Author Archives: Special to TVD

Mat Kearney,
The TVD First Date

“At sixteen I convinced my dad to let me buy a 1968 Volkswagen square back with $1,500 dollars I had earned as a bat boy for our local minor league baseball team.”

“I think the car ignited my interest in all things retro. My friends and I got deep into thrifting. The goal was to find the most ridiculous ’70s butterfly collar shirt from Goodwill and wear it with a smirk confidently. I remember a friend took me to a store called Donkey Salvage which introduced me to a more refined version of what thrifting could be.

The store had a quietly cool owner who curated items from the ’50s and ’60s along with a modest selection of jazz and blues records. I ended up hanging out at Donkey Salvage all the time. The owner constantly was spinning music and I would grill him with questions about artists like Dave Brubeck, Billie Holiday, and Dizzy Gillespie.

When I realized his ’50s Magnavox console record player was for sale, I gave him $100 and loaded it into the back of my VW. I look back at that moment as the beginning of my great love affair with vinyl, and really music in general. I discovered artists like Al Green, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis. The more I dug in the more I found a world that felt entirely my own.

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Scott McKeon,
The TVD First Date

“There’s something just really soulful about vinyl. The feel, the sound.”

“My first memories of vinyl are going up in the loft in our house when I was a kid and finding these old dusty boxes of records that belonged to my folks. I remember being fascinated by the album cover artwork and the dusty smell of the sleeves and cardboard. Albums like Donald Fagin’s The Night Fly, Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Frank Sinatra Live at The Sands, Glen Campbell’s By The Time I Get to Phoenix, MJ’s Off The Wall, Quincy Jones’ The Dude…

But when I was growing up, we didn’t actually have a vinyl player so I didn’t get the chance to actually experience listening to them until I got my own record deck. What I’ve always loved about vinyl is that you can see all the musicians’ credits and all the extra bits of artwork—seeing where it was recorded and who played guitar on what song, and seeing certain names keep cropping up, like Larry Carlton, Steve Gadd, and people who would master the albums like Bob Ludwig.

I really started getting into collecting vinyl myself in my twenties, and going back and listening to some of the original blues artists I love and their original vinyl records. Some of my favourite vinyl albums would be BB King Live at the Regal, American Folk Festival of the Blues which features a young Buddy Guy playing with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

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Ben Cosgrove,
The TVD First Date

“I remember playing with my parents’ turntable as a kid. They had boxes and boxes of old records that I’m sure they assumed they’d eventually never have any use for after all those albums gradually became available on CD, and I recall marveling at the fact that you could see, right there on the record, exactly where the information was that would tell the needle to tell the machine to tell the speakers what sounds to make.”

“Long songs were thick, short songs were narrow; a visible scratch would mean a corresponding skip in the audio. I would flip the things back and forth for hours, staring mesmerized at the slowly spinning discs, thinking there was something so thrilling about being able to physically see and feel what a musical recording would sound like.

I am now an adult, and I write instrumental music about landscape—it’s a funny niche to have fallen into, but one I’ve found extremely gratifying for years now. For the first several years I was doing this, I mostly focused (largely without meaning to) on big places: national parks, oceans, rivers, wilderness areas, and vast plains, but with my new project, an album I released in April called The Trouble With Wilderness, I tried making a change.

I was concerned that I might be reinforcing an impression among my audience members that nature was something exotic and separate from the world they knew—something to go and visit rather than to appreciate where you find it—and so to correct this, I tried writing about small places: weeds growing out of the sidewalk, gardens, roadside plants, and other places where it’s harder to say exactly what is wild and what is not.

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Bob Lord,
The TVD First Date

“Some of my earliest memories of music begin with the crackle of a needle drop.”

“I can distinctly remember sitting in my childhood friend’s family room at age 4 or so, around 1980, listening to Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade and being hypnotized by the disc going around and around on the turntable, totally immersed in the sound and the cover art and all the spectacle and ceremony of the whole thing.

My parents had some vinyl which I listened to—I still have their original 45 of “Funkytown” right here next to my desk—but the first brand-new, just-released record that was my very own was Business As Usual by Men At Work, and I couldn’t get enough of “Who Can It Be Now?” Still can’t. Around that same time, I got The Beatles’ Blue and Red album compilations on cassette and found myself stuck on that first volume of Blue, it simply entranced me. I went through multiple copies of that one.

A bit later I got Synchronicity by The Police on vinyl, around the time when “Every Breath You Take” became a hit, and after hearing side one with the “I” and “II” bookends I have to say I was hard-pressed to even turn it over (same thing happened with side one of Back to Oakland by Tower of Power when I was in high school many years later).

