A Voice (O-Graph) in the Badlands

Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973) is one of my favourite films of all time. I hadn’t seen it in many years until I watched it on Criterion Collection DVD a few weeks ago. I vividly recalled many of the images but there’s one notable scene I’d completely forgotten – the one where Kit (Martin Sheen’s character) makes a Voice-O-Graph record shortly after killing his teenage girlfriend’s father. I find this scene totally fascinating now because I have a few Voice-O-Graphs in my record collection and it’s very cool to see how they were made back in the day (the film is set in the late 50s). Here’s the sequence (click images to enlarge):


Kit puts two quarters in the slot…


and selects the recording speed (exactly the opposite of what the instructions say – but he’s a rebel).

He begins to speak:


“Uh… My girl Holly and I decided to kill ourselves, same way I did her dad. Big decision, huh? Uh… The reasons are obvious. I don’t have time to go into them right now, but uh… One thing though… he was provoking me when I popped him. That’s what it was like… Pop…”


Time is running out.


The lathe cuts into the soft surface of the record blank.


“Now we’re sorry. I mean, nobody’s coming out of this thing happy, especially not us. I can’t deny we’ve had fun though… and that’s more than I can say for some… That’s the end of the message… I’ve run out of things to say… Thank you.”


We see the shattered door of the Voice-O-Graph recording booth.


Kit takes his newly minted record…


places it in his mouth (not an ideal way to treat a record) and leaves the (train? bus?) station.

Here are some real Voice-O-Graph recordings from my collection:

“The Chicken”

German voice letter

This is super cool: Jack White’s record store in Nashville has what may be the world’s only functional, publicly accessible Voice-O-Graph machine.

Record Cover of the Week


Various: Motorcars In Concert 1970

The name and cover art suggest a concerto for horns and hubcaps. Nope – nothing nearly avant-garde happening here. It’s a promo for General Motors new cars for 1970. The gatefold sleeve originally came with a booklet of glossy photos of GM’s new models (it’s missing) plus an LP of 10 easy-listening instrumental cuts from the Canadian Talent Library. It’s a pretty good compilation that includes two of my CTL favourites – Peter Appleyard’s Soulful Strut and Ben McPeek’s Kapuskasing Kaper (listen to them here), plus numbers by CTL stalwarts Jimmy Namaro, Jerry Toth, Rob McConnell, Bill Badgley and Lucio Agostini.


click to embiggen

Thrift Item of the Moment: Christmas Balls


I’ve been snapping these up at thrift stores and rummage sales all fall. I got this entire box for 2 bucks. I like to get them in their original boxes with price tags from Woodward’s or Zeller’s or other defunct stores.These were made in Poland, but most of the ones I own come from East Germany (obviously they’re from another era).┬áMy objective is to have as little (fake) tree showing as possible.

Record Cover of the Week


Jackie Shane: Live

“Shane was one of the most popular singers in Toronto’s thriving R & B scene of the mid-sixties. He was a remarkable figure for his day: he was openly gay and a cross dresser with a flair for fashion. Shane’s magnetic charisma and passionate performances made him a favourite of a generation of Toronto club goers.” -from the introduction to “I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane” an excellent hour-long CBC Radio documentary.

This was Jackie’s only album, recorded at the Sapphire Tavern in Toronto in 1967.

The only known video footage of Jackie Shane.

“I Bet Your Mama Was a Tent-Show Queen” – article by Carl Wilson

Thrift Item of the Moment: The Paintings of Ada C.


This remarkable painting, labeled “Daniel In The Lion’s Den”, is by Ada C. – her name, address and phone number are printed on the back. I found it at a thift store last week and was immediately taken by the cubist/art deco style. I didn’t have my camera on me (what was I thinking?) so I had to come back the next day to take a picture. I’d love to buy it but I don’t want to pay the $30 sticker price. I tried haggling with store staff but they wouldn’t budge on the price. They said it might be marked down in a few weeks if it doesn’t sell, so I’ll be checking back.


Ada also did this painting (of a Roman soldier?). Nice, but it’s no “Daniel”.