My vinyl days were not unlike so many others in the 1970s. In my mind, I conjure up snapshots of my past, as if I am leafing through a catalog of images. Sitting with college roommates and their friends, as we play one record after another, as if we’re playing “Battle of the Bands”. We are each hoping to turn each other on to something new, reminisce about a shared event, or get ourselves excited for an upcoming concert. I think of spending hours in the record store and watching a pretty bohemian girl flipping through the S section of the Rock/Folk music. She pulls up a Carly Simon record, and I think to myself, ‘the dude who is dating that cool chick is one lucky guy’, never imagining that a record geek like me would ever have a chance. I think of all the times my friends and I would go to clubs, strike out and fail miserably, anxious to leave the glamor and glitz of my gold chained competitors, get home, turn on Saturday Night Live and play one record after another. Sometimes I would get so consumed in my records, I saw the sun come up on more than one occasion.
Sure, one can download songs, but records are our oral history.
Certainly, better and a more interesting history than the ones I was required to read. Who doesn’t remember hearing “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, and not having a soft spot for their dad after that? Who can’t remember listening to “Imagine” by John Lennon and wondering what it would take to have world peace? Who doesn’t think of Vietnam and the privileged few when hear “Fortunate Son”, by Creedence Clearwater Revival?
Music, even those few records you know are about to skip or scratch, is the closest thing to time travel I can think of. While I’ll never be 22 again, I listen to music, an old record, one I haven’t heard in easily 25 or 30 years and I’m transported. When turntables fell out of favor I socked them away, like an old treasured childhood toy collection. Someday, someday, someday. Then my wife gives me a turntable for my birthday, we hook it up to our sound system, I pull out a record from my collection, one I kept forever, coveted really. Like magic, I’m transported back to 1978, playing “Money Changes Everything” by the Brains, over and over again. Each time I play it, I anticipate that it is about to skip, and like the idiosyncrasies only I know in my wife, only I know about this little skip, and it is as much of part of the song and my oral history as the song itself. When I play “Baby’s on Fire” by Brian Eno , I then remember calling KCSC, “The Live Wire” at Chico State, and asking the DJ, Skipzoid to play it, and HE DOES! What a thrill to hear a song you requested, I get to hear it being played, and hopefully turn another listener on to an awesome song.
I love my records, I love my record collection, especially my very coveted special editions.
I still sit on the rug, choices in front of me, carefully place the edition vinyl on the record player, and get that tiny thrill when I hear that first buzz as the needle taps the vinyl. You don’t get that with any other music format. As the record plays, I sit and read the liner notes and any other gifts the album offers, such as lyrics or pictures. It is a ritual. A ritual as serious as any other that I can think of. A ritual shared by almost all true music lovers.
Shopping for records is a fantastic way to drift through the afternoon. It is calm, enjoyable, and I feel zero guilt about the yard work that needs to be done, or the garage that needs organizing. This is time well spent! It is as important to me as any other task on my list. Going to a record shop, hearing the music, surrounding myself with other music lovers is a absolute pleasure and a thrill. The thrill is even greater when it is hard to find vinyl albums.
With the absence of vinyl for so many years, and the current surge in interest for record albums is interesting to watch. Record stores seem to be popping up in more gentrified hipster neighborhoods more than ever. It seems that all the neighborhood needs is a coffee house with a man-bunned barista and record shop, and the neighborhood is suddenly transformed. Rents skyrocket, Starbucks moves in, but the vinyl store has found it’s devotees. I love it.
While I loved visiting Tower, The Warehouse and all the major chains back in the day, the square footage alone told you they would have the hit album I wanted in stock. However, it is the independent shop owners that accommodate you more and help your collection grow. They know music, they love music, and the guy behind the counter isn’t there because McDonald’s down the street didn’t have a position for him or her. The guy behind the counter was the God that chose the music everyone was listening to. If you wanted to hear something, they would play it. Unless it was something far beneath their taste, of course. Whether it is the Hawthorne neighborhood of Portland, the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, East Austin, or any other transformed and hopefully diverse neighborhood, grab a supreme blend of coffee and head to the local record shop.
Searching online or breezing through an online shop’s catalog is a rabbit hole of choices that I’m more than happy to dive into it.
To see the picture of an album online, that I have wanted my my whole life, suddenly appearing on my screen with only a couple of clicks, blows my mind. To be able to contact an online shop and another music lover is able to provide me with some feedback is golden. To buy vinyl records online goes way beyond the expectations this vinyl super fan. When you want something very specific, online is the way to go. One could argue that the bygone days of music stores was a golden era, but honestly, if I had my choice in 1970 between thumbing through records in the store and having modern tools to search a record online for my inspiration, answering honestly, I’d pick online shopping. I get an almost infinite number of choices, plus I often get free shipping!