“The first thing I ever purchased at a record store was MC Hammer’s “2 Legit to Quit” single. It was 1991, I was 9 years old, and it was on a cassette tape. Then about 5 minutes later these things called CDs came out and I found myself back at that same record store buying Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Then about 2 minutes later Napster hit the scene and no one bought cassettes or CDs (or music) anymore.”
“All this to say, I sorta missed the vinyl record era when it was in its heyday. But missing that era is precisely why records have always had a mysterious coolness to them. Growing up, my older brother had a record collection that he kept in his room and which was, of course, off-limits to me. My parents had a record collection 10 times bigger. So records were always around but they were like the party AFTER I was sent to bed… grown up, cool, and forbidden.
Records weren’t off-limits to me because my parents didn’t want me to experience the music. They were off-limits because I was a kid and records are delicate. They can be scratched. You have to make sure the record is clean before you put it on the player. You have to make sure the needle doesn’t have any dirt or lint on it and be very gentle with the arm as you place it right on the edge of the record as it spins at the selected speed. There was a method and a system to the whole thing that I admired with awe from a safe distance. Records took time.
“I grew up the youngest of 7 kids. The musical and stylistic influences were inescapable and I was driven at a young age to be taken seriously as a peer to my older siblings and their friends. With this came the need to do my homework on the movies, lingo, and music that they were into.”
“I spent a lot of time learning how to cue up vinyl copies of St. Pepper, Ghostbusters soundtrack, Billy Joel’s Piano Man, and my dad’s Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream (when I was curious).
These experiences dimmed as CDs quickly became the standard for musical intake and cassettes being reserved for shared mix tapes. The boxes of records in the basement were quickly upgraded to shiny compact discs and were long forgotten and discarded.
It fell silent for some years and it wasn’t until the emergence of iTunes that I got my own record player. It was the year that everyone got iPods for Christmas, but I received a Sony turntable. I ended up finding an old Akai amplifier and no name speakers that a neighbor friend was giving away. I was set up.
“I thought when I heard Roy Orbison sing for the first time (on a recording, of course) that he couldn’t possibly sound better. Then I heard him on vinyl.”
“I move around a lot, and one of the only things that I take with me every time is my record collection. I’m not sure what it is about them that has such a hold on me, but my records are one of the few things that I’ve refused to let go of. I’m a dress lover but I somehow manage to shed a dozen or so of those every time I move.
And it’s funny because I don’t listen to them daily but when I want to listen to a record, I NEED to listen to a record. There’s nothing else that can take the place of the vinyl listening experience. It’s imperfect, and it’s real. And those are two things that I appreciate very much in life.
“When we came back to Cleveland from Brooklyn last year, I had over 40 boxes of records from my personal collection, in addition to the dozen or so boxes of stock from the label I help run. We lived on the fourth floor of a walkup. I wasn’t there when the movers came to load up the truck but my wife said that on multiple occasions, the moving guys asked her, “Hasn’t your husband ever heard of mp3s?” Of course! In actuality, I still have a functioning 2nd generation / LED backlit iPod that remarkably still works…but you can’t go to an mp3 store or mp3 fair!
I started collecting records in my mid-teens, back in the early to mid-’90s. In retrospect, it was really cool to experience one of the last eras when you found out about records primarily through reading ‘zines, listening to college radio, reading liner notes, using mail-order catalogs, and of course, going to the record store. The further you got into what you enjoyed, the more you felt like you were part of an “exclusive club” that you worked really hard to find out even existed. Sometimes the fates aligned and you got turned onto some truly memorable albums.
“I started collecting vinyl when I arrived in LA to study drama at the tender age of 17. Tired of being typecast into certain roles because of my ethnicity, I turned to music, because with music I could just be myself. I always wrote poetry and music was a perfect medium and outlet for my writing and lyrics. Still today I focus on my music as a source of pure and honest expression, rather than trying to be someone else.”
“As a student struggling with my expenses, a guilty pleasure would be always to stop at the huge Amoeba store on Sunset Boulevard and sift through the vinyl records for sale. On my tiny student budget I would spend hours in the clearance section sifting through hundreds of records, searching for forgotten treasures and exciting new artists. Without a listening post, it was a real process of discovery and learning new people’s stories, searching through genres, artwork, and names of unknown bands, often picking records based on the cover.
