Michael Gammon of Transcriptors
written by Matt Trush
If you have ever seen Stanely Kubrick's 1971 film 'A Clockwork Orange', you might recall an amazing turntable in Alex's bedroom. It is called the Hydraulic Reference and was made by a company called Transcriptors.
From 1963 to 1979, Transcriptors produced some truly unique turntables. David Gammon, the founder, won several awards for his iconic designs and today, you can find his work in places like the Museum of Modern Art here in NYC.
We had a chance to hear from Michael Gammon, the eldest son of founder David Gammon, to get an inside look at what it was like to grow up with Transcriptors.
First, a bit of history from the Transcriptors site.
Founded in 1960 by the late David Gammon, Transcriptors was one of the World’s leading manufacturer of manual turntables, tone arms and accessories, and one of the most modern Hi Fi manufacturing plants in Europe during the 60’s, 70’s and the early 80’s.
Many readers will be familiar with our turntables, which have been widely used in numerous television commercials, and in many films, including the classic 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ which used our 1964 Hydraulic Reference turntable in various scenes throughout the film.
Our products have been copied and reproduced all over the world, from the ‘Concept 2000’ and the ‘Audio Linear’. Even today’s modern turntable design’s bear there origins to the striking designs that were designed by David Gammon, perhaps no better compliment could be paid to his famous turntables.
Sadly David passed away in December 2005 after a long illness. He leaves five children Michael, David, Natasha, Ben and Olga, and four grandchildren.
Michael Gammon was born in Colchester, England in 1971 and moved to Clacton-on-Sea and then to Borehamwood. He was kind enough to share some great stories from his childhood and offer us a unique perspective his father's work, the vinyl format, and turntables.
Tell us about how you came to love music, audio, and vinyl records.
I have been interested in records and audio since I was five years old. Dad used to take us to the factory on Saturday mornings and we used to sit at one of the work benches whilst he made us a cup of tea. It was one of these Saturday mornings that he said to me "have a listen to this" and what he played introduced me to the wonderful world of audio.
The record he played was Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene and to this day I still use it as one of my main records when we do the hi-fi shows. As a young boy I could not get it into my head how you produced music from electronic components. This also lead me to play drums for twenty years and also piano, both self taught.
I love records, the way the outer sleeve is designed, removing the record and placing it on the turntable then sitting back in a chair and closing your eyes and being immersed into the sound.
Dad always said "you listen to music, you don't watch it!"
What was your earliest memory of your father's work with Transcriptors?
The earliest memory I have is when I used to come home from school and there would be a different turntable on the shelf, the first one i can remember is the Round Table. I later found out that Dad did this with all new models and would have my Mum testing each new model.
1975 Round Table
What is you're favorite story from that time period?
My favorite story is when Dad bought my Mum a new Mini car. He had just picked it up from the dealership and was smoking a cigarette when he could smell the fumes of petrol. He looked down at his feet and saw that a massive amount of petrol had leaked into the footwell of the car. So he carefully stopped the car, carefully open the door and ran!
The Hydraulic Reference is a design icon. Is this your favorite model or do you have another that you love?
The Hydraulic is one of my all time favorite turntables as this is the one that can tell you what it is without ever looking at the badge. It is a design classic and when you look in the old hi-fi year books and one page you have a standard turntable in a wooden box then you turn the page and you have a Hydraulic there is no comparison. That's probably why the late Stanley Kubrick came to see my father and borrow one for his film 'A Clockwork Orange', dad never saw it again!
However I love all the other models he did, because as an engineer you are always out to improve on an existing idea so hence the design timeline from the 1963 Reference to his last turntable the Transcriber in 1979.
It says on the history page that the family moved to New York in 1974 to serve the US market with the Skeleton and the Round Table. What was that like?
It was an eye opener that was for sure. Moving from the south of Ireland to the big apple was a big step. The hi-fi industry in Europe was starting to decline so Dad found a new exciting market in the US. We moved in to a penthouse overlooking Central Park and Dad used to take us there every day. On the same floor in our apartment block we had the 1970's group The Platters who always use to make fun of our english accents.
Dad had a house in Long Island lined up but then decided at the last moment that he could not stand the heat so we came back to Ireland. Also he had been to the World Trade Center to rent an office there but was cautious about safety. He was also afraid of heights and also could not foresee what would happen on that tragic day (god bless them all).
You re-launched Transcriptors in 2000. Tell us a bit about why you decided to do that and what Transcriptors does today.
I was trawling the internet and came across a post about somebody looking for David Gammon of Transcriptors. I replied and within two days I was having an eight hour conversation with a collector from Florida. He had all of Dads turntables and suggested I do a web site.
I originally posted a short one page of information but then started to get enquiries for spares etc. So after spending ten years in injection moulding as a cnc toolsetter I restarted the company. In late 2002, I was asked when the new turntable was coming out, I just told them there had not been one made since 1979.
I taught myself autocad over a weekend and then came up with the T6 turntable which we still make today. We also service and repair and also offer a full spares service for all the models my late father produced.
Tell us a bit about the future of Transcriptors. Any plans for new models / expansion?
We will still be producing turntables as long as there is a hunger for the format. The current line up of turntables in the T6, Reference Series II (based on dads hydraulic reference) and the Spyder. We move in to a factory in 2010 as at the moment 75% of our components is produce by sub-contractors so we are aiming to bring it all in house.
Today, more and more people are discovering / rediscovering vinyl records. Do you have any words of advice to someone just getting started with vinyl?
Go in with an open mind. Salesmen will do anything to get a sale so visit many hi-fi shops and listen to the setup that they have running. Also remember that what you are hear in a demo room might not sound exactly the same in your own room at home.
Also you will get a lot of info regarding specification, remember specification is nothing, performance is everything. Just sit down and listen as you are equipped with the very best test equipment that money cannot buy and is supplied as standard to every human being and that is your EARS!
Any words of wisdom for someone that has never been exposed to vinyl records and turntables?]
Buy yourself a mid price turntable, amplifier and speakers, ditch your compressed music iPod and listen to how music was meant to be listened.
Thanks again to Michael for taking time to share his stories and insights with us. We're a huge fan of Transcriptors and we are looking forward to the next chapter in this great story.
Copyright 2009 Matt Trush Reprinted By Permission