A few years ago, i suddenly realized that i was not enjoying music very much anymore. I delved down deep to figure out why, and it wasn’t because there was nothing good out there, nor was it because i’m just getting old. Was it because my ears are shot? No, though they are. So what was the reason after all? Then it dawned on me! It was the iPod.
I noticed that i was listening to music the same way that i watch television; with the remote in my hand, changing to something else out of compulsion and not just boredom. I used to keep my iPod on shuffle, as it seemed like the best radio station of all time in that mode. Everything programmed according to my superior tastes! However, even when a song came on that i really wanted to hear, i would listen to about a minute of it, then hit ‘next’.
This was a revelation to me, as i’d previously thought of my iPod as the most wonderful invention of all time! I mean, one could have almost their whole music library on it, cuing up anything on the spot. Now, a lot can be and has been said about the sound quality (or lack there of) of an mp3 file, so i won’t go there. This isn’t about comparing the way something sounds, this is about the experience of listening to music.
Around the same time as i was contemplating this problem, we moved into our current home. I had been carrying around about 200 vinyl records for two and a half decades; mostly hard to find singles and LPs from my idols: from The Beatles to Roxy Music to The Smiths to Steve Kilbey‘s solo records. Looking through my collection reminded me of how i used to listen to music as a kid. I’d put side one on, go sit down and devour every centimeter of artwork and memorize every letter of the liner notes. I’d live inside those records for 20 minutes or so, then get up, flip it over and spend the next 20 minutes doing the same thing! I wasn’t driving around, working out, sitting at a desk, writing a blog or shopping for clothes (or whatever). I was sitting in my room and actively listening to the art that these folks spent months or even years creating. Oh, and it was wonderful!
So, i decided that it was time to listen THAT way again! I setup my turntable in our living room. That’s it! No CD player, not a cable for my iPod, nothing. The living room is a vinyl only zone, and we love it that way. Even the TV is downstairs in the family room. That means, vinyl at mealtime, when friends are over, playtime or just hanging out. We listen to whole albums again, and we love it!
Which brings me to Record Store Day, which was Saturday April 17th. Now, Record Store Day is not singularly about vinyl records, it’s about the actual record store, particularly the Independent record store. However, vinyl has played a huge part in the festivities since the celebration started 2 years ago, when the shops were giving 12″ compilations away for free just for coming in! What a wonderful idea, and proof that i’m not alone in my feelings about the experience of listening to music.
The vinyl section never really went away in the independent stores. It was small, believe me, but it was there, where as the major chains stopped shelving vinyl sometime in the 1990’s. Places like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores not only stopped selling vinyl, but their stock of singles and imports dwindled as well, and now where are they? But that’s a tangent i don’t want to indulge in right now.
The tides have changed and vinyl is becoming hip and necessary again. It’s actually the only format growing in sales, so of course the record labels are catching on. The vinyl section is growing, classics are getting the remastered and repackaged treatment, and there is a new generation of kids buying vinyl, even if it’s just in rebellion to their parents with those stupid white ear buds!
The labels are serving up tons of exclusive content for vinyl, in both the US and the UK. Perhaps the most significant is a brand new Blur track (their first new song in 7 years). Unfortunately for me, it was limited to 1000 copies and available only in the UK. But to illustrate the hysteria behind it, check it out on eBay. Here’s what it’s all about…
There are two ways to buy. You can purchase the brand new vinyl, which usually comes with something extra, like a coupon for downloading the mp3’s, or maybe a poster, or perhaps the vinyl itself is 180 grams (for better sound quality). Or, there is plenty of used vinyl out there, which is not only a form of recycling, but also a bigger pool of selections. Not only that, but at the right locations you can pay as little as .99 for a perfectly good record. I actually prefer used and the more beat up it is, the better i like it. Also, if someone wrote their name of the sleeve somewhere, the more likely i am to buy it. I just love that i’m buying something that someone else loved maybe 30 or 40 years ago. It’s like i’m honoring that legacy.
So, for this writer, everyday is Record Store Day really. Or maybe twice a month anyway (Payday). If you have an old turntable in the basement gathering dust, why not pull it out and put a record on. Sit back, look at the sleeve and take it in. You might accidentally love it!