PREPARATIONS began as early as April 2014 when Macho Zapp contacted Shure’s marketing department suggesting a feature on the M44-7. Despite this website being little more than a glint in its creator’s eye at that point, Shure agreed to take part.
Fortuitously, 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the M44-7 - a fact we only realised once we had begun research. A voice conference was set up with Shure’s Global Product Manager, Bill Oakley, during which he patiently relayed the whole fascinating story of the needle from HQ in Chicago.
The next piece of the jigsaw was to find the hardware and expertise to shoot the needle with the magnification and frame rate we needed. Thankfully right on our doorstep was Mark Johnson of www.slomo.co.uk who had a serious array of equipment and skills. Although more used to filming weapons for military testing, he was intrigued by what it would look like and agreed to shoot for us.
Powerful lighting was required, the M44-7 finds itself surrounded
This was no simple project. The stylus of the needle is so tiny that it was difficult at first to get the right angles, magnification and enough light on the subject. Filming at high frame rates requires powerful lights, otherwise you get that throbbing effect in the background and we wouldn’t be able to get a good look at the needle tip.
The M44-7 meets the Photron SA-X2 (capable of shooting at up to 13,500 frames per second)
What you can see in the photos is a battery of lights and deflectors trying to light the needle diamond to show what it looked like in the groove. It was the only way to get the fantastic shots of the stylus vibrating against the groove walls. Mark’s idea to film the whole cartridge being dropped onto the record proved to be an amazing demonstration of Shure’s renowned suspension system.
And so to Jukeboxes. The M44-7 made its name originally through its performance in Rock-Ola jukeboxes in the 60s. And so it was that we found ourselves talking to experts and hobbyists from Chicago to Denmark and warmed to the sincere passion of these guys: “buy a jukebox for your home - they’re great!”
When we stumbled across the fantastic video on Vimeo directed and produced by the superb Bret Palmer we knew the stars had aligned. After numerous fruitless Vimeo searches for any footage of a jukebox we were giving up hope. Then we found Jukeboxes. The description said: "A video documentation of my mother's Seeburg Channel 1 Channel 2, and my father's Rock-ola Rocket jukeboxes. Music by The Flamingos". The film perfectly captured the fascination and nostalgia conjured up by that iconic piece of Americana. And of course the choice of music was just perfect. A couple of emails later and Bret kindly gave permission to use the footage for the Needle Habit.
Delays developing the Macho Zapp website initiated a number of rescheduled launch dates for the feature - from September 2nd, to October 20th, to November 10th, to eventually December 1st - and numerous emailed apologies to Shure. So there was great relief when the article was finally published on December 1st without a hitch.
We feel fortunate to have had the chance to tell an amazing story which unites various musical genres through the last 50 years. We're also proud to have added something extra: the slow motion footage of a record needle has never been seen before.
We keenly felt the responsibility to do justice to this famous needle and so we are pleased to say that feedback so far has been very positive, including an excellent review from dance music website Ransom Note.
Shure were also impressed - featuring the article in their blog. And we were chuffed to bits when they emailed to tell us: “everyone in the office is talking about it”.
...see exactly why here.