Music of Machinery : Shrewsbury Pumping Station


Optimistically sub-titled “Volume One”, this 7″ 45 rpm single came out on Big Ben records in the UK in 1968. It is an unedited recording of a 19th century pumping engine, one side recorded “In The Engine Room“, the other “In The Cellar“. Rhythm of Machinery might have been a more apt name for the abortive series, as all that really happens is that the engines thump along at an exhilarating rate of about 15 bpm for the ten minutes or so of the disc’s duration, with the odd mechanic chatting in the background, or motorbike driving past.

32 Comments

  • Stuff like this always makes me wonder what they were actually thinking when they decided to record and then produce a 7″ of the sounds of a pumping station. Did they really think they were recording something of importance? Or perhaps, was it the idea of one of the workers (or all of them) after sitting around drinking a few and listening around them to realize that the sounds they listened to every day had actually become “music to their ears” and was worth recording for posterity?

    In any case, I do think it is a really cool cover on this with a mechanical, industrial age atmosphere.

  • Found sounds and documentary recordings of all sorts were modestly popular from the mid-50s into the 60s. A lot of the charm was nostalgic and these kind of records could be seen as aural encyclopedias.

    In the US, labels like Cook Labs and Audio Fidelity cranked out found sound records. Train sounds probably got the ball rolling. There are hundreds of them. Hot rod/ dragster/ racing lps were prevalent and tied in with the surf scene. Animal sounds, especially bird calls, were common too probably reaching a similar audience as the tiki/ Afroexotica records.

    Fun little records mostly budget label and sold through grocery chains. The covers are typically wonderful too exploiting the exotic or ‘ye olde times’ vibe.

  • This is so incredibly strange. Just the whole idea.

  • I confirm that this record was played on John Peel’s show one evening in the early eighties. Somewhere I even have a recording of it – magnificent stuff…

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