called a “poke” collar (presumably Arrow Brand… with a diamond-pointed bow tie, of course.) Nyuck, nyuck nyuck, get it? I put a lot of thought into this stuff! A little bit of obscure knowledge, like styles of detachable collars, can go a long way.
And for the fun of it, here’s Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra performing Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” That’s right, Louis Prima wrote this number. I’ve always been one of the masses who merely assumed it was Benny Goodman. Embarrassing to admit, as it is. This is a fairly obscure recording (when comparing it to Benny Goodman’s arrangements, obviously) but I like it comparably as much! Have a listen and judge for yourself.