State Library’s big, but little known, vinyl record hoard gets some air time

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Do you long to explore radio announcer John Laws’ oeuvre of trucking songs? Do you hanker for the wit of buck tooth country music star Chad Morgan? What about hearing 1980s heart throb Jason Donovan sing 1960s pop?

Help is at hand. It’s not well known that the State Library of Victoria has an enormous collection of vinyl records – more than 60,000 – that anyone can order to listen to on turntables on-site.
Explore the belly of Victoria’s State Library, which holds thousands of vinyl records, with arts collection manager Dermot McCaul.
On November 19, for Melbourne Music Week, arts producer, writer and vinyl enthusiast Fiona Scott-Norman will present “the best, worst and weirdest” of this trove at a free event called Vinyl From the Vault.

There will be talks and a forum with collectors and industry experts such as producer Bill Armstrong and Planet Records founder Bob “King” Crawford, a display of cover art, listening booths and the public can bring in vinyl to be valued.

Out of the vault: Arts collection manager Dermot McCaul in the State Library of Victoria basement where part of its vast …
Out of the vault: Arts collection manager Dermot McCaul in the State Library of Victoria basement where part of its vast vinyl record collection is stored. Photo: Simon Schluter
Library arts collection manager Dermot McCaul, said in the last five years the vinyl collection has doubled, surpassing 60,000 items after the ABC donated 32,000 popular singles and 6000 albums.

Twenty-years ago the library was “a bit high and mighty”, preferring classical music, but has changed its tune, “retrospectively purchasing quite a bit of Australian popular vinyl over the last few years”.

In the collection today are landmark albums such as Men At Work’s Business as Usual and Australian Crawl’s Sirocco, but also obscure or forgotten booty, such as early albums by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Peter Allen and Olivia Newton-John.

An “adults only” record called Party Songs features spoof ocker character Bazza McKenzie, played by Barry Crocker, singing titles such as One-Eyed Trouser Snake, with music and lyrics by Barry Humphries.

Among notable cover art, the back of rock band Ted Mulry Gang’s 1976 album Struttin depicts four topless male musicians standing while a topless woman sprawls at their feet, clawing at their crotches.

Buffed and fabulous: The State Library of Victoria’s vinyl record collection includes a 1990 version by Jason Donovan of …
Buffed and fabulous: The State Library of Victoria’s vinyl record collection includes a 1990 version by Jason Donovan of 1962 pop song Rhythm of the Rain. Photo: Supplied
Liner notes are another joy. The meandering spiel on John Laws’ trucking songs album Motivatin’ Man says Laws has done a good job “for a man who says he can’t sing”, and that Laws “can transport you from Darwin to Port Augusta with his soul”.

The State Library collection started with 78rpm records in the 1930s, and there are 33s (albums) and 45s (singles) from the 1960s until the advent of CDs and digital music. But the library now acquires contemporary vinyl after its hipster revival.
Mr McCaul says the Vinyl From the Vault day will “let people know it’s here. It’s the type of collection a lot of people wouldn’t think a library or state library would hold”.

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