Matt North,
The TVD First Date

“I was born in 1969, so when my friends and I were old enough to discover music independent from our parents, the vinyl I remember holding and studying for hours were albums like the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, and the American Graffiti Soundtrack with that irresistible, animated centerfold of the rollerskating waitress.”

“We were six or seven-years old so it wasn’t like we had our own money to buy albums — instead, my introduction to vinyl was defined by rifling through the record collections of our older siblings when our older siblings weren’t home. Inside their bedrooms, we discovered the zipper on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, The Velvet Underground “banana,” and the proudly hanging balls of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

In my own home, a package of twelve LPs arrived at our door after my older brother and I joined the infamous Columbia House “Mail-Order” Record Club for the price of a penny. According to Columbia House, it was “an opportunity that may never come again” and the deal was simple: “Take any 11 albums for a penny. Then take a 12th one free!” What slipped by us was the fine print at the bottom: “If you join Columbia House now you agree to buy 8 more selections at regular club price in the next three years.” Seemingly getting something free, then later learning how much money we owed the company was a stone-cold, perfect introduction to the music business.

In spite of a bad contract, our stack of vinyl for a penny was solid gold. Most memorable was how the robot with the bloody finger on Queen’s News Of The World scared the bejesus out of me while the woman with red hair on The Cars’ Candy-O put the bejesus right back into me. I credit my older brother for hand-picking everything we ordered and starting me off on the classics: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, Zeppelin, The Beatles, and another kind of album that I really haven’t heard mentioned enough from vinyl enthusiasts as the format makes its comeback: comedy albums.

Inside the stack of our Columbia House gems, it was only normal back then to also order Richard Pryor’s Wanted, George Carlin’s Class Clown, Steve Martin’s Let’s Get Small, and Cheech & Chong’s Big Bambu. When I think about vinyl memories, I feel so fortunate that I was introduced to comedy in that era and that I developed my taste in humor exactly the same way I developed my taste in music—it was all about listening. You want to hear some great music with perfect rhythm and melodic structure? Check out a Nichols & May comedy album.

Frankly, since comedy on vinyl was just as much a part of our culture as music on vinyl, I never really saw a difference between rock stars and comedians. Yes, the jobs were different, but in spirit, comedy was rock and roll. It was punk. I’ll put it this way: my parents never had much of a problem with any of our rock albums, but our comedy albums? Once my parents heard Pryor and Carlin getting into my 8-year old mind, those became the albums that we were not allowed to play. So guess what we couldn’t wait to listen to when our parents weren’t around?

After the real terms of the Columbia House agreement made their way to our parents, and after a fairly calm lecture about responsibility from our father, he gave us a gentle and unforgettable warning, “Guys, absolutely nothing out there ever comes free…not even music.” How could anyone have known back in 1979, right? To that end, I hope we always have vinyl…and I hope the Spotify offices are built over an Indian Burial Ground.”
Matt North

Matt North’s Above Ground Fools is in stores now via Round Badge Records.

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PHOTO: ANGELINA CASTILLO

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