Lyle Owerko is a New York-based photographer, but he's also a historian. A boom box historian.
Lyle Owerko describes the first few of his boomboxes. "I think ..." he says, "you will find some really great pictures of RUN-DMC in the '80s with this box."
"This is my favorite: the Sharp GF9696. It has these removable grilles. ... It's the one I think I will always have with me. You know, it really was the BMW of the time and still is in my collection."
"I get so excited about the Sharps because they are heavy. They are really, really well made. You always judged a cassette deck by the way you were able to open the cassettes."
"All flash, all pizazz, no sound. This one had ... the view sound level, which was just like a visual circus going on inside. ... It's kind of like towards the end of any culture, [when] you have the second or third generation, which ... is so far from the origination."
"The aircraft carrier of boomboxes. This is a classic, and the Sharp GF777 was pretty much when boomboxes peaked ... in size. This one was what you played in a subway station when you were with your break dance crew and you wanted the music loud and you [wanted] to be heard."
"The Rising 2020: one of the quintessential boomboxes. ... There is the photographer JamEl Shabazz who did a lot of the street photography up in Harlem during the late '70s, early '80s, and I remember some of his photographs featuring this box."
Boomboxes, like this Crown model, reigned in an era when listening to music was a social activity.
In an increasingly introverted music culture of headphones, many look back to the time of boomboxes with nostalgia.
Owerko says that many vintage boomboxes are selling for upwards of $1,000. Those who had one back in the day are probably kicking themselves for not holding on to it. Fortunately, Owerko doesn't have that problem.
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In this digitally dominated music culture, NPR Music producer Frannie Kelley reported on boombox nostalgia. She interviewed Owerko about his impressive collection, most of which remains delicately swathed in bubble wrap. Fortunately for us, he has photographed his beloved boxes of boom. Take a look at Owerko's photos, and be sure to hear Kelley's story on All Things Considered for a bigger boombox picture ... and sound.
For an exhaustive (and amazing) illustrated boombox history, check out this Web site.