When sounds found their feet

In the 1960s, the youth of the day dreamt of having a portable record player or a boxed gramophone, as it was called. Music conquered the bedroom.

Erika Hebeisen

Historian and curator at the Swiss National Museum

Sounds are flighty. Music could only be captured for the first time almost 140 years ago. The earliest sound carriers were scratched sheets of foil wound around rollers. At the end of the 19th century, the record came on the market, and at the beginning of the 1960s the shellac record was replaced by one made of vinyl. At the same time as this more robust sound carrier, the first portable record players appeared. Hotly sought after by young people, the “boxed gramophone” became the height of fashion. This enabled them to listen to the hits of the sixties in their own bedrooms.

The boxed gramophone upholstered in white with a built-in speaker was one of the popular playback devices of the time. The company Lenco from Burgdorf launched it around 1965. It could play speeds of 16/33/45 or 78 rotations per minute. The appliance was connected to the power supply using a cable, so this also limited its mobility.

Girl group on the turntable

A proud owner of this boxed gramophone in the 1960s was a teenager from Crans-Montana. The show «Disque-Analyse» brought relevant music tips into her family home on medium wave via the Sottens national transmitter. Not long after that, the music of the French girl group «Les Parisiennes», among others, found its way onto her turntable.

Sooner or later, the path from the bedroom to the concert led to Montreux. All the big international names have played at the music festival there in recent decades, turning the little place on Lake Geneva into a magnet for music stars. The National Museum is currently looking back on 50 years of festival history.

Portable record player by Lenco. Burgdorf, 1960. Photo: Swiss National Museum

One of the first girl groups was “Les Parisiennes” from France. They had a large fan base in Switzerland as well.

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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).