“My love affair with vinyl began somewhere around the age of 5 or 6. In the ‘80s, my parents had a diverse record collection and a state of the art (at the time) sound system. For them, listening to recorded music was serious business. I remember learning to use all of the components: the receiver and the equalizer, how to clean the records, how to set the needle so it would start right at the beginning of a song.”
“I remember even when they got a CD player, I was always more fascinated by the vinyl. Maybe it was because the covers were so big, like I was holding a painting in my little hands. I remember staring at Madonna’s midriff on Like A Prayer, The cool lighting and composition on Bowie’s Let’s Dance, the psychedelic illustration on Sir Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I would pour over the lyrics inside as I listened until I had memorized them so I could sing along. That’s how I learned to sing.
During high school, I was very active so portable music was necessary. I never fully broke up with vinyl, I would dub records and CDs onto tapes and make mixes for my friends. I was getting more into the independent underground music of the time, ska and punk from Asian Man and Victory Records, Indie and Hardcore from Revelation and Polyvinyl Records, and stuff like that. Maybe it was cheaper or easier for those bands and labels to put out CDs because that’s what I was usually able to find. It was very rare that I found a vinyl record during the mid-‘90s by one of my (at the time) favorite bands like Braid or Boysetsfire. That could also be because I was in Hawaii.
“That bead of sweat. Do you remember? What part of the body was it? I don’t think anyone knows. But Hall and Oates H20 is definitely the first album cover in my parents collection that caught my eye.”
“It was leaned up against their dark wood record cabinet that housed their wood grain Rotel player. Vinyl was on its way out, and my brother and I were on a steady diet of Dead Milkmen, early Chili Peppers, and Iron Maiden tapes. Anything remotely related to adult contemporary would spark a protest. Blasting Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” was how they got us out of the house on the weekends.
But even my bleached hair and vision street wear attitude couldn’t shake a song like “Maneater” on vinyl. That heavily delayed sax solo through the bridge? It’s undeniable. I’m not saying the album was without its faults. The song, “Italian Girls” features this line: “I eat, I eat, I eat so much pasta basta, I’m so full and yet so lonely.” Regardless, that record would stay with me through the rebellious years, foreshadowing the musical direction I would eventually head in.
“I am no purist and as such have little respect for the drooling fetishists who pay a small fortune to own an original pressing of some obscure jazz fusion album. I’m not fussy about formats and spend much of my time listening to music online. However there is no denying that my listening habits have been retarded by the tsunami of free music available on the internet.”
“As a teenager I was keen (and perhaps pretentious) enough to force Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, and Igor Stravinsky records down my throat until I fell in love with their cacophonous beauty. Now I make rapid fire decisions about the relative merits of a song before the first 30 seconds has played out, thoughtlessly clicking through an incessant glut of free music whilst the full beam of my attention is obliterated by a thousand digital distractions.
CDs were trash, far from the indestructible future of modern listening which they purported to be. They never survived our parties and lacked the aesthetic gravitas to be treated with care. I used to spit on them and rub them on my jeans in a vain attempt to get them to play before throwing them across the room in disgust.
“My whole life has been spent around music. My father is a singer/songwriter as is his father. So, music has always been abundant in the Chapman household.”
“I can just barely remember cassettes from my early days, then of course your standard compact disc, and in my middle school years the iPod came on the scene changing everything. The only interaction I had with vinyl growing up was around Christmas time when mom and dad would dust off a few holiday classics to help create the appropriate ambiance.
It was not long after I had graduated high school, however; that I was convinced to get my own record player. I was listening to an album I knew well from the many times I had played it on my car stereo, but this specific listen through was different. The album I was listening to was Jon Foreman’s solo project, and apparently he had released it on vinyl.
There is no need to play up the emotion of the story here, I just remember thinking, ‘That sounds really cool. I need one of those machines.’
“Years ago, I found myself standing at the exit of Amoeba Music in Hollywood, pondering my purchase and wondering how exactly I would listen to my first ever vinyl record.”
“I had just purchased a used copy of Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm, an album I had never heard, and was not sure if I was feverishly searching for it because it was really good, or just really hard to get my hands on. It appeared impossible to find in fact, before magically digging it out of the massive used vinyl section at Amoeba Music for a meager $1.99. I knew there was no turning back, what a score. Ya Dig? So what if I did not have a record player I thought, as I exited the store wondering if people were looking at me and my orphan album.
Days passed as I watched the record staring back at me in my room, feeling the eyes of the band’s serious faces looking at me through the gatefold, making me question what I had done. Two days later, I couldn’t stand it any longer, and went down to the local electronics store and spent next month’s rent on a new turntable and stereo system. It was official, I put the record on, that first needle dropped, that crackle. I was hooked before the music even started. Was that guy always smiling I thought, as I looked at the inside cover again, feeling like I had made an important discovery.
