Love me some Durium

In March, just before “the big hiatus,” my last featured record was Hit of the Week #1088, with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra directed by Hymie Wolfson playing Walter Donaldson’s foxtrot “Little White Lies.”

As you may recall, HOTW was a Depression-era label that pressed their albums on a paper-like product called Durium instead of on the standard shellac. The result was a very inexpensive and easy to transport record (albeit one-sided).

I was just sent this fun blog that is maintained by a fellow collector who has chosen to specialize in HOTW records. As with so many other collectibles, there are niche collectors who seek out records by specific artists, in specific genres, or, in this case, from a specific label.

In 2005 Archeophone Records released a four-volume set of 8 CDs with every HOTW master. The point being the music – the exact same music – is available in modern, convenient, and cleaned-up form. So why the Durium Project? Because to some the medium is as important as the content. The medium in itself has value as a historical, aesthetic, and even scientific object.

The notion of a paper recording medium is as close to the ephemeral nature of today’s digital music, that exists in microchips and in the “cloud,” as the great era of 78s ever came.

Ironically in attempting to make a media that delivered the music in as cheap and easily replaceable a format as possible, Hit of the Week created a unique historical artifact in its own right. It is one that captures a moment in American history and, through its constitution alone, illustrates the economic conditions of the nation.