Star Zone and the Lost Tape: The Foothills article.

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Star Zone and the Lost Tape

June 21, 2013 in 2013AuthorsJuly August

Star Zone

I sent in a heap of photos but this is the only one that they used.

It went missing about ten years ago and I thought that it was gone for good; but there it was: a little dusty and missing half of it’s cover .
But it looked like it would still play.
Back in the 1980s I was lucky enough to interview a legend of the music business, the pianola roll music business. Charles Urqhart was well into his eighties when I tracked him down and sadly he would be long dead by now, so the chances of another interview were slim to say the least.
He was a very friendly man and the interview was a glimpse into a forgotten era.
A long time ago I promised the National Film and Sound Archive that I would send them a copy of the tape if I ever tracked it down. Well, I’d tracked it down but how do I get a copy of an old compact cassette in this day and age?
I needed copies and I needed a digital transfer to keep this recording safe. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. ‘Back ups’, is the mantra of the twenty first century!
How lucky was I that foothills resident Paul has a shop in the Belgrave Arcade. Star Zone does all sorts of sound and music related activities.
I remembered seeing his shop when I was out walking our dogs. I really did not want to go traipsing down to the big smoke just to solve this problem and thanks to Paul and Star Zone, I didn’t have to.
When I got the call to collect my precious tape I was pleasantly surprised to find that Paul had ‘gone the extra mile’ without adding anything to the agreed price. He had downloaded an article and some photos on the history of Pianola Rolls and he made an extra digital copy for me.
He had spent a fair bit of time ‘cleaning up’ the quality of the sound (you can imagine how bad the sound was from a quarter of an inch tape recorded on a cheap recorder in the 1980s!)
Like everyone who lives in the foothills I try to support local business wherever I can so it was great to have my problem solved locally.
If you need any sound recording, video clips produced or records and tapes transferred to CD, Star Zone is the place to go. Belgrave Arcade shop 14.
There is a sign behind the counter at Star Zone which says, “Just Be Famous, you’ll feel better”.
I may not be famous but I certainly feel better.
This is one of two articles that I wrote for the just published ‘The Foothills Newspaper’ July/August edition.
The newspaper now has an online presence.
I also write a column called “Understanding Your Dog” and the article I wrote for that column can be read here:
Some of the photos that did not make the cut:
Image 2




My dad was a whizz with numbers.

He was comfortable whenever he was around them. He wasn’t a patient man but I can remember him helping me in my later years of high school. He was self taught because he had to leave school at the end of year ten because his father died suddenly and his family needed his income.

He was one of those people who can compute in their head and occasionally we would compete. I was almost as fast as him but I had to work very hard, for him it was second nature.

In a world of uncertainty and betrayal, it is comforting to know that numbers will NEVER let you down.

Two plus two ALWAYS equals four.

No ifs no buts, always equals four.

Considering this magnificent certainty, I find it amazing that so many people dislike numbers; or should I say they dislike Maths. This is probably more a reflection of the deficiencies of the Maths teachers, but fortunately, I had a few good ones along the way.


31 emails and a dog’s paw.

Our entire world is made up of numbers. 

Even the stuff you cannot see can be described in numbers.

The computer you are reading this on now is heavily reliant on numbers.

The way that people use written numbers is interesting to me.

Because I like to take photographs I am constantly on the lookout for interesting things to shoot.


For example; when I was sweeping my back deck before heading to the cafe that I’m sitting in now, I noticed that the young man who had done some work for me recently (the same young man who rebuilt the deck) had written some computations on one of the railings. He rubbed it out when he was finished but I could still see the faint outline of the numbers. I’m not sure what he was working out, it just seemed interesting to me that this post was rattling around in my head and for the first time in nearly a year I notice these numbers.



This house has changed hands three times since the ‘no junk mail’ sign went up. I wonder if the current owners feel this way?


House numbers are probably the most obvious example.

In our society as numbers are rarely used here (Australia) as street names. I follow a WordPress person who is posting a house number a day for 365 days. The whole 365 days thing is not really for me but I still like this idea.

You will find that a few of my numbers will be house numbers but not in any particular order. They will be there because I liked the look of them or because of their location.

It’s the way that people use numbers that makes it interesting, boring, sinister or scary.

