Thursday, August 26, 2010


"Vinyl is the real deal. I’ve always felt that until you buy the vinyl record, you just don’t own the album … It’s not just me, it’s not just a little pet thing, it’s not just some retro romantic thing from the past. It’s still alive." - Jack White

I saw White's quote on the WAX.FM blog and felt an emotional twinge and longing for the days when I'd spend hours in record stores browsing through rows and rows of vinyl. And then hours at home listening to them. 

WAX.FM is devoted to vinyl and explores the wonders of analog as opposed to digital recording and makes a strong case that music - rock music especially - is just plain better when listened to on record. WAX.FM has little regard for downloading songs or even listening to music on compact disc.

I'm not immune to downloading songs and I have a pretty healthy CD collection but WAX.FM is right - albums provide experience you just can't get by hitting the download button.

My vinyl experience began in 1975 with the purchase of my first record (which I still have) - Chicago's Greatest Hits. I had little musical guidance at that time and bought it because, as a kid, I loved the song 25 Or 6 To 4. Esoteric, tough to decipher, 25 Or 6 To 4 introduced me to the wonders of the guitar solo and its ability to burn unforgettably into your brain.

Five years later I started collecting harder edge garage and punk rock starting with the Clash London Calling, the Ramones Rocket to Russia, and didn't look back.

The vinyl experience started in the store, finding the record choice of the day, purchasing it and speeding home, going into my bedroom and firing up the stereo. At the peak of my obsessive vinyl days I had a Vector Research receiver, which pumped 150 watts per channel, waist-high DLK speakers, a Samsung graphic equalizer and a Harman/Kardon turntable.

I'd unwrap the album and carefully slide it from its sleeve, mindful to not touch the grooves, just the record's edges. I'd gently place the wax on the turntable, lift the table's tonearm and ease the cartridge onto the spinning black circle. I'd lower the turntable's dust cover, sit between the speakers and let the music roll over me, track by track until the first side was complete. Then I'd flip the record over and listen to side two non-stop.

If I loved the album, I'd repeat the process. If I wasn't immediately enamored, I'd put the disc away and return to it later that day or later that night, or after midnight, or after a crazy night of partying.

An album I loved could live in my consciousness for weeks and weeks, sometimes months (even years). I'd learn every pop between the grooves as if they were part of the music. I knew how long the blank intro groove would last before the first drum crack or guitar strum and I'd sit through the blank outro groove until the tonearm lifted on its own.

I became intimate with all of my records, made a deeply emotional connection as if they were living, breathing things. I amassed just over 1,000 records during my collecting years (throughout my 20s) and I still have them - albeit in storage.

Most are in mint condition and waiting for the day when I have the room to put them back on display. 

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