Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, author
Why Vinyl Matters,
The TVD First Date

“Everyone always asks me about how I ‘started’ my relationship with records. The answer is that there was no THIS MOMENT onwards thing; they were just always, always there.”

“My parents had the quintessential ’60s /’70s collection, filled with The Who, original Rolling Stones, Doors, Beatles, Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Woodstock and Hair soundtracks. My mom had a pop singer / songwriter addiction, which manifested itself during my childhood in the entire Elton John, Billy Joel, and Hall and Oates catalogs, and moved on to an obsession, strangely, with Huey Lewis and The News (who knew that anyone could be fixated on them? Just shows, there is something for everyone).

At Christmas, when we would receive albums, everything would come to a stop. The album would be played, side A and side B, listened to all the way through, before any other gifts could be opened or food could be gorged upon. Both sets of grandparents were equally inclined to have large vinyl collections, which we voraciously listened to during visits. My paternal set veered towards Dave Brubeck and Otis Redding, which we would put on after dinner, while we were sitting around the fire. It was an integral part of the visit.

My maternal grandfather, an Italian immigrant living in California, had a basement workshop where for fun he would craft hand-made tables, candlesticks, and other wood art. The whirring of the saw was always accompanied by a variety of opera records, blasting at full volume, and my Nonno singing along at equally top octaves. After he passed away, we were clearing out their house. When we got to the workshop, everyone else was interested in the tools. I had to have the records, though they were really rather unplayable, as all of them had a thick layer of sawdust encasing them.

These early experiences highly influenced my own relationship with records. They were essential—not an afterthought. They demanded your full attention. They made everything that much better. In Santa Cruz, the small beach town where I grew up in California, the ‘cool’ record stores were on the ‘dangerous’ i.e. more urban (if you could call anything in a small beach town ‘urban’) side of town, the place populated by college students, people with multi colored hair, and even some nose piercings—all of which seemed incredibly edgy. I always felt that I was asserting myself, as an individual, not as part of the greater family unit, when I would go to Cymbaline Records or Logos, the latter being this amazing second-hand book and record store.

At the time, Santa Cruz was also a very musical place to be. We had an open air mall, where buskers would perform. The heart of the downtown was a merchantile called the Cooper House, which always had jazz musicians jamming in the front. It was the late ’70s / early ’80s, and every shop you went into, every friends house I spent the night at, everyone was playing Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan. This FM gold, like the early Dave Brubeck, the Billy Joel, the opera at Nonno’s, all informed my taste, both for the perfect pop song, but also for a darker themed, multi-layered lyrics. It may not seem like a straight line, but there are shades of similar themes in The Smiths and in Steely Dan—underage romance, inappropriate drinking, and an overall melancholic yet playful take on the insanity that is the human condition.

I wanted to work in the music business from a young age. I did not even know that there was such a thing as ‘the music business.’ I just knew that I loved music more than anything else. I played the flute in junior high school (I promise, it was cool! We did versions in our school band of ‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil and the entire Can’t Slow Down catalog by Lionel Ritchie), but the thought of being in a band myself really did not cross my mind. The only all female band I knew (or, should I say, I admired) were The Go-Go’s. They seemed so much more impossibly cool than me; it was unthinkable that a lower middle class surf rat from The Cruz could ever make songs like they did. But I could put on shows, I could market albums. And that is what I did.

When I decided that I wanted to write a book about something that meant a lot to me, my first idea was of course to revisit my obsession with the FM Gold. I kept saying to my agent, ‘BUT THE ALBUM COVERS…THEY ARE SO AMAZING!’ I would wax poetic about the long afternoons spent sprawled out on the bright gold carpet of our living room in the house I grew up in, devouring the liner notes, trying to piece together all of the information that seemed like a puzzle wanting me to crack it for each artist. The agent finally said no to my FM Gold dreams, but suggested that I do a book on vinyl, as it clearly was one of the founding things in my music obsession. That was the starting point for my book, Why Vinyl Matters.

I did not really have a full outline or agenda as to how I would write it or how I wanted it to turn out. My ‘master plan’ was putting together a list of people who, in an ideal fantasy world, I could have conversations about vinyl records with. I was pleasantly shocked when some of my idols, like Henry Rollins and Nick Hornby, started responding to my emails, which I had fired off into the seeming black hole of the inter-web, begging for an interview about their loves for albums.

The book is a valentine, a love letter, to all of the people like Nick, Henry and others who informed my culture, my taste, my values through the medium of vinyl records; but also a major declaration of gratitude to all of the independent shops who have been purveyors of community, culture, and free thinking for decades. Why Vinyl Matters is not just about waxing (HA!) nostalgic about the format; it is about the special and unique way that records bring us together in unexpected and magical ways.”
Jennifer Otter Bickerdike

Why Vinyl Matters is on store shelves now and can be ordered here.
Jennifer Otter Bickerdike Website | Facebook | Twitter

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