But there was one particular musical experience in 1987 which I still think about frequently. I was 10 years old or so at the time and had been a regular watcher of the syndicated series Solid Gold. The show typically featured hits of the day, but this one episode had a guest who had a hit many years before, making his first appearance on TV in quite some time—the British singer Arthur Brown, performing (cough, lip-syncing, cough) his 1968 hit “Fire.”

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Charm of Finches,
The TVD First Date

“We’ll be honest and say we’re pretty new to vinyl. We’re 18 and 21 years old and we grew up with CDs and now we live in the age of streaming.”

“When we were really little, our dad had a bizarre record player called the “sound burger.” It didn’t really look at all like a burger, but because it was called that we were fascinated and thought it did look like one. We loved watching him put the record on as if it was the meat pattie in the middle (we have always been vegetarians, btw). He listened to a LOT of Bob Dylan on that player, and we both realised he must have played Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks extremely often because we know the lyrics for “Tangled Up In Blue” deep in our bones. Also, “Idiot Wind” was a pretty funny song name to us. Something unfortunate must have happened to the burger, because at some point it disappeared and was replaced by a regular turntable.

It’s not until we recently inherited an old record player and a few records from our parents that we’ve started collecting vinyl. We hunted through the shed and cupboards of our family home to see what was lying around. Our mum is a Kate Bush fan, and we claimed Hounds of Love and The Kick Inside, both sublime albums. It’s interesting transitioning to the two-sided listening experience. You start wondering how the artist decided which were to be on side 1 or side 2. There is the choice to create two moods, two shades.

One of our friends gave us Sufjan Stevens’ The Greatest Gift: Mixtape (Outtakes, Remixes and Demos from Carrie and Lowell) on vinyl—an album we revere. The mixtape is an incredible collection, containing everything from iPhone demos to the heart-wrenching epic track “Wallowa Lake Monster,” a song which features so much beautiful poetry and tragedy and small details which Sufjan does so well. Our song “Treading Water” has a fairly generous nod to that aspect of Sufjan’s writing. We played around with mixing in small details into that song, and we are very happy with the effect.

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Giulia.,
The TVD First Date

“My relationship to vinyl is a weird one, given the fact that I grew up with streaming services and have rarely had to buy music—let alone a hard copy.”

“Growing up, I listened to CDs in my little Walkman and danced in my room while Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” blasted through the shitty speakers of my Hello Kitty CD player (but I was 10, so sound quality meant nothing to me). But by the time I was around 12 or 13, streaming services began taking over, and my short-lived CD phase was over.

That being said, I always knew what vinyl was and how it worked, mainly because of my dad. Not only did we have a record player in our living room that sat on top of a massive collection of hundreds of vinyl records, but my dad was a musician. So our house was always filled with a soundtrack of some sort—usually, him fiddling around at the piano.

I think that because of my upbringing, and the way that sound was so ingrained in our house, music—and the experience of listening to music (which is an experience that we take for granted nowadays because of how easy it is to consume)—is always something I’ve felt very connected to. Though it wasn’t until later that connection started happening with vinyl, it was always there.

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Trapper Schoepp,
The TVD First Date

“At one point this year, I had hi-fis in every room of my house except the kitchen.”

“Each of the four setups was meticulously pieced together by my brother and bassist, Tanner. He’s keen on Sansui stereo receivers from the seventies. I’ve accompanied him on Craigslist missions around the tri-state area to buy these solid state gems from the heyday of hifi. While I don’t speak the technical jargon as to why these receivers are sonically sweet, I can see why Tanner is so passionate about the vintage system.

The brushed aluminum and wood paneling looks elegant. They’re loud and heavy. It’s like the exchange about the night vision goggles in Jurassic Park: “Are they heavy? Then they’re expensive. Put ‘em back.” In any case, they’re cheaper than anything modern from Best Buy and probably sound better, too. And we have great local radio stations like WMSE and Radio Milwaukee, so I appreciate the tuner and green lit dial.

Our love of records started at Atomic Records in Milwaukee, WI. The letters “A-T-O-M-I-C” were blocked out in yellow neon lights across storefront window squares. The glow of neon draws you in. They hosted legendary in-stores, and musicians like Dave Grohl have been spotted repping Atomic tees. To me, it felt like a microcosm of the local music scene, and was the antithesis of big box stores where I bought CDs as a kid.

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Austin P. McKenzie,
The TVD First Date

“I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I wanted to say in this article.”

“I’m embarrassed to say that my introduction to vinyl was less than romantic. If I remember correctly, the first vinyl I listened to was a compilation of Ella Fitzgerald songs. I know for certain that the record player was from Urban Outfitters. In other words, it was a piece of shit. The sound quality was terrible. I must have been 15 or 16. Now, I’ve always been a big fan of Ella. I attribute much of my vocal quality to listening to hers for so long. But when I put that record on for the first time, I wasn’t transported back in time, I wasn’t mystified by the turning of the black disc, I wasn’t thrilled. I didn’t understand the hype.”

