Rocking Out On A 1926 Fotoplayer
Stop reading this post. Watch the video first. You'll feel giddy, glowy, and laugh out loud happy. I guarantee it. Watched it? Good. It's a fake.
The 1926 Fotoplayer is a real instrument, and Joe Rinaudo really plays it with the vim you see. YouTube user "adnmusic" added the very credible sounding cacophony that could have backed an old timey version of "Sweet Child O' Mine". The Fotoplayer uses perforated rolls like a player piano, but with tons of extra (wait for it...) bells and whistles.
Movie theaters of the silent era installed Fotoplayers so that a non-musician (remember the piano rolls provided the main music "track") with a minimum of four hands could accompany the mute movies of the times. When I used to teach film history, I thought it was important to make clear that silent movies were never really silent movies. There was always some kind of accompaniment (sometimes live, sometimes on records) to liven up the flickers. It is only in an academic atmosphere like film school that we watch these movies in clinical silence.
Rinaudo painstakingly restored his Fotoplayer, taking thousands of hours to repair and fine tune the many, many moving parts. You can glimpse the drums, xylophone, and the many pull-cord sound effects in action with Joe's real performance in the genuine video below. Fewer than 50 Fotoplayers survive today, with only 12 in working condition. It's a privilege to see one in action, and it can still bring a smile to the face... even if it's not playing Guns N' Roses.