Vanishing vinyls

Vanishing vinyls

June 18, 2010
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Dickson Lee
Paul Au Tak-shing, vinyl collector, and Cindy Kam Wai-fong, with their treasured records, some of which are on display at an exhibition. Photos: Dickson Lee

Lai Ying-kit talks to music lovers who remember the days before downloads and iPods

Today's technology makes it very easy to listen to music. Fans can download their favourite tunes with a few simple clicks of their mouse and then can enjoy them on their portable MP3 players whenever and wherever they like. But it was not so convenient before the invention of all the latest technology.

If you want to know how your parents or grandparents listened to the hottest hits, an exhibition in Wan Chai offers a chance. Highlights include different generations of gramophones alongside more than 100 vinyl records of both foreign and Hong Kong stars that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

These were the decades when pop music started to reach a wider audience, with the growing popularity of radio broadcasts and record players. Mass production made music affordable enough for people to have their own sound systems at home.

What iPods are to today's youth, a record player and a handsome collection of vinyl discs were a symbol of being hip back in those days. And many people who grew up with the vintage stuff remain loyal to it.

One diehard fan, Paul Au Tak-shing, explained why he still preferred to play vinyl discs rather than using CD players or digital sound tracks. He has 300,000 vinyl discs in his own collection built up throughout the past 30 years. Now he runs a second-hand vinyl shop in Sham Shui Po.

'I can hear a singer's voice at its most original on a vinyl because it is free of all computer effects. The feeling is like listening to a singer singing live in front of you. It's mesmerising,' says Au.

Meanwhile, the party scene was also very different a few decades ago. Instead of going to clubs or bars, young people rented vacant flats or garages to hold private "dance parties". Boys were responsible for everything, from choosing the venue, preparing record players and discs to inviting girls to join.

As Au pulled out a portable vinyl player he had brought along to parties of those days, Cindy Kam Wai-fong danced to an imaginary tune from the good old days.

'Private parties were the trend in those days,' recalls Kam, who was a regular party-goer. 'Boys sat on one side of the room and girls on the other. Once a song started, boys went up to the girls to ask them to dance. When the song was finished we would go back to our seats to wait for the next round,' she says.

Kam adds: 'There were not many other activities for young people in those days. The parties were a main venue for young people to meet.'

Another highlight of the exhibition is the world's earliest music player - a giant gramophone produced in the 1890s - invented by Thomas Edison.

The exhibition 'Sing Along Songs, Dance Along Songs' is organised by the Wan Chai Livelihood Place and sponsored by the Jockey Club. It runs until August at the Wan Chai Livelihood Place, Stone Nullah Lane.

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