Max Easterman Shows us his Record Collection

Catch him playing jazz at the George and Dragon on Friday May 21st

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Max and Rosie Goldsmith Acton
Max and Rosie will be performing with John Roberts (guitar and blues) at the George and Dragon on Friday 21st May from 8:00pm.

Max Goldsmith with his collection of jazz discs
Max with his collection

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183 High St, Acton W3

Tel: 020 8992 3712

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Max Easterman, whose partner is radio presenter and journalist Rosie Goldsmith (appropriately enough they live on Goldsmith Avenue), is playing jazz piano at the George and Dragon next Friday May 21st with Rosie who sings and their friend John Roberts who sings blues and plays the guitar.

We visited him to hear more about his jazz and found him surrounded by his staggering and extensive collection of 78’s. He admitted that it is an addiction for him: “I am part of a confraternity of collectors, although most people have been collecting more assiduously than me. People who deal as well as collect have much larger collections, but I don’t have the room to process thousands of records and sell them on.”

He told us about what he feels is one of the rarest discs he has – a test pressing of a late 1920’s recording of Fred Elizalde made in London.  Elizalde made his name in Cambridge playing in a varsity band in 1927 and then ran an orchestra in the Savoy Grill. As far as Max knows, his copy is the only recording of the track “I’m Glad”. He was delighted to unearth it in a pile of 40 records he bought on Ebay.

“My main reason for collecting is that I just love the music,” Max tells us. He was drawn into collecting by his maternal uncle who had a collection of 78’s in his attic. Max lived for a time in West Hartlepool with his grandmother and his Uncle Derek, an electronics engineer (who still has a workshop full of what Max calls “strange contraptions”) allowed him access to his collection from the age of four. “I would play his 78’s and probably broke quite a few,” he muses.

“In my early teens I had enough pocket money to start buying records. I remember going into the HMV shop on Oxford Street to spend my first birthday money – four 10 shilling notes – in 1956. I bought Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” which was at that time still in the catalogue and had been since 1928. I still love the Louis Armstrong.”

By that time, Max was learning the piano and joined up with a friend who played the clarinet. When they both went to Cambridge they formed a band and were joined by several others.  He left Cambridge in the 1960’s and stopped playing with the band in 1970. However, “We still play for the alumni weekend at St Catharine’s College after dinner. There are seven of us and we come from all over the UK and Scotland to perform. We got together again in 1995 and could still remember all our old arrangements. Most of us had continued to play jazz in the interim with other bands.”

Max is a journalist and part-time lecturer in Journalism at the University of Huddersfield.  He spent 36 years with the BBC, where he met Rosie, starting out as a presenter for local radio.  He worked on the Today programme and then File on 4 – the title was his idea.  He went freelance later working for BBC World Service and made a jazz series for Radio 3.

Jazz seems to be Max’s overwhelming passion. He estimates that he has around 13,000 records in his collection which has been steadily growing since he first started collecting at the age of 11. Eventually, his uncle gave Max his collection of 78’s – most of which he still has. “The particular recordings that I used to play when I was a child bring things back.”

78’s have of course been long discontinued, but Max remains fascinated by these original recordings.  “These discs are becoming harder to find, but you can still occasionally pick them up when you’re out junk shopping or at house clearances. It is rare to find them in an Oxfam shop, but it does still happen. In fact, the last time I picked up a stack in a junk shop was at Rudi Khan’s shop in Churchfield Road before it closed down.”

Max is more likely now to buy his 78’s on Ebay or from dealers. He says there are not many young collectors around – elderly collectors are dying and their collections then come onto the market. “There is no sign of a recession for people who collect old discs. Six weeks ago the collection of a Californian came on the market and 4 of his discs went for over $1,000 each. The entire collection made over $40,000.”

He is full of snippets of fascinating trivia about records. He tells us that during World War 2 shellac, which was used to make records, was in short supply. So if you wanted to buy a record, you always had to take an old one with you to the shop which would then be melted down and used to press new discs. These salvage drives were responsible for making many discs rare.

Also, did you know that records used to be sold in cycle shops during the 20’s and 30’s?

Catch this afficionado playing jazz and blues with Rosie (voice) and accompanied by their friend John Roberts (blues and guitar). (see box, above right for details).

May 15, 2010