The Chapin Sisters,
The TVD First Date

“My first memories of vinyl are very PG, very innocent—two little girls sitting on the rug, staring up at the monolithic hi-fi as our parent or babysitter set the record on play, dropped the needle, and handed us the jacket to hold. We heard the fuzz, fighting over who got to hold the big square cardboard cover. The music then wafted down from three-foot wooden boxed speakers. We sang along with the familiar warm sounds, a cold winter day outside, a familiar feeling of security, home, coming down through sound.”

“Upstairs we had a Casio mini boombox with slots for two cassettes—later we would use these to tape things off the radio—SWV, TLC, En Vogue, Boys 2 Men, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and Madonna—Hot 97, Z100 (the NY area’s major radio stations that played pop, hip hop, and rock at the time), but in the early ’80s seated on the rug staring up at the record player, pop radio had not yet entered our musical vocabulary. That was limited to our parents’ record collection, edited within that to the things they thought suitable for young girls—The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, Raffi, Peter and the Wolf (which had an illustrated read-along booklet inside the vinyl’s cardboard cover—the oboe, the flute, the horn—each sound representing a different character).

Around this time, the early ’80s, my dad brought home some Cabbage Patch Kids dolls for Christmas (I think I was 3 and my sister was 4). Any child of the ’80s will remember these round face dolls with plastic heads and cloth bodies. There’s a photo of us in front of the Christmas tree when we still lived in the city, holding each of our dolls in our pajamas. We knew somehow how special this gift was—in hindsight we must have been aware that our mother would never have bought these dolls for us ordinarily. She was not big on buying trendy commercial toys (until we, as older kids, wore her down with begging). These dolls came unprompted by us.

Now I know that the origin of these dolls was that they had been given to my father to give to us by his colleagues at the Parker Brothers Corporation. At this time my Dad and my Uncle Steve were hired by Parker Brothers to write, produce and record an album that would be packaged with each Cabbage Patch Kid Doll. The album, called Cabbage Patch Dreams, went platinum, in large part due to the fact that it came with every cabbage patch doll sold in America. Cabbage Patch Dreams was quickly followed by another album, Cabbage Patch Christmas. There were other albums written for other toy launches—Hugga Bunch and Rose Petal Place, but none took off like Cabbage Patch, and thus none of the other albums sold as much.

So here we would sit. On the living room rug, collecting pillows around us, to listen, clutching the worn yellow cardboard cover, staring at the round plastic faces sitting in cabbage leaves, imagining ourselves as the girl cabbage patch dolls trapped in the gold mine, taking turns singing the high part in the duets. These records had serious budgets, so characters were performed by seasoned broadway stars and character actors well-known to grown-ups, but the voices we loved to pick out were those of my uncle Steve, singing ‘buzz buzz buzz buzz’ (the song of the evil Bunny Bees), my dad’s voice narrating parts of the story, and the voice of our teenage cousin Jen, who played one of the little girls stuck in the old gold mine. Later, our older sister Jessica’s voice rang out on the Cabbage Patch Christmas sequel record.

Eventually, as we grew older, these albums, dog-eared and worn, would find dust at the back of the record shelf. We had discovered our older brother and sisters’ record collections. They, teenagers of the ’80s, had a stash of new wave and ’80s classics—as well as Billy Bragg, The Beatles, reggae, and early ska. So, as my parents were going to put the old hi-fi in the basement and replace the wooden three-foot speakers with more modern ones, we brought the record player upstairs where my personal love affair with vinyl really began. And it hasn’t ended. I’m listening to an old Roger Miller country album as I write this. Something that I might listen to less if I were left the power of endless choice that digital listening allows. I like the limitations of a physical collection as opposed to the abstract open ended-ness of limitless choice.

We are currently in a ‘vinyl crisis.’ This term was coined I believe by the New York Times in their recent article on the subject, which describes lamentations of small labels and small vinyl presses as the demand for vinyl grows and the ability to press vinyl stays at very low numbers (due to a technology that flourished in the 1970s and then was deemed ‘obsolete’ until the sea change turned—no one can build the presses anymore, but everyone wants the products).

As an independent artist, this vinyl crisis has been a theme of the last few months for me—finding a plant to press our record, sticker shock at the increased pricing, not to mention chagrin at the long waiting period between a finished approved test pressing and a completed project (some people are waiting 6 months).

I still think most music sounds better on vinyl. Why the vinyl craze? Why the obsession? Why, you might ask, do we even want to do this? Who knows how much of this, for me, is based on the ceremony of placing the needle, of waiting for the sound, of holding the large cardboard cover.”
Lily Chapin

Today’s Not Yesterday, the brand new, full length release from The Chapin Sisters is in stores now. On vinyl.

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PHOTO: SETH THOMAS

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