“…for people and things that went before”

I made a small but enjoyable discovery last night upon taking out my copy of the Beatles’ Revolver. Tucked inside the sleeve for safe keeping were four record tokens which my uncle Ron, the original owner, had been diligently stockpiling, but which he’d evidently forgotten about before spending. The tokens were for ‘Keith Freer’ of 259 Cotmanhay Road in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and each was worth just one twelfth of a 45 rpm single.

Record token for ‘Keith Freer’ of 259 Cotmanhay Road, Ilkeston.

As far as I can make out, Keith Freer was an electrical shop which opened in Ilkeston close to when Revolver was released in the late-1960s. From looking at my uncle’s copy it appears to have been from the original 5 August 1966 pressing, as among other distinguishing features it contains a mispelling of the track ‘Doctor Robert’ on the label (it’s abbreviated here to ‘Dr. Robert’). Unsurprisingly, Revolver was a big seller and a second pressing went into production later that year. This makes me think Ron probably bought his copy shortly after it first went on sale, and that the tokens inside were therefore likely acquired at around the same time.

My uncle died in 2013, which is why it was nice to find this remnant of a forgotten moment from his life fifty years ago, undisturbed and previously undiscovered. It also served as a reminder of the enormous technological and cultural changes which have taken place since Revolver was released in 1966, as today when virtually any piece of recorded music can be accessed freely and instantaneously, the idea of someone saving up tokens to hear just two sides of music feels curiously quaint. Similarly, when I play the record itself I am conscious of the passage of decades through the intermittent pops and crackles caused by repeated plays.

At the same time however the music it contains, like many albums produced in that transformative year, defies and transcends its aging physical medium through its deathless, shattering modernity. Perhaps uniquely among ‘family history sources’ therefore, a piece of vinyl passed from one generation to another is valuable as both a record of that relative’s time with the object, but also a means of inducing some of the same feelings they must have felt when they first encountered it.

‘R. Eaton’, my uncle Ron’s proprietory inscription on the record’s top right-hand corner.