Noah C. Lekas,
The TVD First Date

“My earliest vinyl memory is pulling the three volume Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two Original Golden Hits set from the back of my Grandparent’s wooden console. One cover was white, one black and one blue, each with a different picture of Cash. Too young to read, I asked my Grandpa who it was, and he said, “That’s the man in black.” A year or so later, he passed and the records went into a box in my Grandmother’s basement.”

“I’m not a purist when it comes to formats or a collector by nature, but I do appreciate vinyl as an aesthetic, sonic and literary medium. At different times in life, each element made a profound impact on me. In the beginning, it was that picture of Johnny Cash.

A half dozen years later, punk records turned my early aesthetic intrigue into a sonic pursuit. The Midwest post-punk scene was in full tilt with all of its sub-genres and I started catching rides up to Atomic Records on E Locust St. They had it all, including copies of Milk, a music zine that along with the Shepherd Express largely sparked my early interest in music journalism. I bought a lot of records in those days, but I specifically remember grabbing a copy of the Hot Water Music “Alachua” 7” with the die-cut logo sleeve and Fugazi’s Red Medicine at Atomic.

After high school, I ended up in Montana on a hiatus from college. I spent the better part of a year waist deep in the river trying to fly fish and elbow deep in the bargain bins at Rockin Rudy’s on Higgins St. I was looking for Mississippi Sheiks, Blind Willie McTell, Earl Scruggs, Mance Lipscomb—the stuff that either hadn’t made a direct jump to CD or you could find for way less in a used record bin.

The covers weren’t special, the pressings weren’t limited, but the music was foundational. These were the architects of all American music, laid into the grooves and heard at the fidelity that the recording engineers originally intended. In every scratch and crackle there was a gateway to another dimension. I remember grabbing a copy of I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes, an album by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee with Earl Hooker that’s a burner.

The appeal of the older records was sonic, but they also introduced the literary. Some of these records had damn near a book printed on the back cover, everything from who played what and how the session came together to a complete biography or in the case Dylan, full-on neo-beat poetry. On the back cover of Bloomfield, Kooper & Stills’ Super Session, Michael Thomas wrote, “Always the best things happen after hours, by accident, while the cat’s away, when the moon goes behind a cloud and there’s no one else around, certainly the best music in America is made after twelve…” I loved the energy of the prose and the historical insight. The liner notes were literature.

Eventually I found those same three volumes of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two Original Golden Hits in my Grandma’s basement. I’ve still never played them, although I enjoy looking at them. I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes is still in regular rotation on my turntable and every time I read the back cover of Super Session it makes me want to find a new album to write liner notes for.

An MP3 is more convenient to listen to, digital photos are easier to scroll through and listicles are less work to digest, but we keep records for more than what we hear, see or read. Warren Zevon said, “We love to buy books because we believe we’re buying the time to read them.” I think we keep loving vinyl because of the life that has lived through them.

When Blind Owl published my book Saturday Night Sage, we held the release party at Vinyl Junkies in San Diego. There was music, visual art and poetry. I am still no purist when it comes to formats, and my records don’t constitute much of a collection, but every single one on my shelf has a moment in time and a memory stamped into it.”
Noah C. Lekas

“Sounds from the Shadow Factory,” the new spoken word EP from author Noah C. Lekas featuring Howlin’ Rain is in stores now—on vinyl.

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