WRC - A Budding Audiophile’s Early Education

Posted on 12th May, 2014

WRC - A Budding Audiophile’s Early Education

Reading John Day's article on World Record Club recently prompted some of my early memories as a budding audiophile. As a secondary school student in the early to mid 1960’s, money was very tight.  I needed a savings plan to come up with the price of an LP.  The World Record Club, based in suburban Hartwell, was a Mecca for a young audiophile trying to find his way into the labyrinth of classical music.

As I recall, the joining fee included prepayment for your first four record purchases, and the recurrent costs of ordering and paying for records from the catalogue was about half normal retail.  My earliest memories of the catalogue were that it was a hit parade of the classics, with exotic and previously unknown names like Khachaturian and Stravinsky, shoulder to shoulder with the established Beethovens, Mozarts and Brahms.  The covers were classics in their own way – both stylised and stylish.

There was no better way to fill a Saturday morning than to get from my home in Ivanhoe to Hartwell by public transport or hitchhiking and getting lost in a world of imagining the luxury of having the funds to acquire the full catalogue.  From recollection, when my idea of a hi fi system was my parent’s radiogramme, the quality of the recordings was every bit as good as those commercially available.  The catalogue included jazz and emerging folk music from the US, as well as the European classics.

In later years I came across some 7 inch discs of the kind normally recorded at 45 rpm but in this instance featuring classical music recorded at 33 and 1/3.  Amongst other hi fi memorabilia I have retained, they are probably worth putting on ebay.

As school transitioned into university and I got part time work and could even afford to pay retail, the World Record Club became less significant.  But I still enjoyed the catalogues and established a personal hit-list of classics as a foundation for my own record collection.  Even at that stage I sensed that playing recorded music was going to become an obsession.  I used to drool over the Bang & Olufsen hi fi systems on which your recording of choice would be played at WRC headquarters.  In those days B & O seemed beyond the aspirations of a school student and inhabited that fantasy world of “maybe someday ...”.

Fast forwarding 20 years, to the early days of CD, I realised that my treasures from the World Record Club should be retained and I began to devour the Trading Post to find and purchase LP collections that people had foolishly decided to “upgrade” to CD.  In that process I was exposed to the magic of Reader’s Digest Albums, usually in collections of 10 or 12 LP’s in specially made Folios.  I have around a dozen of these in my collection and they remain some of the best and most atmospheric recordings I own, even if in glorious mono.

The name “World Record Club” still evokes many happy reminiscences of my early voyage of musical discovery.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi Music Industry
Tags: world record club  vinyl  turntable