“I grew up in Foster City, California. It’s kind of like Legoland there—an aggressively suburban neighborhood built around the San Francisco Bay.”
“My parents ran a tight ship. There was always smooth jazz playing. David Benoit. John Tesh. Our white carpet remained white for years. There wasn’t really any recorded music around. My parents weren’t ‘cool.’ They just had KOIT on all the time. Lite rock, less talk.
I think for this reason I didn’t really encounter vinyl until I was about 13, when I bought a limited run Starchildren 7” at Tower Records in San Mateo. Starchildren was Billy Corgan’s side project. There was a Joy Division cover on the B-side, which is probably how I ever heard of Joy Division. I was the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan ever. I didn’t even have a record player and that thing sat on my shelf until I sold it on Ebay for $70 sometime during the early 2000s.
“My dad got a record player in ’71, when I was fourteen.”
“I remember The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buddy Holly. But with my pocket money I bought ‘Jeepster’ by T Rex, Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Family Affair’ and others. As unhip as it was, the first piece of vinyl I remember was my dad’s copy of America’s attempt to write a Neil Young song, ‘A Horse With No Name.’ It was played a lot around the house.
Interestingly, it was a massive influence on Mark E Smith, the lead singer of my first real band, The Fall. You can hear its impact in the sprechstimme style of Mark’s voice. He doesn’t really sing or hold a melody. A lot of what he does comes out like that one long line—’in the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause they’re ain’t no one for to give you no pain,’ which barely has any melody. It’s perfect for the tone-deaf, I think that’s why it was a hit. I still hear America’s nearly tuneless ‘la la la la la la…’ in nearly every Fall song.
“Ever since a crate of original vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s was bestowed upon me by a family friend named Eric (either thanks to his ritualistic evening scotch or just the fact it was time for him to pass them on), I was fascinated.”
“Those large sleeves housed not only some of the most compelling and innovative music of those generations, but left visual gateways to those experiences. I could smell it. Holding those LPs in my hands while the record played felt like looking into forbidden windows, moments in time that are somehow concurrently timeless.
When I heard Bob Dylan on original vinyl I felt like I had never heard him sing before then. For me, it’s that canvas. To be honest, I most prefer the sound of cassettes, beats ’em all—through Neil Young’s Ponoplayer—whatever happened to that?”
“We are talking Scotland in the early 1960s when one of the best things in the world was loading up the Dansette record player with a stack of 7-inch 45 rpm singles to see how many it could play…
It could be “Twist and Shout” (The Beatles) on top of “High Hopes” (Frank Sinatra) followed by the “Cindy Doll Record” (God knows who) and “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” (The Pipes and Drums of the Highland Regiment). Then slamming down on this 5-thick vinyl sandwich would come “Telstar” (The Tornados) by which time, the records would be scratching each other to oblivion.
“Vinyl records were always a mysterious thing to me. When I was growing up everyone had cassettes and then CDs. I remember going round to my parents’ friends’ houses and being fascinated by their vinyl collections.”
“I distinctly recall picking up a pristine copy of Michael Jackson’s Bad album and opening up this thing of beauty with the giant sleeve pictures and notes. It felt like it was something very special to behold. Putting on the record made the music sound even better with that indescribable vinyl tone…miles away from cassette sound. I also loved sifting through my parents old vinyl singles collection—there were some amazing covers in there! I kept hold of Blondie’s “Atomic” and put it on my wall!
Later on in my teens I had an extensive CD collection and loved those great bands who really made an effort to emulate the vinyl experience on their CD releases through elaborate sleeves and track sequencing. Bands like Pearl Jam and Radiohead have some notable examples of the vinyl influence—particularly their albums Vitalogy and Hail to the Thief. I would love it (like many would) when bands printed the lyrics in their sleeves, so the whole process of listening to the album became ‘an experience.’
“My first record was Purple Rain. I loved Prince. When my parents divorced, I moved with my mom (and my conveniently-new stepdad). They were very religious and didn’t want me listening to ‘secular’ music. I remember them making me throw my one and only album away. I was devastated. Luckily I moved in with my dad shortly after that.”
“I remember the record player my dad had. It was from his hippie days, and he’d saved all his old 12”s. I would flip through them and try to figure out what was going on with each cover… It was like my very own art exhibit. I remember seeing The Beatles ‘White Album’ and wondering if they forgot to make the art for it.
I also remember giggling at Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, thinking, ‘Those kids should really put their pants on, I can see their butts.’ It was an awesome time for me, discovering new music, or, I guess, music in general. Luckily my dad had great taste so I wasn’t steered in the wrong direction.