Over the years, I fiddled around with buying records for my small collection. But I rarely chose to listen to them over my iPod. I’ve always always always been obsessed with and deeply devoted to music. My mother used to make fun of me for falling asleep with my headphones on every night. Every morning I’d ride my bike to school listening to my yellow hand radio in elementary school. I’ve gotten in trouble for listening to music at every single one of my day jobs.

Music has always been my life. Even now, I usually end every night by blasting music in my headphones while I dance. For me, I need the good mix, the high volume, and the cleanness that digital offers. I want to hear everything. I just couldn’t understand why someone would want to listen to the old and therefore lesser quality when it came to vinyl. It wasn’t until this last Christmas that my relationship with vinyl completely changed. And it’s all because of Linda Martell.

My boyfriend had introduced me to Linda about a year ago. I’ve been very into ’60s folk for the past 2 years and when my he showed me Linda, I was instantly in love. Let me explain her sound first. Her musicality, so effortless and delicate. The tone of her voice is incredibly impressive. She has a lovely little twang in the bass of her voice that gives us the country, but the ability she has in every section of her range cradles the listener when she sings her rich little tunes. It just feels oh so nice to play her music at night once the day has settled down and you’ve tucked in. But above all, her story is what brings tears to my eyes.

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White Hills,
The TVD First Date

“My obsession with records dates back to when I was 5. Living in San Carlos, a suburb of San Francisco, which at that time had not left the Leave It To Beaver-era of 1950s Americana. With an older brother already in school and a younger brother still in diapers, much of my day was spent with my mother. I have vivid memories of her doing chores while listening to records, singing along to them and occasionally taking a moment to dance with me.”

“I became enthralled with these round discs that spewed out sound. I would spend hours on end flipping through my parents collection, which was mainly filled with singer-songwriters like Neil Diamond, Carole King and the like alongside Broadway soundtracks, big band and bebop jazz. There were a few anomalies, the soundtrack to Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix and The Band Of Gypsies and Jefferson Airplane’s Bark. The later was the one my pea brain was most enthralled with.

Bark was housed in a mysterious brown paper bag. Upon pulling the cover out I found myself staring at a fish with human teeth. It was so strange and foreign to me. Listening to the album only made things more confusing. From the obtuse acapella song “Thunk” to the nightmarish waltz “Never Argue With A German If You’re Tired Or European Song” to the overly stoned “Pretty As You Feel,” I was completely taken by these unfamiliar sounds and couldn’t get enough.

Flash forward some 5 years, relocated to a different suburb of SF, I would save up my allowance for the sole purpose of purchasing records. My parents had a friend who owned a local record store called Town & Country. Around this time I befriended a kid who had two much older brothers—one a senior in high school, the other a freshman at the University of Berkeley. It was through my friend’s older brothers that I was exposed to punk and new wave- artists like Patti Smith, Motorhead, Television, Sex Pistols and so much more.

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Peter Verdell,
The TVD First Date

“I was raised on cassette tapes, secretly borrowing my stepdad’s Toys In the Attic (Aerosmith), Hotel California (The Eagles), and any other ‘adult’ album I could sneak into my ears. And then my babysitter bought me U2’s Achtung Baby for my 10th birthday—still one of my all time prized possessions.”

“I got a dual-cassette boombox when I turned 13 and started spending most evenings glued to the radio to record my favorite songs when they’d come on (I have epic ’90s radio mixtapes courtesy of Seattle’s 107.7 The End). Eventually, my friends and I upgraded to CDs, and then my best friend Danny got a turntable.

We were 16 years old, and very appropriately, the first record he bought was So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes (NOFX). We were super into punk and pop-punk records, but the turntable also became a gateway to classics like IV, Highway 61 Revisited, and Dark Side of the Moon.

(Fun side-note, I studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade in LA, and El Hefe (guitarist of NOFX) was in one of my classes; we became pals and I confessed to him that So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes is one of 5 albums that I always keep downloaded on my phone.)

Back to vinyl.

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Josh Caterer,
The TVD First Date

“One of my first musical memories was listening to my Dad’s copy of Led Zeppelin II on vinyl.”

“As a little kid, that album was fascinating to me. The weird picture on the front cover where they look like old time fighter pilots. The inside of the gatefold with the giant blimp with spotlights shining on it. I would sit and stare at those mysterious images while I listened to the album. I distinctly remember hearing that psychedelic breakdown in “Whole Lotta Love” and being mesmerized and even a little frightened by it.

Listening to that record at such an impressionable age probably shaped my concept of what music could do. It showed me that these sounds on a piece of plastic can actually create a different world for people to spend time in.

