“For most of my life, vinyl records seemed as old and foreign as typewriters and telegrams.”
“The mere term “vinyl record” conjured up the dank mustiness of my grandparents’ basement, where they stored a few records and eight tracks amongst a hoard of 1900s furniture and knick knacks. When I got my first jobs in high school, vinyl didn’t even cross my mind. I bought CDs like they were going out of style. Thank God that they eventually did…
The first vinyl record I ever bought was a seven-inch record by Navies–a DC post punk band that blew my mind for a crowd of about a dozen people in Ventura, CA. I was in 9th grade, I bought the vinyl because they were out of CDs, and a couple of years went by before I even played the record for the first time at a friend’s house. He showed me why the 45 rpm seven-inch sounded like dinosaurs when I played it at the wrong speed.
“My flatmate Tim bought a Technics 1200 just before they were discontinued. When we first moved in together we used to just hang around and listen to records every night for like six months. I think my first purchase was a Steely Dan record, possibly Aja.“
“I really got into record shopping on tour. It’s a great way to see a snapshot of a new city. I like to keep my ears open everywhere I go, and in a good record store there’s usually something interesting playing. I found Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians in Cleveland I think, and gave it to my bandmate Oli. It’s a recording of when the piece was debuted in Berlin and it sounds truly amazing.
I was at Som Records in DC recently (great record store), and the soundtrack to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was playing. Apparently the film isn’t great, but the soundtrack is all great soul/disco tunes written for the film. The guy wasn’t selling it though!
“I’ll be honest…I don’t even own a record player. I’ve been asking for one for Christmas for a few years now…”
“Years and years ago, everyone had a record player. Nowadays, not only are they hard to find, but they are kind of expensive for a starving artist like myself. I get most of my music on Spotify or iTunes. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to experience music on vinyl. I say ‘experience’ because that’s truly what it is. Listening to a record start to finish on vinyl is something you take time to do, to truly savor the sounds and warmth of the tones. It’s on my agenda to one day have my own player. I actually only own one record personally, an Original Soundtrack recording from Singin’ in The Rain!
Not many people know this, but my background is in music theatre, opera, and classical music. Whenever I’m sifting through old records at McKay’s in Nashville, TN, I’m ALWAYS hoping for a Bernstein conducted piece. Or a Puccini opera. Or some rare original performance of a Stravinsky piece, like The Rite of Spring. There’s absolutely something amazing about hearing these classical performances on vinyl, because back then, they had no choice but to record them to vinyl. And every performance is different. So I love that McKay’s has tons of classical records. You NEVER know what you’re going to find. And there are some rare performances floating around out there.
“One of the first records I considered mine was a Frank Sinatra 45 of “New York New York.” At age 5, I stole it from my parents and wore it out on my Fisher Price record player. I’d belt out my duet with Frank and even had a special red velvet dress I wore for these “performances.”
“Records were always playing on my family’s record player as well: Dusty Springfield, Billie Holiday, Simon and Garfunkel, and a promotional copy of Madonna’s Like a Virgin on white vinyl that my parents’ friend, who worked at Motown Records, gave them.
At 13, my record collection began to expand dramatically. I discovered punk rock and all its post-punk / post-hardcore related genres, independent labels, and mail ordering records. For my 14th birthday my parents gave me an all-in-one stereo with a record player on top that lived in my bedroom.
It began with compilations from K records, TeenBeat, and Kill Rock Stars, and spiraled into a collection of music from bands like Unwound, Tortoise, Superchunk, Sonic Youth, Cap’n Jazz, Low, Palace Brothers, Come, and many more. My parents also noticed my growing obsession with vinyl and gave me records from their collection that they considered essentials like Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Julie London, Edith Piaf, Bruce Springsteen, and Dolly Parton.
“I guess my earliest memory of vinyl began as a child. My father was a toy sculptor and made some of the most well-known action figures—Spawn, Batman figures, and so many more. My dad would work his best when accompanied by a record or cassette player.”
“Some of the vinyl he would spin wasBruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles. I have fond memories of hanging out with my dad in his studio, listening to music with him. I guess that was when I developed my love for music.
Beyond that, I did not get into buying my own vinyl for the longest time. I lived in an age of CDs and MP3s. I remember the first couple of CDs I bought. The first one was Dude Ranch by Blink 182 and the second, the Pokemon movie soundtrack. And since then, I have grown to love Sonic Youth, Electric Wizard, and Ty Segall. For the longest time music was merely a sonic thing for me. I would listen to songs to dissect them and really understand the songs themselves. I wasn’t really concerned about the platform I was listening to it on.
