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Back Story

For a number of years in the 1970’s Patrick Page wrote a monthly column for the magic magazine Pabular, it was titled ‘The Page Boy Speaks’ and generally contained Pat’s observations, memories and opinions on all things magic, past, present and future, it was always a good read.

Sometime in 2011 I opened a box and found a complete file of Pabular and, inevitably, started randomly browsing. An item in one of Pat’s columns brought back memories; Pat had written that his car had been broken into close to Euston Station and various items taken. To paraphrase Pat he said the passers by would have noticed a grown man in tears because amongst the items stolen were some cardboard boxes containing a number of audio tapes that Pat had assembled over a long period of time, they were the recorded voices of great and famous magicians, interviews, lectures and occasions and were irreplaceable. He then went on to say that some months later whilst opening unmarked cardboard boxes at home he found the very same audio tapes; they had never been in his car in the first place!

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This resonated with me because sometime in the late seventies I recalled Vic Pinto telling me that Pat would not give them to Vic to release under their jointly owned Sound of Magic imprint. Rather prescient of Pat given the contentious behaviour relative to the unexpected sale of their jointly owned video catalogue.

At some point I showed Matt Field the original Pabular article, I doubt I will ever forget the look of pain that crossed his face as he read of the car theft before he reached the part of their subsequent discovery, I asked Matt if he knew what had happened to the tapes following Pat’s untimely death. He suggested I speak to Pat’s daughter Janette, this I did as I had the germ of an idea in mind, and we arranged to meet at the Magic Circle early one Monday evening. A little synchronicity came into play at this point as she did indeed have the tapes and had in fact been wondering what to do with them, fortunately the germ of my idea had now formulated into my suggesting that she and her brother Jeremy might consider packaging them for release to the magic market. Janette liked the idea and I duly tabled a concept that we then fashioned into what we felt would be a viable product and sales plan. Janette delivered all the tapes to me at the home of Gordon Drayson so we could determine their condition and exactly what was achievable. I had seconded Gordon to participate in the venture as it was obvious that computer expertise would be essential to the process of upgrading the tapes for modern listening. However, what we had not expected was the sheer volume of material, or the quality of the content and just how many wonderful names had been captured. It was immediately apparent this unique collection should be treated in a unique manner; to simply dribble out recordings individually over a long period of time would both reduce the impact of the collection and risk them going virtually unnoticed. So, it was decided to package the entire collection as one unique limited edition collectable archive bearing Pat’s name, intended to both reach interested parties and maintain what it’s not unreasonable to call the status of such a compilation. It would also hopefully minimise the prospect of duplication and piracy as those who invest in the Archive might be less inclined to make it available to others, at least we hope so. Gordon and I undertook the task of digitising, editing, formatting and packaging the entire collection, I purchased some specialist equipment to necessary to enable the process, and we started what proved to be no small task, but I always held Pat in high regard and we wanted to ‘do it right’ in realising the project.

Most of the tapes seemed to be in good condition given their age and we knew they could undoubtedly be digitally enhanced; cardboard boxes stored in a benign environment seemed to have done the job very well. Another significant factor that enabled the project is that it was coincident with the spectacular contemporary advance of digital formats and sound carriers in media making it even more viable and I think attractive. Desktop computers, notebooks, laptops, pads and mobile phone internet capability provide an enormous range of access of play and listening choice, in a car, on a train, virtually anywhere is possible, it should make for pleasant listening on the go. The Page family have provided a pictorial backdrop to the website faces to names and vice versa.

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We, the Page family, Gordon and myself, for we were now team handed, also looked at the subject of rights and decided that as a courtesy we would approach all parties for approval, even where some of the recordings rights had been negotiated satisfactorily decades ago, we still felt it incumbent on us to at least seek a tacit approval even where none was actually required, almost to a man approvals came thick and fast, which was gratifying and encouraging.

A further key editorial decision was that ‘editing’ should be limited, only to that which was strictly necessary for reasons of acceptable quality, and that in the main the recordings would be constituted and presented as ‘uncut’, so a fly on the wall approach would prevail. A good example of the value of that decision is the great banter between Wally Davenport and Pat whilst the tape was running but before recording ‘proper’ commenced, it was an approach we adopted for the entire Archive.

Probably with undue haste I prepared with Janette a first notification of the Archive and it appeared on the Patrick Page website, as follows:

‘We have been slowly sorting through Dad’s files, boxes, cupboards, etc and have unearthed some surprising and wonderful items. Not least of which are a very significant number of audio tapes mostly recorded by Dad it seems as he is the prime interviewer, there are many hours worth of material much of which makes incredible listening. The tapes are absolutely fascinating, as we listened again to Dad talking informally with such stellar names as Jay Marshall, Charlie Miller, Cy Endfield, Dai Vernon, Fred Kaps, Ken Brooke, Albert Goshman, Francis White, Max Maven, Richard Ross, Maurice Fogel, Dick Turpin, Wally Davenport, Bob Read, Scotty York, Hector Robinson, Peter Kane, David Roth, Johnny Paul, Pavel, Terri Rogers, Harry Baron, and many, many, others. Some are simply conversations between some of the parties just mentioned in combination, for example Vernon, Kaps and Brooke, glorious stuff! As well as numerous lectures and events which haven’t been heard in decades.’

We are feeling our way on this and we would really appreciate your letting us know if you think such an astonishing collection might be of interest to you.

Initial responses onsite and at various conventions were extremely encouraging and supported the notion that it would be an important venture as an enjoyment and as a unique historical resource’.

That was the back story, what lay ahead of us was countless hours of editing and assembling, but that is another story entirely.

Barry Murray.

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