My uncle used to say “Music has the ability to bring you back to a certain memory in your life—good or bad”. I can remember fond memories in my childhood — only when I hear certain songs from the late 50-70’s era. The songs I listened to were on vinyl records played on my uncle’s record player or at local diners that had a jukebox. I can recall begging my uncle for a quarter so that I could play my favorite song on the jukebox.
While this writing topic has been rather difficult for me (as I am not musically gifted), I found a technological advancement that I could relate to from my childhood — The Jukebox.
The importance of jukebox production is essential in music history. They perpetuate one’s memories due to a famous artists lyrics and sound; all the while preserving music and vocal styles in a particular period in history. Psychology tells us that by listening to music, it enhances the memories that you may have lost or that are subconscious.
Music can change your mood, and it allows us to recall aspects of our lives. When we hear a song from our teenage years; for example: it may trigger memories from high school or times spent with friends. Music has also helped dementia patients as well as trauma victims. They are treated with music therapy to help them recall moments in their lives. This not only helps those of family members but it also increases the memory of those being treated.
Which brings me to a memory in history that I am very fond of. The Jukebox is a name of a machine that is used to play records of popular music around the 1930’s. These machines were used in restaurants, diners, café’s, pubs and cost a nickel to play a song. Unfortunately, the older models aren’t used very much now due to technological advancements; but they are considered antiques and collector pieces. Older generations will seek out these machines for restoration purposes, or to collect so that they can remember a certain era in their lives. There are newer versions of jukeboxes, but I will discuss that later on.
Let me rewind a bit and explain the history of how it came about. The jukebox was influenced by the phonograph that was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. He came up with the invention by improving his telegraph and telephone invention. Edison used tinfoil coated cylinders that had two needles; one for the ability to record and the other so that it would play back. “When he tested his invention out he did so by recording his own voice, “Mary had a little lamb”. Once he realized that his invention worked, his intentions were for the machine to be used for phonographic books for the blind, a family record (recording family members in their own voices), music boxes and toys” (“Edison reading Mary Had a Little Lamb 1927”). While his invention was intended to be used for one thing, he had not imaged the potential it could be used for. The Edison company created a special model of the phonograph so that our soldiers could listen to music while fighting overseas in World War I.
In 1890 entrepreneurs, Louis Glass and William Arnold created the first nickel-in-slot phonograph which allowed listeners the ability to listen to their favorite song by inserting a nickel into the slot and entering the combination for that particular song. The coin operated phonograph had four stethoscope-like listening tubes and allowed four listeners at a time to privately enjoy the same song. “The machine did not have amplification and would require daily maintenance on the wax cylinders to preserve sound quality. Louis Glass and William Arnold debuted their invention to the public at the Palais Royal Saloon in San Francisco in 1896” (Almind). Listeners weren’t the only one reaping the benefits from this great new invention. Many record companies received an income from the coin operated invention. The machines were the first to receive the newest songs which allowed the customer to listen to their favorite song without having to hear commercials. With each song paid and played, the record companies would also get a cut of the profit.
The once nickel in slot phonograph was expanded and improved upon in technology throughout the years by other “manufactures such as: AMI, Seeburg, Wurlitzer and Rock-Ola” (“Juke Box Hall of Fame City Man Preserves Americana”). The improvements in technology were sound, electric amplification, multi song selection, and an addition of a loudspeaker. These additions made the once known coin operated machine, a Jukebox in 1937. The Jukebox became the center piece for almost every restaurant. “Black musicians considered the jukebox their best option for reaching the masses with their music, as the radio generally played only white music during that time period” (Mann).
“The Jukebox sales as well as record companies started to hit an all-time low due to the Great Depression. Luckily in the late 1930s the Jukebox started to rise again due the people having money to spend, and a new a new design of Jukebox” (“History of the Recorded Industry, 1920-1950s”). The machine was once made out of heavy wood, had a whole new design with plastic, metal, and lighting elements. As time went on, water tubes were added along with a new bubble-like shape. Swing and Rock-n-Roll became the new listening tunes that came from the Jukebox and started to arrive on television shows. History shows us that the new and improved jukebox was the “go to” for listening pleasure. We can see this in advertisements in the 40’s and 50’s, which typically entails antique cars, doo-wop music and an ice cream parlor. But with every old invention comes a new re-invention.
Thanks to Thomas Edison’s original phonograph, it has brought the history of music listening to what others can build on. It has allowed companies/entrepreneur’s such as Apple and TouchTunes to bring music listening to modern day times. Apple launched the iPod which allowed customers to purchase/download their favorite individual song or album instantaneously. Today we are able to use our phones to listen to our favorite songs by title. Through applications like: iTunes, iHeartRadio, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and Spotify we can listen to millions of artists of our liking without having to be bothered with songs we don’t want to hear. While we all love the nostalgia of the original Jukebox, the digital age is continuously rising. Restaurants and Bars have interactive digital touchscreen Jukeboxes on tables and on walls which allow customers to pay a fee with a credit card and allows them to play their favorite selection of songs.
Some machines make it even more entertaining by taking pictures of you– if you select that option. I mean, who doesn’t love a good drunk selfie while singing “Sweet Caroline” right? Ways to listen to music has changed so much over the past decade, and now as we look into the future…we ask what will come next? We’ve listened to music on phonographs, coin operated phonographs, radios, vinyl records, jukeboxes, eight tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, interactive touch screen jukeboxes & now the ability to download music right to our technology devises. As music technology advances, I ask one question – Will we ever look back at the iPod for example as a nostalgic antique? I highly doubt it. Memories of the Jukebox are the ones that will be everlasting, and for those that didn’t live through that era will probably wish they had.