Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Lost Art of Vinyl

When I was younger, I found a console turntable and a crate of records in the back room of our house. I became an instant vinyl junkie. My first albums were pretty limited, but my first favorites were Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and The Vapors’ New Clear Days (ironically, two albums that I still really love).

It was both a hobby and an obsession. I could spend hours digging through musty old bins, crates, and boxes of records at resale shops and flea markets. I amassed quite a collection. I thought that it was just because it allowed me to buy lots of music on the cheap in a time of my life when I was solely dependent on my allowance. Somewhere around college, which coincided with the rise of Napster and digital music, I decided to get rid of my turntable and most of my records (heartbreaking, I know). I didn’t think that I was going to need them again. If you had any idea of the amount of music I have now, you probably wouldn’t think that I need anything additional either.

A few months back, I got what was left of my vinyl from my parents’ house and started framing them as artwork. I have always loved the album art and the way it connections with the music. They look amazing, but as I sifted through them, I realized just how much I longed to listen to each album. The Cure’s Head on the Door was taunting me from its frame. I hadn’t realized how much of a ritual it was. I missed shopping and collecting.

Without fail, I visited a local store and was sucked right back in. I have also been buying stuff on eBay (If anyone is out there with random Smiths, Cure, R.E.M., or Depeche Mode albums hidden in a box somewhere, call me!). Then, I bought myself a new turntable, which arrived a few nights ago. When I got the first record on (a safety even, the Grease soundtrack), it was like a revelation. I found my way back. A time each night of solitude to worship to the gods of music genesis at the audiophile alter.

Don’t get me wrong, I still seriously love love my iPod. It’s always with me and ready to shuffle my entire library as needed. It houses a bit of my soul. I still felt like something was missing from my musical life. With vinyl, there is a ritual to listen to music. It invests your heart and mind in a way that just pushing play on an iPod doesn’t seem to capture. Listening to vinyl is an active art. It is time spent digging through musty old album covers, taking in the album art, studying the track list, and listening to a sequence of songs in the way that they were intended. There is a sense of pure satisfaction when I place the needle to the record, that slight bump, and then an imperfect start of a song. Each album, sounding a little different, tattooed with a pop or scratch here or there, letting you know that you are really listening to your copy of that album. It is something involved that somehow makes the music more special again.

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