In celebration of our tenth anniversary, Colorado Music Hall of Fame has launched, From Our Collection, a monthly campaign showcasing a unique item from our museum collection.
From Our Collection
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame artifact collection includes the Captain Fantastic Pinball Machine gifted to 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Barry Fey by Elton John himself (on loan to CMHOF from the Fey Family).
This pinball machine was inspired by the 1975 movie Tommy, and includes a representation of Elton John, as his character in the movie, playing pinball. The name Captain Fantastic came from the title of Elton John’s 1975 autobiographical song and album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The lyric “From the end of the world to your town” appears at the very top center of the backglass.
Barry Fey, one of rock music’s most prolific and successful promoters, wrote about how he and Bruce Springsteen played pinball on this machine in his 2011 book, Backstage Past:
“At last, they get to the party and everybody’s having a good time. Bruce and I are playing pinball and one of his sycophants is rooting him on, ‘Get him Boss! Get him Boss!’ I looked at him and said, ‘I beg your pardon. This is my house. I’m the f***in’ boss.’ I cleaned Springsteen’s clock, but it wasn’t really fair. I had home-field advantage because I played a lot on that machine; a ‘Captain Fantastic’ version given to me by Elton John.”
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame artifact collection includes this oxygen tank and mask from Caribou Ranch.
Recording artists came to the Caribou Ranch near Nederland not only for seclusion and scenery, but also for the unique sound that could be produced there. Sound engineer and physicist Tommy Dowd attributed this sound to the thin air at the Ranch’s altitude of 8,600 feet.
That altitude would have a negative effect on some artists, though, so Jim Guercio, Caribou Ranch owner, equipped the studio with an oxygen tank, the one featured in our collection. In July 1974, Elton John invited John Lennon to visit the Ranch for four days, as part of his eighteen-month “lost weekend” with May Pang. In a 2008 Rocky Mountain News article about the Ranch, May Pang shared this memory about the altitude:
“I was not prepared. I don’t think John was prepared. In the recording studio, I said, ‘John, what’s this?’ He said, ‘That’s an oxygen tank.’ I didn’t understand that the air was so crisp and thin that you might need it.”
According to Guercio, while the two were recording, John Lennon would desperately grab for the oxygen tank tube after each take.
Elizabeth Spencer’s circa 1910 Postcard and Diamond Disc Record
After she signed an exclusive contract with inventor and businessman Thomas Edison’s company, Spencer’s “dramatic soprano” was heard on numerous studio recordings, participating in solos, duets, trios, quartets and choruses. Having made only phonograph cylinders, Edison decided to add a disc format to his product line in order to compete with such rivals as the thriving Victor Talking Machine Company. The majority of Spencer’s best work was on the Diamond Disc, which reproduced the quality of her singing with greater accuracy.
We have several Elizabeth Spencer artifacts in our collection, including a 1914 Diamond Disc recording of “Somewhere A Voice Is Calling” by Spencer and Vernon Archibald. The other side of the disc contains the song “A Perfect Day” by the Metropolitan Quartet. Diamond Discs were expensive––the record sleeve shows a price of $1.50, which is equivalent to about $39 today.
In addition to the Diamond Disc, we have an original postcard from the early 1910s advertising Spencer’s appearances at Churchill’s, which at the time was New York City’s elite restaurant located in Times Square. The three-story terracotta brick building could seat up to 1,200 diners and employed a staff of over 300. The musical entertainment was often provided by Maurice Levi and his Orchestra, with Spencer on vocals.