On the way here I dropped off an old tape of an interview I did in the 1980s. The bloke in this ‘really interesting shop’ is going to clean it up (literally and acoustically) and make a digital copy. I promised to send a copy (if I ever found it) to the National Film and Sound Archive*. When I dropped the tape off I noticed that the arcade had two number 13s, and no number 15. The owner of the shop said that he constantly gets mail for number 15 and there is no number 15! You hear a lot about the number 13. Some building don’t have a thirteenth floor, but this arcade has two shops with the number 13 on them and to make it worse they are opposite each other!

One wonders how long this has been going on and how much longer it will continue. Things like this, where no one in particular is in charge, tend to keep on keeping on.

More numbers: the aforementioned tape was an interview with a man who was involved in the manufacture of Pianola Rolls. All piano rolls have catalogue numbers as well as the name of the song. It’s similar to the way that books have a number as well as a name. Sometimes you have to look inside to find this number and other times it has a different number on the outside when it is in a library.^


I’ve also discovered that light and telephone poles have numbers, which makes sense.


Most electronic gear has some sort of a serial number. 

They do this so that you can write it down and quote it to the police after some a***hole has nicked it from your house. The police will probably quote you a number to represent your chances of ever getting your stuff back and it may look like this; about a 1000000 to 1, which is a little disheartening.

One of my favourite numbers is the one that appears on money. 

Interestingly, when my country switched from cotton to polymer for the manufacturer of money it was decided that the largest denomination would be $100. The reason being that larger denominations would encourage the cash economy. Those of you who know what the ‘cash economy’ is will know that it does not need any encouragement!


It’s also interesting to note that the $100 bill is now worth slightly more than $60 some twenty plus years later. (I just read this post to my wife and she said that she thought that the $100 note should be worth more not less…………. I give up!)

*  The interview is with a man who worked for Broadway Music Rolls in Collingwood. He worked for the company (he was it’s sole employee) until the founder of the company, Len Luscombe, died in the early 1950s. Luscombe was a talented musician and very well known in Melbourne. The gentleman I interviewed was very old at the time and I was excited that I had tracked him down. He was very sharp and was also excited that someone was interested in his past. He was a living time capsule of a time long past. He was living with his son and daughter in law and they were bemused as to why I was so keen to speak to this old-timer. As often happens with old people, those around him never thought that he would have something to say that anyone would be interested in.

^  In the olden days people used to read books and sometimes they were gathered together in places called libraries.

On another subject altogether; what do you think it looks like?

Tiffany Bishop and the Pianola Rolls.


We were in Belgrave for the annual Busker’s Festival. An excellent chance to get the camera out. There is a laneway that runs down the back of the shops and parallel to the railway line and it was here that there was a young lady singing her heart out. We stopped to listen and to get some photos. This was all happening at the back of the Tiffany Bishop Collective and the back door to her workspace was open. I had heard a bit about this community arts project so I wanted to have a look.

It’s an amazing space underneath the healthfood store in Belgrave. From the street a long line of wide steps leads down to a multi chamber art space that is lit by a series of skylights. Every surface is painted white and this works amazingly well as it shows the art in it’s best light.

The first thing that struck me was this long continuous strip of white paper mounted on the wall. Several artists had contributed to a linear narrative piece which has you walking the length of the room to see what happens next.

The first thing I thought of was pianola rolls.

Getting a single continuous piece of paper to work on must be quite hard and I’m guessing, quite expensive.

I was lucky enough to speak to Tiffany. She is petite and full of energy.

I suggested that old pianola rolls might come in handy, and that I had a heap of them and Tiffany went into full on excited creative mode. She had half a dozen ideas going before I had finished speaking! I promised to drop some in this week and that is where I have just come from.

In the intervening couple of days there had been several discussions as to how to best use this new resource. She asked me lots of questions and asked if I would like to be a partner in this project.

A partner?

I’m not an artist, I just take photos and I happen to have a heap of pianola rolls that I would like to go to good use.

I did run a business restoring pianolas and music rolls in partnership with my late father, and I do have a mountain of useless knowledge to do with pianolas and rolls and I guess it might be fun for the young artists to know a bit about the medium they are working with.

In any case it looks like I’m a partner.

I was just giving away some rolls and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of something else.

You just never know when you get out of bed in the morning what the day will bring.


Used as a stencil.
The artist stood out side the studio and recorded the colours of the cars going by and transposed the data onto the pianola roll………….. pretty cool!