Rue Snider,
The TVD First Date

“My parents had a record player with a spindle that you could load 9 or 10 albums on at a time. The circles would drop one by one, making a faint smacking sound as they landed on top of each other somehow never doing any damage. That’s one way records are different from people. Once all the A sides finished playing my mom would flip the entire stack and drop the needle again.”

“This strange loading apparatus, which I have never seen on any other turntable, caused my early listening experiences to be fraught with anticipation. When “Dogs In The Yard” played on the Fame soundtrack, I knew it might be 2 or 3 hours before I heard “Red Light.” After “Chances” from Air Supply’s Greatest Hits I had to wait to make love out of nothing at all and if I’m being honest that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I learned to live with that like it was normal.

This was helpful during the holidays because my mother’s extensive collection of Christmas vinyl wasn’t just John Denver and the Muppets, and Elvis. There was a substantial amount of Sears and Roebuck bargain basement Christmas “classics.” They were the aural equivalent of reindeer murder field recordings played back on a scratched record, stylus stuck in the groove, broadcasting the last pained screams of Prancer shaking off this mortal coil over and over in high fidelity. Not having to endure both sides in a row was a December blessing.

I grew up mostly with cassettes. It was the ’80s and they were more durable. I had dozens and dozens of tapes that eventually morphed into 500 or so CDs. Then came Shawn Fanning and it wasn’t long until all of those went out the window, literally. There was an incident in Philadelphia with a steep stairway, a couple distracted friends engaging in unpaid manual labor, and a poorly installed box fan in the window below the stairs. Never let your friends drink until after they help you move. That was the lesson that day.

The slippery slope from CDs to MP3s was something that seemed so exciting at the time. I was happy to never have to endure a sidewalk littered with broken jewel cases and a gathering of neighbors who now knew I owned every CD released by Jewel. I began digitizing the unclothed discs that all the king’s horses were able to reassemble and swore I’d never look back. No more shelf space! No more music to carry from apartment to apartment! Backed up and safe my music “collection” was guarded forever. That’s what I thought until that first hard drive crashed and everything became a bit dicey.

Then came the DSPs like carpetbaggers. (They ended up taking a broken system full of piracy and turning it into a viable business model that I now profit from, so carpetbag placed firmly in cheek.) Once that system was in place I didn’t even need a goddamn hard drive anymore. Thus began my decade of wandering the musical fidelity wilderness. Nothing but compressed sound streaming through hundred-dollar computer speakers and oddly expensive earbuds. I loved that sound quality like an old man who puts ketchup on baked potatoes. I didn’t know any better.

The calendar rolled over to 2014. A generous friend who works for a major record label gave me a half-dozen really awesome records. I didn’t have a functioning turntable so those motherfuckers sat on my shelf and looked GREAT! I thought about them and enjoyed their presence as decorations but never considered playing them until SXSW 2015.

The festival was a mind fuck. I had fun at my unofficial shows and meeting lots of bands but it was overwhelming, being my first time, and difficult to navigate. The best part that year (other than a spectacular lost weekend with a very stoned promoter who had predilections for Waylon Jennings and rarely ever wearing pants) was the passion many people I met had for vinyl. Everyone was putting their records out on vinyl or at least trying to. Everyone was buying old vinyl. People were giving me their records to take home. I tried to point out to several folks that I didn’t have a record player. They laughed and thrust the albums into my hand, smiling in a knowing way (all of them did this).

At the end of that tour I passed through my parents’ place in Pennsylvania. I asked my dad if he had a record player lying around I could have. He’s an avid thrift store shopper and tends to have at least one of everything. Sure enough he had a plastic (yes, completely plastic) Crosley that he let me bring back to New York. I shortly learned that Crosley’s get no respect in the vinyl community and I moved on to a more substantial machine. I felt like goddamn Saul of Tarsus as the scales fell from my ears. It was as if I was hearing music for the first time.

Digital music is masturbation. Records are sex with a living, breathing human. They both get you where you want to go but one is unmistakably better. I began listening to records around the clock. Whenever I was in my apartment there was one playing. At this point I only had the initial half-dozen from my friend and the few that I’d picked up from generous bands at SX. I began assembling my collection, slowly at first. I’ve never done heroin but since I’ve become a vinyl fan and spent countless hours searching for and eventually finding albums I craved like a lost lover, I have a firmer grasp of the word ‘“euphoria.”

I began to be filled with an aural wonder and joy that I had forgotten since my youth. Why had all of the records my mother played stayed with me for so long even though there were many I hated? (“Disco Mickey Mouse” anyone?) I welcomed the lush sound, the warmth, the separation of the instruments, the drums that sounded like drums, the cymbals that didn’t sound like somebody rustling old newspaper. It was hot. It was almost sexual. It was like getting high but without any side effects. It was an audible feast and it was delicious.

Record purchases started to pick up. It was like the final days of Napster when we were told it would be taken offline and I tried to download everything I could get my hands on. I still have some Barry Manilow on a hard drive from that time. But now I was buying music. Paying full retail. Digging through bins for bargains. It began to take over like a drug that came on slowly, that I was powerless to stop. I had forgotten about the joy that comes from buying and owning music. I had forgotten how exciting it is to discover a record from start to finish, to not skip tracks, to hold the liner notes in your hand while you sit and listen undistracted. It changed me. It gave me back a joy that I lost somewhere along the way and reminded me why I fell in love with music in the first place.

Records are my drug. They’re my church. They’re my doorway to magical places in time that I can’t get to any other way. There’s a slowness that came back into my life when I started listening to vinyl. My anxiety lessened. I started to be more productive so I would have time to listen to records with a clear conscious. Records were part of my childhood and now they’re back in my life as an adult. They give me hope. They remind me that there are pleasures that aren’t immediate and that the best things in life aren’t free. They are accumulating month by month and I see the danger in an unchecked purchasing habit. Thankfully I don’t have unlimited resources or I would need another apartment to house them.”
Rue Snider

Rue Snider’s third full-length studio album, City Living, arrives in stores on July 27, 2018—on vinyl.

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