Real finds included “I Try” by the Montreal DJ duo Made By Monkeys on the Star 69 label with its bright yellow cover and a picture of a monkey wearing headphones with hands perched on top of his head. The track was remixed by Star 69’s owner Peter Rauhofer, founder of the label based in New York, providing a platform to release his own tracks. My favourite remix is Rauhofer’s Future mix, a relatively lesser-known gem that speaks to me in volumes. The lyrics are about unrequited love.
“Some of my earliest memories involve hearing my mom play her old vinyl records.”
“Everything from Amy Grant to Lynryd Skynyrd—she had all the classics. We had a record player in our living room- and I loved when my mom would dust off an old Styx album on a slow Sunday and it would play quietly in the background.
One of my favorite memories is the time my mom and I both made straight As (she was in college getting her degree) and she put on Bette Milder and we danced in the kitchen in our bare feet laughing and celebrating.
“When I was a kid, tapes were a big thing. The first tape I wore out from repeated listening was a compilation of oldies that included The Beach Boys, the Shangri-las, Leslie Gore, Bobby Darin. I loved that tape. I was 6 or 7.”
“When CDs started to take over from tapes in the nineties, my friends and I would go to our local record store, A&B Sound or Sam The Record Man, and look around to buy our latest favourite band’s album, mostly discovered from watching music videos or listening to the radio. I got into classic rock and vinyl when I was 16, and my boyfriend and I would go hunting for old classic records to play on our turntables that we found at garage sales.
We always chose old ’70s amps and speakers and turntables that were under $20 and that meant they were usually enormous and heavy (and possibly not working). I listened to a ton of David Bowie, The Police, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac.
“Hey! My name is Ellen, I’m a 21-year-old college dropout from Connecticut currently living in Boston, MA. Actually as I write this right now, I’m on tour in Champaign, IL waiting to play a benefit for a queer homeless youth center. Myself and my band are gonna be on the road for the next two and a half weeks (we’re already a week in) supporting my first full length record, Dry Food.“
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had a really serious release, including a physical vinyl pressing and it’s been really remarkable to see the response from pre-existing/new fans to this development. On top of this, hearing my music in the warm vinyl format was a really dreamy experience, having never really heard my songs in that format in the past besides one 7” I had released last year.
To be honest, before I signed with Exploding In Sound Records back in 2013, vinyl wasn’t entirely on my radar. I had never bought a player (or at least a functioning one, I bought one online once and it came broken, which was super discouraging and put me out of $100 when I couldn’t return it). I was super into CDs all throughout high school, as my car only played CDs, so I developed a collection of those as opposed to vinyl starting at 16.
“Let me start by saying that going to a record store is one of the most grounding things I know. No, change that. It is THE most grounding thing I know. I know some folks like to sneak off to the bar for a beer when things are tough, I can be found usually in the record store bargain bin looking for something I’m not looking for.”
If others are there, they’re usually not talking (which is nice in an all too loud world) but quietly thumbing through album after album. You can feel the intense passion in the silence. I imagine everyone’s head is filled with both music they know and music they’re craving while they’re milling about the store. Time doesn’t exist at a record store. Yet there’s never enough of it. Someone’s always waiting for you in the car or at home. It’s like it’s too good to be allowed to stay too long.
I was born into a house with records always in my sight. My dad had a lot of Hi-Lit collections. I think they were compiled by a DJ named “Hi-Lit”? It’s kind of a blur. They were kind of like an old bible or something. It just lived there under some other records. Maybe from my dad’s younger days before I was born. I’d drop the oh-so-sensitive needle and all of a sudden some guy was singing “Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.”
“My first associations with vinyl come from that proto-musician phase of life known as childhood. Crouched over a Playskool turntable with my proto-girlfriend, listening to proto-music. Like a gateway drug for the under-ten crowd, album versions of Hollywood movies, like novelizations in sound, were the first recordings to catch hold of my small ears. They dragged me down into a life-long addiction to recorded music, the grooves in vinyl like tracks on a user’s arm.”
“Planet of the Apes was a great album, dialogue from Charlton Heston and cast alternating with orchestral interludes, or sometimes overlain. I never saw the movie itself! The sonic images were lucid enough to seduce my imagination; I knew the story back to front and the grandiose music penetrated deep in my subconscious, laying the groundwork for years of imitation.
As years went by, proto-girlfriends became girlfriends. Proto-music became music. Or sort of. I was still fascinated by the allure of a good story and, as I grew, just graduated to a little more grown-up stories. A huge favorite of my pre-teen years was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by David Bowie. “Are you sitting comfortably?” David would ask in his most White Duke of voices…”Then let’s begin.”