Jukeboxes were essentially an automated music-playing device. What you would do (usually) is put a coin into the machine, then press some buttons with numbers and letters on them (to specify the A or B side of the record). Your presses told the machine to play a specific selection from its stock of records. You told the machine which song you wanted to hear, and it played it.

That was it.

The machines were large. They had to be, to store a certain number of vinyl records, after all. This was in the days — the 1950s and 1960s were the heydays of jukeboxes — before we had CDs and MP3s. Long before you could expect your audio technology to be both portable and personal. With a jukebox, whatever song you chose, everyone around was blessed to hear it, too.

Most jukeboxes were in pubs and bars in the UK. As the jukeboxes had large speakers and amplifiers, you could listen to the music with a better quality and at a higher volume than you could at home. They had their downsides, though. You could put in your coin, select your song, and never hear it. The song would be in a queue of unknown length, playing all the other chosen songs before your selection. You might be at the next bar before your song sang out.

You can still buy jukeboxes, both vintage and new, and also jukebox apps, that allow you to put together a set of music, say, for a night out with friends. But the ubiquitous jukebox has forever gone, replaced by our headphones and personal playlists.

One thing I admire about jukeboxes, though, is their raw commercial simplicity. Pay for a song, I’ll play you a song. You don’t get to download it, store it or listen again. There’s an idea for a music service in there somewhere…


3 thoughts on “Jukeboxes

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