Daniel Steinbock,
The TVD First Date

“When I was 7 years-old, I was the only one in my family who listened to vinyl. My mom had held onto about 50 of her favorite records from the ’60s and ’70s and they’d sat on a bookshelf, unplayed, for the duration of my short life thus far. I didn’t even know what the things were, mentally lumping them in with my parents’ outsized collection of cookbooks and Time Life volumes on arcane subjects outside of my childhood universe.”

“That is, until the day my Mom brought home a second-hand record player. She’d bought it on a whim, thinking it’d be fun to give her old records a spin. I watched in rapt attention as she taught me how to pull the vinyl out of its sleeve without scratching it and how to place the needle gently at the edge of the spinning black disc. A scratchy silence burst from her old Pioneer speakers and a new world opened up to me.

Over the following days and weeks, I worked my way through my Mom’s collection, one record at a time: J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Guantanamera by The Sandpipers, albums by The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Limeliters, Glenn Yarbrough, (so much Glenn Yarbrough…). My Mom’s tastes leaned heavily toward the early ’60s folk ensembles. I’d put each record on and then explore the album jacket inside and out, reading every word of the liner notes, transported by the beat poet language and tales from recording studios decades earlier. Sitting cross-legged on the living room carpet, eyes lost in the cover art on my lap, voices from other times sang from the Pioneer speakers and pulled me into imaginary realms of my own making.

After dipping into all of the albums in my Mom’s collection, I found a handful of favorites that I would return to in the months and years to come. Among these, one record stood above all others in my esteem; one record I played over and over with loving obsession: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.

Was it the cover photo, which I endlessly explored like a page from Where’s Waldo? Was it the startling variety of sounds, textures, and musical styles, like an episode of Sesame Street? Was it the psychedelic imagery that spoke the same language as my childhood imagination, as did the merry old land of Oz and the pink elephants in Dumbo? All of the above, I am sure.

I listened and re-listened to Sgt. Pepper’s with the same child’s obsession I’d watched Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz and over and over again on VHS tape. I never tired of it, only growing more fond and familiar with each listening, memorizing every lyric with the help of the words printed on the back of the album. Even the ones I couldn’t understand at that tender age: “Took her home, I nearly made it / Sitting on the sofa with a sister or two,” “Found my way upstairs and had a smoke / Somebody spoke and went into a dream.” I still don’t know what “And now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall” means.

When I listen to Sgt. Pepper’s today, there’s one thing missing—midway through the first track, when the Lonely Hearts Club Band is thanking the audience: the spot where my Mom’s copy would always skip a beat—that little reminder of vinyl’s physicality that is forever carved into my brain.

Was it a coincidence that the one album I fell deeply in love with at 7 years-old is widely regarded as one of the finest albums in the history of recorded music? (I see Rolling Stone lists it at #1 in their 500 Greatest Albums of all time.) I don’t think so. It’s a testament to the ageless artistry of Sgt. Pepper’s that a little kid listening to his Mom’s records could plainly hear that this was the best thing around. Had my Mom’s collection contained a single Dylan record, perhaps this story would have gone a different way.”
Daniel Steinbock

Daniel Steinbock’s Out of the Blue arrives in stores on February 15, 2019—on vinyl.

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PHOTO: BRADLEY COX

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