Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Once again: The Internet is amazing. Yes, I know it is claimed that 40-60% of it is porn, and it also contains some of the vilest lies and garbage data people have ever come up with. But it is also the most incredible repository of really good information and art the human race has ever seen. Case in point:

I always have a song playing in my head. Always, every waking hour. Sometimes it’s Beethoven’s Ninth or Rhapsody in Blue. Sometimes it’s Jingle Bells even worse. But sometimes it is a dozen or so songs that I learned when I was in the first grade in Fort Worth, Texas.

I had a little record player. It was the kind that came with a box of needles that looked like they were made of brass. When one of them got dull, you took it off the tone arm and tossed it, and screwed in another. The sound must have been ultra lo-fi, but hardly anyone had even heard of hi-fi yet (this was 1954!), so we didn’t know how crappy it was. It played records that were 10 inches, 78 rpm. Some of them are for sale now at eBay at premium prices. Even if I had one, I wouldn’t be able to play it. My fancy Technics linear-tracking turntable (it will play upside down!) only handles 33 1/3 and 45.

In that long-ago year I had some records that I played a lot. I’m not sure how many, but I remember three of them vividly. I mean, I can still sing most of the songs on two of them. One of them was called Bring a Song, Johnny. It was about a little boy whose teacher asked everyone to bring a song to school the next day. So everywhere little Johnny went, he heard people singing. One song was from his father, another from a carpenter, another from a saleslady in a department store, and so forth.

For years I wondered if I could ever hear those songs again. Then a few nights ago I located all three on YouTube! Here is the first one, which is only 5:48 long, but manages to squeeze eight songs into so short a time. I would have sworn it was three times that long: Bring a Song, Johnny!

As soon as the songs started to play I could sing right along with them. This, after 63 years of not hearing them! I noticed in the comments that many other people had the same experience. They were probably like me, playing them over and over and over. I must have driven my mother crazy.

One I recall even better was Robin Hood. I had never even tried to search for that one, because what terms would I use? But all these platters were part of something called the Children’s Record Guild. They were sold through mail order subscription, I would guess monthly. (Mom, do you remember buying them?) This one was much longer, a whole 14:53! I loved this one. What a story! I learned all the songs, and still remembered most of them, as well as most of the dialogue. Robin Hood.

Now, 63 years later, I can see that some of these songs were inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan, especially the one about the rules of archery.

But the most interesting record I remember is this one about a trip to the moon: By Rocket to the Moon.

I can’t help but wonder if that one had anything to do with me becoming a science fiction writer? Most of it is scientifically accurate, too.

As for any other of these discs, I sure wish I had had some of them. Young People’s Records.

Believe it or not, some of them introduced children to classical composers like Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, and even Aaron Copland.

Can you imagine anyone offering stuff like that to children today? What do they have instead? Marketing tools like My Little Pony or Pokemon.

June 8, 2018
Vancouver, WA