Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why I collect Ghettoblasters

I grew up in Saskatchewan in the 1970’s after my parents moved to Canada(after a stint in the UK) from Trinidad & Tobago. Caribbean folk tended to emigrate to three locales in those days, London England, Brooklyn New York, and Toronto. My Dad had decided to be different, se we lived far from most black folk, and thus our summers were spent driving across the world’s largest country to visit our relatives.

In the early 80’s, I had an older sister whose boyfriend had a JVC PC-55, and I looked up to him tremendously as he was from Toronto, and seemed so cosmopolitan to a 14 year old kid from the Prairies. I became a courier on my epic summer driving vacations to Toronto and New York with my family for his best friend Hugh who was a local DJ. I would pick him up records that he found in vinyl magazines when I was in Brooklyn and when I got home he would make me these amazing mixtapes of electrofunk that were the envy of all.

His living room/mixing studio had a Technics 1200, a Bang and Olufsen turntable that was actually suspended from the ceiling, and a nice home deck, but what caught my eye was a JVC ghettoblaster as his second deck. It was a JVC RC-M70c, and I loved that boombox! Imagine a young kid who had this 24 year old man willing to spend Sunday afternoons letting me watch him create his magic! He had his two turntables, and a microphone, and he would rhyme and scratch, and I was spellbound! My tapes with Master Hugh mixing, rhyming and scratching were my greatest treasure and I am a bit ashamed to say that I did not like to share them much! I felt then and later that I was on the frontier of hip hop, although Hugh was mixing bands like Dazz Band, Midnight Star, and Newcleus, his style of production was what we all equate now with the roots of old skool beats.

My brother was four years older, so he was able to buy a boombox from a Canadian catalogue company called Consumers Distributing. He bought a Citizen 1292, a bit bigger than an M70, but with a cool digital tuner that was constructed to look analogue! My brother would let me hang out with him and his friends and I would have my tapes blasting from his radio while I got to carry it! I felt obscenely cool as an awkward teen hanging with older boys and being in charge of the beats!

My dad went to NY the next summer(I was about 16), and I asked for my own bombox. He brought me back a minibox, a Sanyo M7770k, a nice radio, but not the boomer I was accustomed to by any stretch! In retrospect, he had to fit it in his suitcase, but I was not as understanding back then.

When I left home at 19 or twenty I convinced my older siblings o pitch in and I bought her a Panasonic RX-C52 with a turntable so that she had a nice little system that was fairly easy to use. She used it until she died in 1995, and I was so distraught, I never thought to find out what happened to it. It was the single most expensive item that I bought for my Mother and I was always proud of the fact she had a classy and cool stereo…

For myself I purchased a Sharp GF-810 in 1987 I think), it had detachable speakers and a ten band EQ, and it was loud! Not as cool or as nice as the PC-55 had been, but certainly respectable, and I cost $600! I owned it for a decade and moved it to two different cities before its fateful demise.

I was living in Vancouver and had met a Francophone woman and one night we at my apartment “making the love,” and I had candles on top of a shelf and my Sharp underneath providing the atmosphere—something Sade-like I am sure. Anyway, in mid—act, she screeches in a new way and I look up to see my radio on fire and a column of flame shooting up the wall to the ceiling! A candle had been knocked over by our enthusiasm, dripped into the radio and started a fire! I leapt up, ran to the kitchen, filled up a pitcher of water(I know! Worst thing for an electrical fire!), and doused the flame. The unit was melted and I threw it out after we both calmed down and had a laugh(side note: when I began collecting boomboxes, I found the tape had mistakenly thought it had burned up in the radio! I still love it).

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