When I was about 8 years old, our next door neighbors had a garage sale. There was a cardboard box full of L’s for sale. As I rummaged through it, one of the album covers grabbed my attention. It was a crazy cartoon picture of some kind of futuristic robot head hovering over a TV screen showing 4 action hero type guys running away from a large explosion.

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Alpha Cat,
The TVD First Date

“I grew up in a home with records—LPs. I didn’t own any; I was far too young, but my oldest sister did, and both my parents did. They had one of those huge stereo systems that took up half our living room.”

“I remember that room not only because that’s where the records were played, but also because it was the same room where I made a fort out of a refrigerator box which I lived in for weeks. And then there was my pet gerbil who ran between the books on the bookshelf—and when I grabbed him by the tail it broke off in my little hand—I had never been so horrified. But I digress… The RECORDS. I remember the first I ever heard, one played by my mother, the others by my father, both playing them over and over, seemingly on endless loop.

My mother’s record? Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Hits! Boy did I love that music! Her voice, her delivery, and of course her beautiful photo on the cover. My mother could never play it too often for me! And just yesterday I had to get in the car to run an errand, where the radio must be on at all times, and I have a policy of constantly switching between stations so as to never have to listen to a commercial. And what song came on when I switched to the oldies station? Dionne Warwick, “Walk on By!” And was that the perfect song for me to hear at that moment! But I’ll keep that aspect of it private. What’s important is that her music is just as great today as it was then. No matter the format.

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Stage Moms,
The TVD First Date

“I got into vinyl only a few years ago. I don’t necessarily collect a lot of records but I have a few really cool ones. “

“My favorite one is Runway Brothers “April Fools Day” release which is a song all about my favorite restaurant that serves gas, SHEETZ. I also am very excited about finding my newest addition 61 Penn by Crucial Dudes. They’re a huge influence on my band Stage Moms and I was incredibly excited to find it at my friend’s record shop (White Rabbit Records in Corbin Kentucky). I grew up listening to bands like Crucial Dudes and The Wonder Years and always wanted to play in a band like that but more aggressive.

Another cool record I have is the Twenty One Pilots Record Store Day release that’s shaped like the state of Ohio. Twenty One Pilots mean a lot to me because when they got huge I was playing baritone ukulele in a band and for years people told me a band that uses a ukulele will never work and I’m from Ohio and so are they so it was super validating to me.

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The Night Game,
The TVD First Date

“my first experience with vinyl was when i was about 7 years old. a group of little league friends and i had just discovered the beatles and it had struck an obsession that had us all sprouting bowl cuts and dressing up as the fab 4 for halloween and singing from door to door.”

“the only problem was that a couple of the moms weren’t too keen on letting us listen to the later drug influenced records quite yet, and one track in particular, “maxwell’s silver hammer,” which had a violent undertone, rendered the entire abbey road strictly forbidden. naturally, it only made us want it more. since we had been only listening to what had been allotted to us on CD, the only access we had to the forbidden tracks was to raid one of the parent’s vinyl collection and listen in secret. i remember the first time we figured out how to fire it up, hook up the old stripped RCA cables and drop that needle. the smooth sweet spectrum of sound from the forbidden albums filled that old carpeted basement with glory and wonder.

smash cut to age 13. i had picked up the electric guitar pretty good and had an old crate solid state amplifier and a hand me down marshall combo from my cousin. of course in the age of MTV spring break, the romance was turning to vinyl DJs and it fascinated me. i convinced my dad to buy me a set of entry level turntables and a little mixer at guitar center. i hooked the left channel into the crate and the right channel into the marshall and it was on. then he let me raid his old record collection. the only problem was that it was mostly ’60s folk and not enough of that thumping bass i had seen on tv.

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Claire Reneé,
The TVD First Date

“My uncle had a huge vinyl collection full of good soul, funk, and R&B music and my grandmother also had lots of records in the house.”

“There was lots to listen to and choose from. We had Bill Cosby on vinyl, Bing Crosby, and even The Chipmunks Christmas. There was a lot going on! The record I gravitated to and will always love, must have come from my Uncle’s collection. It was Evelyn Champagne King’s record Get Loose. I repurchased this vinyl as an adult too. Boy oh boy was this a treat. “Love Come Down” of course was a smash that I loved to sing and dance to. I did not know about the other amazing funky records on the album like “Get Loose” and “I Can’t Stand It.”

I grew up with cassettes, CDs, and digital. Records like this allowed me to imagine myself being the life of the party in a time I didn’t live in. This record made me imagine myself being a bombshell in the late ’70s with my afro, bell bottoms, and a halter top. I stumbled into more black funk and disco artists because of this vinyl.

It’s actually hard for me to listen to disco or funk if it’s not on vinyl. That’s the medium I was most familiar hearing oldies, disco, and funk on. It just feels different.

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