All new Jonny Trunk and Fuel book. The special limited edition (500 copies only) available in the Trunk Shoppe comes with a slipcase, a set of four postcards and if you go for the Lucky Dip version, you get one of the Brochures from my collection. Innit. Here are my introductory notes to the book: Back in 1981 I got run over by a motorbike. It was a 400cc Honda with rider and pillion passenger. Luckily and miraculously no one was hurt, but it was a shocking moment for many along Grosvenor Road, right outside the hi-fi shop. Having been taught road safety by The Green Cross Code Man, this was a most unusual incident for me. But things had rapidly changed that week. I’d bought a Sony Walkman a few days earlier, was wearing it and was totally lost in the sound of “Jungle Strutt” by The Square (from the Sony Demonstration Cassette that came free with the Walkman) and was therefore unable to hear the sound of Aldershot traffic, so I’d just “strutted” right into the road without looking or even caring. Bang. Clatter.

The Sony Walkman was a magic invention. The perfect poppy, portable, personal sound machine. Apparently it was invented by the founder of Sony, Masaru Ibuka, when he’d spotted a guy at a Tokyo station walking along holding a large ghetto blaster with a pair of headphones attached and thought to himself “that would be better if the cassette player was smaller”. This may be an apocryphal story but I like it anyway. The Walkman 2 I’d bought with hard, saved up cash came with a belt hook as well as cool and comfortable headphones that even had a button to cut the sound if you wanted to hear the outside world. It was supremely modern in its styling and even came with a spare battery pack so it could last for hours and hours. The Walkman 2 was the first piece of audio tech I’d bought myself and seemed like a big step up from the clunky orange Elizabethan (brand, not period) portable record player that we played The Sound Of Music LP on at home, and it was a truly modern twist on the old portable transistor and classic cassette recorder that I’d used to tape shit off the telly.

Tru-Fi - the shop that sold me the Walkman - was a lively modern hi-fi emporium, with slightly dimmed lighting so when you walked in all the hi-fi fascia lights would glow seductively. The staff weren’t as snooty as they were at LLoyd And Keyworth, the posh hi-fi shop in Farnham, (don’t touch that young man!) and they wouldn’t mind me and my chums coming in and looking and getting excited. One friend at the time had an airline pilot dad and because he was away all the time not being dad he’d just load up his son with cash, much of it was spent in KFC, the local arcade and Tru-Fi.

Post Walkman and as my cassette obsession bled into vinyl obsession and then on to mix tape culture I moved into low end and just about affordable hi-fi separates: an entry level NAD turntable made of this solid green plastic stuff with a smoky plastic lid, a fat Sony amp with a big volume knob, a technics double tape deck and some cheap but wooden cased no name speakers. I look back at the compilation tapes I made for the car / for love / for birthdays and found the technology to be totally functional and just perfect for me in many ways. Although I do have to doubt the little cassette recorder switch from metal / chrome as I’m not sure I even understood what was going on there.

By the early 1990s when it had become clear I was a record collector everything had been updated. Much of the music I was listening to was from the 1960s and 1970s so I tried to keep my home set up based around those periods. I bought a Quad 33 / 303 set in 1991 from a vintage retailer in Tottenham Court Road (when the whole road was Hi-Fi heaven), a Thorens TD124 MK2 I bought at a Dartmouth auction in 1990 for £12, and a pair of Celestion speakers I bought from a scary fetishistic husband and wife hi-fi shop in Shepherds Bush a few weeks after the amp. It all still works for me and sounds amazing - the only thing changed in the thirty odd years since I got all this have been some questionable cable, a small belt for the turntable and the stylus. Although I was also forced (forced myself actually) to buy a Sound Burger because they were so darn cool and they were THE portable to take to record fairs. It was expensive but you get your money back pretty fast by not buying terrible singles because you can hear them before you take them home.

The fact that my home set up has never really changed in nearly 4 decades has not stopped me looking at alternatives. I’ve seen the extremes of hi-fidelity over the years, from GIANT 1920s Western Electric horns to weird looking and obscenely priced contemporary audiophile gear, with cables that cost more than my entire system. I love seeing classic turntables, weird cassette decks, quirky failed hi-fi ideas, every so often I go to the Audio Jumble in Tonbridge and most weeks I look at sold hi-fi items on eBay. This is where the germ of an idea for this book started.

The initial idea was very simple. Following on from the other Trunk / Fuel books I thought that old hi-fi literature compiled together would look great, a fine mixture of graphics, styling and tech that would dovetail nicely into our ongoing series of publications that have included library records and record shop bags. Fuel seemed up for it and to convince them that this was really a goer I’d shown them some 1960s Quad literature, all cool and green and orange and graphic, plus a period Phillips pamphlet that had caught my eye. They decided to go ahead and I naturally thought it should be quite an easy job to find enough interesting hi-fi catalogues to make a new book. Little did I know what lay ahead.

Over the next three years I’d be dedicating rather more time and money than I expected into tracking down audio based literature. The big trouble is there isn’t that much.Then the next trouble is most of it is incredibly dull…

“Here is a boring and unimaginative photo of our speakers and some technical graph stuff”. “Here are some more boring pictures of our speakers”. “Hi there, we make speakers and not graphically inspiring literature”.

I began to understand that technology and interesting graphics ideas do not go together. Out of every 20 or so leaflets I’d find, maybe one stood a chance of going up and surviving the Trunk / Fuel list of acceptability:

i) does it look good? ii) is it graphically interesting? iii) is it stylistically interesting or odd? iv) is it technically interesting? v) is it a little bit unexpected?

