Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vinyl revolution

We had an old, floor model record player growing up.  I'm sure you're familiar with the type - a large desktop wooden box, complete with speakers in front that appeared to be covered with beige curtains.  Inside the box sat the player itself: a flat, black piece of plastic with a turntable on it. 

To the left sat an 8-track player, but from my recollection, it didn't get much use.  But, hey! It COULD have been used.  Near the 8-track player was a very simple, but functional, equalizer.  The equalizer controlled many functions, which were as follows:
  • Treble
  • Mid
  • Bass
Bass wasn't too popular back then, largely due to the fact that the speakers couldn't handle much more than the bass guitar itself.  Treble may be been bumped up a bit higher, but the mid was set near the top.  It was, I guess, for the lyrics and rhythm guitars.

We didn't have a lot of records back then - probably about twenty tops, of which four or five got heavy rotation.  The ones I remember most were Cat Stevens' Greatest Hits and Paul McCartney's Ram.  I suspect that Paul and Linda dressed in creepy clown suits fueled my fear of clowns, further worsened by an incident at a parade, but that's not the point.

I loved the record player.  My folks would often have their brothers and/or sisters over, kids in tow, to listen to music.  And that always amazed me.  Sadly enough, though, we weren't old enough to sit with the adults and listen, 'though I did spin records when they were gone.

Mostly we were shuffled outside with a couple of bucks in our pockets, per kid, to do as we pleased until they were ready to head home.  Normally, we'd head down to the local gas station for some Cheetos and Airheads, then played in the mud and the muck and the grass until it was pitch black.

Awesome memories.

. . .

I've been thinking about a record player for some time now, but didn't want to fork over hundreds of dollars for one.  What if I found records boring or cumbersome?

Found an inexpensive table - a $40 Vibe. 

It's nothing fancy - just a turntable with external speakers (can't really crank them up, but they sound okay on their own) and ceramic needles.  

I hooked it up to our Bose system and popped a record in.  Boom.  Addicted.  A $400 player is in order down the road for aesthetics, but for now, this is more than fine.

I started out by adding some old favorites - Ram, for one, Cat Stevens as another.  A neighbor had an old box of records he found in one of his rentals that he gave me.  The old box had a bunch of folks I never heard of, but that was part of the charm of records: it's not finding an artist you know, but trying someone you never knew existed.

My wife's parents lent me eleven records for a while as I built my collection.  They also bought me Another Side of Bob Dylan on 180 gram.  The sound, man.  The sound is just amazing.

It's gotten to the point where I'll just sit in my living room after my wife and son head off to bed and spin records.  I just get lost in them for hours.

. . .

One of the most enduring aspects of records, to me, is the physical attributes.  The smell, the touch, the imperfections (crackles and pops are AWESOME) and, biggest, the artwork.  I just love the time artists of the record generation spent on the album covers.

That and they spent time producing bodies of work.  Nowadays, the means of gathering consists of downloading a favorite song for a buck or so and adding it to a playlist.  That's great if you like listening to certain songs, but how can you ever find a hidden gem if not for playing a full album?

For instance, I bought Nilsson Schmilsson.  We all know "Coconut" and "Without You", but "Early In The Morning", a song I never heard of, wins for me.  Or on Paul McCartney's "Ram", most people only know "Uncle Albert".  My favorite song on that disk is "Three Legs".  Again, a song I didn't remember or know at all.

. . .

My record player can be hooked up to a computer and I am able to extract the albums to my computer.  But I'm not going to.  I'm setting myself back a few decades and keeping the music on the format for which they were designed:  a big, old round piece of vinyl.

Forgotten by most - rummage sales used to sell them for a dime a piece - but slowly being rediscovered.


  1. I'm slowly building up my record collection. On Sunday, I bought about $50 albums from one of my uncles for $30. At $.60 a piece, how could I not?

    Allman Brothers - Enlightened Rogue
    America - History (Greatest Hits) Bread - Best of
    Buffalo Springfield - Retrospective
    Jimmy Buffet - Son of a Son of a Sailor
    Carpenters - Carpenters
    Johnny Cash - Live at Folsom Prison
    Judy Collins - Colors of the Day (Very Best of)
    Commander Cody - Ozone
    Jim Croce - His Greatest Songs
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu
    Neil Diamond - Double Gold
    Bob Dylan - Greatest Hits
    Earth, Wind and Fire - The Best of (Vol 1)
    Dan Fogelberg - Country Snows
    Grass Roots - More Golden Grass
    Grateful Dead - Terrapin Station
    Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead
    Merle Haggard - Very Best of
    Johnny Horton - Greatest Hits
    Waylon Jennings - Greatest Hits
    Billy Joel - The Stranger
    Rickie Lee Jones
    KISS - Hotter Than Hell (Japanese release)
    Kris Kristofferson - Me and Bobby McGee
    John Lennon - Double Fantasy
    Marshall Tucker Band - Greatest Hits
    Moby Grape - Truly Fine Citizen
    New Riders of the Purple Sage - Home, Home on the Road
    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy
    The Outlaws - Waylon, Willie, Jessi and Tompall
    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Damn The Torpedoes
    Pink Floyd - The Wall
    John Prine - Prime Prine
    Pure Prairie League - Dance
    Rare Earth - Get Ready
    Kenny Rogers - Twenty Greatest Hits
    Rolling Stones - Some Girls
    Rolling Stones - Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol 2)
    Linda Ronstadt - Heart Like a Wheel
    Leon Russell - Will O' The Wisp
    Rani Shankar - India's Master Musician
    Muddy "Mississippi" Waters - Live
    Winwood & Friends
    Woodstock - Live From (3 disc set)
    Neil Young - Harvest
    Phil Man Zanera - Diamond Head

  2. Wow. I forgot about the fact that I was trying to start a blog. I guess the lack of response killed it for me.

    That said, I need to update this post.

    I upgraded from the Vibe record player - I found a vintage Magnavox console style player. No 8-track/tape player, nor a radio, but fantastic sound.

    Also, I'm up to about 800 records now.

    Obsess much?!?