“Record shops used to give me such anxiety. They still do a little bit, even though I feel like I have a decent knowledge of music now (at least the junk I like).”
“Friday nights as a teen, my best friends and I would cram into a little pick up truck and drive to our local Phoenix shop, Zia Records. I don’t remember many of my early purchases, but it’s safe to assume they were early ’00s pop punk and ’80s classic rock. But as a timid, very plain 15-year-old girl, the best part of visiting Zia was the people you’d see. And the weekly challenge of making a purchase without the ‘too-cool-for-school’ crusty scene kid behind the cash register rolling their eyes as I excitedly purchased a Hall and Oates album
It wasn’t until college that collecting vinyl became a large part of my routine for happiness. I was a lonely kid living in Washington DC, grabbing a coffee and a new record was often my only pick me up. My collection grew during these years by the hundreds. Each one had a memory: this one was playing in the shop so I bought it, this one fell out of my bike basket on the ride home when I was hit by a car, this one was for xx break up, and so on.
“Vinyl has always been special to me. It was maybe the fact it always seemed to be out of bounds when I was younger. Before my dad’s record collection was relegated to the loft, they were not to be played by anyone other than him. I can see his point, his collection was in pristine condition, so why would he want my brother and my grubby hands all over them?”
“Vinyl records were absent from my life for a time but can’t say I missed them because I had never actually played one. It wasn’t until I was about 18 when I started hanging out with a friend who had a massive record collection. It was the first time I was able to really examine them and was interested in how they worked, how the packaging was put together, and what they sounded like. This was uncharted territory for me.
I started going to the second-hand record stores in Glasgow and raiding charity shops. There are a lot of Perry Como records out there. Also, a lot of Crocodiles by Echo and The Bunnymen which was one of my first purchases and subsequently one of my favourite albums. It’s a game of chance when you’re searching through buckets of second-hand records. For every Evol by Sonic Youth, there are 30 Barry Manilow greatest hits albums. You need to have patience.
“I’m 35 now and as a result I come from a generation that had a lot to do with vinyl’s initial decline.”
“For a perpetually bored and restless wean, these were the big, footery black ornaments that I more often associate with being shouted at by over-protective older relatives, who didn’t like my grubby kid-fingers picking them up in ways that were apparently unacceptable. The fact that they couldn’t be set down anywhere for even a second, couldn’t be left in a room which fluctuated by 0.5 degrees of heat and absolutely could not be used to drive my micro-machine across did nothing to bring the two of us closer.
As I saw it, I could throw a cassette at a wall, use them to build a fort manned by LEGO spacemen, or stick pencils through the holes and spin them like a football rattle and nobody gave a damn. Cassettes were approachable and fun. So when vinyl left for college, I can’t say I was particularly moved.
As I entered my teens and began to discover my own taste in music (as opposed to my parents’ ABBA, Cyndi Lauper, and Big Country hand-me-downs) they all suddenly had one thing in common, which was this miraculous, convenient, space-age pocket-mirror format that I didn’t need to drag my ass off a couch to turn over and that could easily skip all the filler in favour of nothing but hits.
“Fifteen months old in the high chair, the first child of a stay-at-home wife and mother whose ambition was complete at the time, having had ME. Mom played records, talked, and sang to me all day while she took care of our tiny new-construction mid 1950s suburban house, waiting for dad to come home. On that day in 1957, it was The Mickey Mouse Club song. She sang ‘EMM EYE CEE…’ Behind her in a tiny voice from the high chair came my first words: ‘KAY EEE WHYYY…’ Mom about fell over.”
“I THINK The Mickey Mouse Club record was part of our family collection, not just televised in. A couple of years later, I KNOW we had the first Alvin and the Chipmunks LP.
There was a huge console stereo in the living room of that little house, mainly holding adult fare based on my parents’ radio listening habits: Andy Williams, Perry Como, Leroy Anderson (“The Typewriter Song”), Mantovani, Mahalia Jackson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jane Morgan, Sarah Vaughn. I recall many humid Minnesota Summers lightened by Christmas carols from the Ray Conniff Singers. The soundtracks for South Pacific and Sound of Music filled my brain with emotion and dreams. I still see my Dad, young and straight and tall in the living room, conducting an imaginary orchestra to Victory at Sea.
In third grade The Beatles hit and Top-40 AM radio surged on the school bus. Shy but smart in school equalled ‘stuck up’ in those times leaving me with few friends, so I lived in my head, with an internal soundtrack pounding and liable to burst out at any time incongruously. I once sang “What’s new pussycat? Whoaa…” as I opened the art cupboard, earning my classmates’ derision and my forever shame.