If the brochure fitted in with one, two or three of these points it stood a chance of getting in the planned book. But most didn’t.

As the brochure search went on (and on) I found myself advertising for them, scanning classifieds, asking hi-fi collectors, emailing companies that still existed if they had archives, paying vast sums in import duties for packages coming in from the USA - there are masses of hi-fi brochure in the USA by the way and absolutely sod all in the UK. Brochures I was finding often had hole punched covers as it appeared that the few collectors of brochures out there put them all in folders. I also collected one vast stash of brochures from a derelict car in Wigan, only to find that there were about 8 usable brochures out of about 8 large boxes of really dull literature. It was in this collection of high end ephemera that I finally understood that the higher you go in terms of hi fi, the less money is spent on hi fi brochures. In the Wigan car collection there were countless A4 photocopied papers, many with stuck on tiny photos at the top, advertising some wacked out UK made amplifying system or bizarre looking sci fi turntable. One that made it into the book was Peter Scheiber Sonics where the folder opens to reveal a series of badly photocopied A4 pages with murky photos of bespoke made god knows what. And it’s all very expensive.

What I also failed to realise at the beginning was that the book would also bring together the whole history and progress of home listening - but this is a A-Z book not a chronological book, so I will briefly outline here what I mean: Post war it was an engineering task to build a viable and functional music system at home. This was a highly specialised project, and involved a reasonable understanding of engineering and electronics. You’d maybe buy your valve amp from Quad, then a platter (with no plinth) from Thorens, a stylus from Dual, speaker cones from Rogers Development and then you’d have to build cabinets and wire it all together. Most tech came with paper templates and technical drawing to help with the cabinet work and stylus placing, and there were even cabinet companies ready to help out if you wanted (see Hill Craft, page XX). Reel to reel tape was also the mode of listening for many in the early years, which explains the sheer amount of reel to reel activity in the book. There was a stage when a large tape box section was planned for the book but we ran out of space, however we have included a few classic graphic tape boxes anyway.

These early tape machines and DIY platters slowly gave way to the more affordable and populist Dansette, the portable tape machines, and the slow dawn of the commercial giant that was the music centre. We have the rise of the cassette, the stack system, the micro stack system, the walkman and finally the CD. Along the way I did come across brochures from electric retailers that did include video, inventive TV, a bit of weirdy stuff (chess alarm clock radio anyone?) and there is a smattering of these included as I think they belong here.

The indomitable rise of the CD seemed to coincide with the slow death of the Hi fi retailer on the high street. Maybe it was the fact that CDs were advertised as the ultimate sound carriers and therefore signalled the end of hi-fi progress as we needed to know it that then signalled the decline in interest in new stereo gear? I cannot be sure. But I do know that all the classic hi-fi dealers and shops I knew no longer exist. These days there are very few retailers anywhere, luckily a few specialists survive and seem to thrive on the new demand for classic and as yet unsurpassed tech for playing old formats at home. Many enthusiasts will tell you that the technology for playing vinyl, tape, cassettes and CDs reached its sonic peak decades ago. Evidence can be seen in that the demand for Garrad, Thorens and 1210 decks, Nakamichi tape players and classic Celeston or JBL speakers has never been higher.

One of the big wants for the book was Braun - for fairly obvious aesthetic reasons. I’d found a few Braun brochures but was aware of a whole lot more that I just couldn’t find anywhere. Not many were made and Braun collectors do not part with them. Eventually I spoke with Peter Kapos at Das Programm, the extraordinary Braun archive in East London. He invited me over. I spent the morning in a tech dream at his office and not only did he let me borrow and scan some of his amazing brochure collection, but he also told me a little about the history of music centres, specifically the hi-fi stack. The original blueprint design for what came to be known as the “stack system” seems to be traceable to the HfG Ulm AKA The Ulm School Of Design. It was an idea developed by student Herbert Lindinger and his supervisor Hans Gugelot. They were both working, through the Ulm School, for the Braun Company. Braun subsequently used Lindinger’s 1958 diploma study as the basis for the modular system they produced from 1960 onwards. If you look back at those times, no one was looking at how separate audio elements should or could relate to each other spatially. As mentioned earlier, post war it was all about individual elements manufactured by different companies that were then assembled and inserted into bespoke cabinets often home made or from furniture manufacturers. So, I think we’ve all learnt something there.

It was also important for me to include Michell Audio turntables simply because Alex from A Clockwork Orange had one (possibly the most iconic stereo in film history), Steve Jobs had one, and it’s a British company that is still alive. They were very generous and trusting and sent me their super rare brochures for the project.

As you go through the book you may well find that some companies are missing. This is not and does not claim to be a completists guide to audio manufacturers. But some companies have been left out of the book simply because their brochures were just too dull. And some companies are here that you may not have ever heard of, like Great White Whale, selling very high end hand made speakers using 18th Century whaling etchings. Of course. That’s the way to do it.

You will also see a lot of women in this book. This was never the intention. The “Erotica” bit of the title was referencing the sexy tech on show. But it does demonstrate that last century women were an integral part of a very lazy sales process. Some examples we have included are beyond parody. My favorite has to be photo of a woman in her sitting room for Brinkman, which could easily be a bland suburban image out of the Dressing For Pleasure fetish book we made back in 2010.

Special thanks must go to Audio Gold who allowed me to pilfer their slightly crumpled stash of brochures and who also helped with the copy thanks to their deep knowledge of weird stereo facts and gossip.

I’m now off to put a record on. Thanks for listening.

Jonny Trunk