“Although there was a small collection of vinyl in my house growing up, it never really played a part in my musical education. It was more of a novelty to occasionally rifle through, and even more occasionally actually listen to. There were some pearls in there, don’t get me wrong, but the good ones would be taped onto cassette and the records left alone.”
“It was later on that I discovered the delights of buying vinyl. I started off buying 7” singles from the HMV in Liverpool, and was drawn to them by the gimmicks of coloured discs, limited editions, and picture discs.
I found a self-loading turntable complete with speakers at a jumble sale for 50p, and my collection started to grow. Mainly mid-nineties indie and Britpop (I still have most of them; the bright orange 7” of Sixty Foot Dolls’ “Talk to Me,” the ice white 7” of “Milk” by Garbage with the fold out sleeve etc.) From here I started to venture into second-hand record shops and charity shops, and digging through crates, and this is where the love of it really started.
“My relationship with vinyl is really new, but I kind of jumped into it head first. This time last year I didn’t even own a record player. And then a little spot called Jupiter Records opened up a quarter-mile from my house, in Wilmington, Delaware.”
“I walked up there one day and copped a copy of Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug before I even had a table to play it on. In the next few months my roommate got a job there, and as soon as there was another opening I jumped at the chance. I’ve been working at the shop for four months now.
My roommate and I got our system set up and then started handing a majority of our paychecks right back to our boss Steve, in exchange for records. That store, and vinyl itself, really changed the way I explore music. My coworker Jamie has been collecting vinyl for years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy that likes his job so much. He loves hooking people up with music that they’ve never heard before. He threw on Fresh Fruit For Rotten Vegetables one of my first days at work and I’ve been hooked on ’80s hardcore and punk ever since. He found out I never heard Minor Threat and was visibly pissed off. Now he spins a punk or hardcore record I’ve never heard of every one of my shifts.
“My love affair with vinyl actually got sparked pretty late in my life. In fact it started while I was on tour.”
“My tour manager and I were out on the road just the two of us. In order to maintain a peaceful happy tour bubble, we had to be sensitive to each others needs. We quickly fell into a routine of hitting a vintage store in each city for me, a record store in each city for her, and a delicious breakfast joint every morning that served bacon for me and vegan options for her.
However, Electric Fetus in Minneapolis swiftly and sweetly took my vinyl v card. I got so many records, I needed help carrying them out of the store. I got everything from Bowie to Elton John, Emmylou Harris to Radiohead, Sinatra to Al Green.
“I find myself struggling to say something about vinyl that hasn’t been said by almost every serious musician or fan out there. Sound quality, big artwork, tangibility, nostalgia, lack of cognitive dissonance caused by digital encoding, and quite a few other factors add up to the fact that vinyl is still the ultimate way to experience music as a stand-alone art-form.”
“One could argue that vinyl has a limited dynamic range, is relatively fragile, environmentally wasteful, and not user-friendly, but the consensus among music lovers seems to be that vinyl is still the pinnacle of music-listening and appreciation technology. It’s likely that many of us (myself included) fell in love with music through vinyl when we were young, but I can almost guarantee that at the time, most of us weren’t thinking deeply about different formats or even about sound quality. It was simply how our parents or grandparents listened to music, and it was an activity we all enjoyed. It was an activity that was all about the music, and captured our attention and respect.
I was a teenager during the time that iPods and laptops were becoming common possessions among middle-class folk, and shortly after I had acquired these devices my dad and I had to move to a smaller space where there was no room for those records. He sold them for 25 or 50 cents each, and even at that price, they weren’t easy to get rid of. I think some of them ended up in the dumpster.
“My love affair started with vinyl maybe 5 or so years ago. A really good friend of mine had an obsession for it and hence pushed it onto me. It’s not an elitist thing at all, it’s more the authenticity.”
“Everything from the sleeve and packaging to the tangible value it holds, and of course the overall sound. You can get pretty turbo on the idealistic set up too, looking into power amps, speakers, and turntables is a whole other bag of fun.
My favourite two personal stories pertaining to vinyl are completely different, but both pretty cool so I’m telling you both.
Big Star, Third | The same buddy who got me into hunting down records, got me into Big Star. I became mildly obsessive for a few months there, and I can vividly remember the first time I put this album on. I had just finished work for the day, it sucked. Really shitty day. I arrived home to find a package at my stoop, it was this album. I hastily unwrapped the packaging and immediately placed it on.
I can remember lying back on the shag rug, lucidly falling in and out of sleep as the songs intertwined and I actually had this pseudo feeling of being on heroin. It’s really weird to explain and perhaps you can’t really ascertain the exact feeling I am explaining, but I was incapacitated on this rug in my living room. No one around and just the sound of Big Star emanating over me. It was euphoric in a way and for some reason I don’t think I would have shared that same experience if I had been listening to an iPod.