“As a child of the ’80s and early ’90s, I mostly listened to my Beatles and Weird Al Yankovic on cassette tape. If I got sick of pressing the rewind button or it stopped working, I would just grab a pencil, put it in one of the cassette holes, and twirl it around my head a bit. It wasn’t till the later ’90s, right around the time I became a frisbee enthusiast, when I began taking an interest in vinyl.”
“My mom’s vinyl collection consisted of what could have been either completely random or a thoughtfully constructed history of jazz and world music. She had records by Robert Johnson, Mose Allison, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, oud viruoso Hamza El Din, Umm Kulthum, and various albums featuring the music of India, Iraq, Greece, and other countries. I listened to all of them. My initial fascination, which came from putting the needle to the record, soon grew into an anticipated routine.
A few years ago, I befriended a neighbor who’s an incredible painter and obsessive record collector. When I entered his studio, it was less about painting as it was stacks of turntables, receivers, speakers, and thousands of records. He sold me a killer record player with speakers and let me dig through the records. He wouldn’t sell me the ones I wanted so he let me borrow them instead; Mingus The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady, Talking Heads 77, Zappa The Grand Wazoo, and more. I still have them.
KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVD | I was prepared to be disappointed. I watched videos of other Fucked Up shows, and they seemed kinetic with shirtless front man Damian Abraham screaming into a moshing, ballistic crowd. Abraham came out with his shirt on and the crowd had been listless at best through two opening acts. Maybe a subdued audience was all we were going to get on a random July Wednesday night.
Abraham came out swinging his microphone in wide arcs. I waited for the crowd to explode as the band played “Paper the House” from their excellent new album, Glass Boys, but they didn’t. His shirt even came off halfway through the song, revealing his everyman’s belly and intricate chest tattoo. Some fans bobbed and swayed by the stage. The fans in the back stood still. This was not what I expected.
Then all hell broke loose on the second song.
Abraham held the microphone into the crowd, moving it expertly from person to person with each word before moving it back to his own mouth and attacking the song. The front of the stage turned into a pit with people jumping up onto the stage and into the crowd in a flashing instance.
“I can’t quite recall my very first time laying eyes on a record. It was just a constant part of my childhood experience, like cartoons or chocolate milk. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I started to appreciate what a vinyl collection says about a person. It’s like reading through someone’s diary or journal.”
“When I was 16, I had my first girlfriend, and she gave me my first record player of my own. She also gave me a Shins record. That was definitely the best thing to come out of the relationship. My teeny bopper sister is into vinyl now, which is pretty cool. She shelled out for a Queen record. You could call me proud. I was home for Christmas, and her collection has already gotten out of control.
It seems to me that there’s nothing that gets you closer to the true sound of music than vinyl. There’s something physical about it. The needle and the grooves are the instrument. It feels real, like experiencing the recording process instead of the recording. Even a vinyl record that’s a little warped brings me closer to a tune than any digital listening.
“I remember dancing round my parent’s coffee table to ‘I Am The One And Only’ by Chesney Hawkes. I still have it.”
“I must have been 5 or so—running around the room in my school uniform, probably after a successful day of drawing pigeons or feet or whatever I was into then. I had no concept of a record or what one even looked like. All I knew was that it came out of my dad’s all-in-one hi-fi. I miss that machine. I’ve always been drawn to record covers though. Bright and shiny bits of paper.
I really can’t recall when I encountered it again but I remember when I was at art school and I bought my friend and classmate’s first EP. (Copy Haho, Bookshelf 7”). Seeing an end result from something he talked about in class was really cool, and further piqued my interest into designing record sleeves. Not realising that I had my dads ‘Blue Monday’ at home, and the whole thing about the sleeve design was a bit of an eye opener too. I’ve since had the pleasure of working on some great records that have been pressed onto a 12”, so I finally know it feels! Bloody great.
GEMMA MAXWELL FOR TVD | I’m a sucker for a whimsical backstory, so when The Helmholtz Resonators’ press release landed in my inbox, I was intrigued. Describing themselves as “a renegade group of psychedelic time travelling audio scientists who have been playing and writing music together since the turn of the century” (which isn’t as long ago as I initially thought), who were these musical time travellers, would their music reflect their, obviously, playful nature, and how did they get my email?
Their double A side single “Sunshine/Shadow” loaded up to my computer, I poured myself a drink and strapped myself in, expecting some sort of Cardiacs/Captain Beefheart aural assault.
Thankfully, The Helmholtz Resonators were a lot more accessible than I anticipated, and after a couple of listens I found myself humming along to all the bells and dings of their “reclaimed” synthesiser (a Burg organ, allegedly found in a skip) and singing along with reckless abandon to their sparse, simplistic yet evidently obscenely catchy lyrics. There’s more than a hearty dash of Beta Band thrown in to the mix, and while they haven’t blown me away with their single, there is something about it that lingers long after you’ve taken it off the stereo.