I’ve rebuilt my vinyl collection three times. I’ve given records away, lost them, damaged them and had them stolen; but never sold them. I’m old enough to have discovered popular music before the advent of the compact disc. Vinyl records and the radio were my primers.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through my own collection. And pity on the one who accompanies me to a record store. It’s a real life Snickers commercial. I’m gonna be a while.
The first discs I ever thumbed through belonged to my parents. One day I wandered down to the basement of our suburban Philadelphia home and amid a stack of cardboard boxes found my mother’s record collection. I’ve never asked her but I think the year she spent at Penn State influenced her musical taste. The Mamas and the Papas, the Kinks, Simon and Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul and Mary were just a few of the records I remember.
My dad was an over-the-road trucker who was gone for long stretches of time. Giving me plenty of opportunity to scratch his Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash and Carl Smith collection by dragging the needle of our Fisher Home Stereo across the disc again and again trying to figure out how to cue up a specific song.
Wow, with parents like that, how did I ever end up loving hard rock, punk and new wave music? Thank you, older siblings of neighborhood friends and college radio DJ’s. Still, it’s a bit ironic that I program an Americana radio station that has embraced the musical influences made popular by many of my parents’ favorites.
In the words of LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback” because vinyl never really left. It has outlasted reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassette and probably the compact disc. It’s the cast iron skillet of music content delivery. There’s never been a time that someone wasn’t pressing it. Like the skillet, it will always be here.
Sales are up. Way up. 2011 saw the highest sales in vinyl since Nielsen Soundscan began tracking sales in 1991. The sales of vinyl records, which have grown for the past six consecutive years, increased by 25 percent in 2011, from 2.8 million in 2010 to 3.5 million. Vinyl has its own day every year. Since 2007 labels and locally owned stores have celebrated the virtues of vinyl with Record Store Day.
It’s hip, it’s cool and it feels good. Have you ever held a 180-gram piece of vinyl in your hands; rolling the edge back and forth between the lines in your palms, staring down at the label; examining the grooves of each track, flipping it over with a twist of your wrist to study the B side with the same visual intention? Wondering how it will sound when the needle hits the record – whether you’ve heard that song a thousand times or are waiting for the first spin?
Try getting all that out of an MP3 file. Compact discs only have one side. I don’t need to explain the inadequacies of a cassette or an 8-track. Vinyl is an experience. Each time. A commitment. And with that commitment comes rewards: memories associated with the music, the artist, the time and the place. Vinyl is a physical, mental and emotional experience.
Everyone’s doing it. Baby Boomers have helped make the Beatles the No. 1 selling artist on vinyl. It’s the new choice of many from Generation Y and the Millennials, who grew up with the compact disc, started the file-sharing devolution of music and now have the money to discover what their parents always knew. Those Gen-Xers lucky enough to never sell their collections have started digging them out of family storage and dusted off their old turntables. Same sun. New dawn.
This is for real. Urban Outfitters and Best Buy now stock turntables. I don’t know if they’re experts in analog technology, but they’re pretty good at making money. If you’re starting from scratch — yeah I said that — take your limited budget or break the bank in Downtown Goshen. You can buy a new or used table from Ignition Music. Prefer your old one? That’s fine, too. Steve can have Kevin refurbish it.
Give vinyl a try. It’s a cheap way to discover new music. Not just new releases but anything that’s new to you. Beware and know when to say when. That $1 rack is like thousands of enchanting Greek Sirens singing to your wallet.
You don’t have to pay for an authentic vinyl experience. Someone you know has got to have a turntable. Ask around. There’s no time like the present for a listening party. Just like old times, sitting around, listening to a familiar album, telling stories, leafing through liner notes with friends and debating which record to play next. Who knows, you might even discover a familiar song in a new way or make new friends in an old way.