I guess I was about seven or eight years old when I first heard that name. It was in the early 1960s and my sister’s husband, Dick, who was like a real older brother to me, couldn’t stop talking about his new Hi-Fi system.
“This is the best sound you will ever hear,” he told me. And then the name: “Bang and Olufsen” (B&O). He took out his favourite Pat Boone album, put it on the shining new B&O turntable, and played Speedy Gonzales for me.
The years went on and when it was time for me to buy my first Hi-Fi, I started asking around about Bang & Olufsen. None of my friends even knew the name. It was before the days of the Internet, so I just accepted that the company had either gone bankrupt or had left South Africa. I bought a Pioneer. Over time the name Bang & Olufsen drifted out of my mind.
Until last week when I was in Johannesburg for business. I was staying in Melrose and decided to go for a walk before our meetings started. And there, less than a hundred metres from my hotel, I saw it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A Bang & Olufsen shop.
I knew that the products would be expensive. (There was a TV set marked for a cool R250 000.) But they also had a variety of headphones, which were a little bit more affordable. And they allowed me to test them on my iPhone.
It was a big moment for me when I put on the elegant set of earphones. I had just heard of the untimely death of Tom Petty earlier that day, so he was an obvious choice. When the sound of Free Fallin’ filled my ears, memories of my late brother-in-law, Dick, who was tragically murdered more than a decade ago, came flooding back. I wiped away the tears.
And then I took out my credit card and bought the most expensive B&O headphones in the shop. Life is short.