The Joy of Vinyl

February 20th, 2008

As a kid, I have fond memories of vinyl records.  My parents had a modest stack of vinyl which likely played a role in why I became the person that I am.  I remember the B-side for Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away" totally creeping me out as a kid (the B-side was the same song as the A-side, except played in reverse).  I remember begging my parents to play Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever", and when they'd put it on, I'd rock my little ass off.  I likely wore out the 45 I had of the Minnesota Twins' theme song "We're gonna win Twins" (and likewise, the B-side, a Twinsified version of "We're Talkin' Baseball").

As a teenager, I thought of vinyl records as being an old person media format.  CDs were where it was at.  Even then, getting a brand new CD was an experience.  Tearing off the poly sleeve, opening the jewel and thumbing through the booklet, reading along with the lyrics as the CD played.  It wasn't just listening to music, a passive pastime, it was listening to music, actively enjoying the music, and not relegating the music to the background.

In my twenties I've seen downloading and portable media devices become the de facto standard.  I adapted, and converted most of my sizable CD collection into MP3s and accumulated several thousand more songs from the internet.  And it was great, because while CDs and LPs required, if not demanded, active listening, MP3s and computers allowed you to have music playing constantly and make it a passive pastime.  You could actively listen to music, but it was harder, as the internet & cable TV would beat you over the head, screaming, "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!"

But MP3s lost something.  No longer could I flip through artwork or a lyric book.  No longer was there a physical act of putting the CD in the tray and hitting play.  It was clicking a mouse button and letting Black Sabbath or Ministry or Pantera become part of the pink-noise of my life.  Can you believe that? Ministry as pink-noise?!

But since getting into vinyl records, I've realized how much I enjoy the visceral aspect of actively listening to music, and might I say, that vinyl exceeds even what the compact disc format gave to me.  Buying vinyl, for me, has been a combination of the joy getting a new CD and looking for buried treasure. 

By that, I don't mean I've got expensive albums in my collection, but more so that I'm learning about artists that have long since evaporated into obscurity.  I'm listening to music that hasn't been released on CD, let alone in MP3 form.  I'm hearing music and sounds, that quite possibly, haven't been heard by a single human being in decades, and for me, that is exciting. 

It also makes me sort of sad for the people growing up today.  Many of them don't know the joy of actively listening to music, and they probably don't care, because much like myself as a kid, they think vinyl is old people media.  However, unlike them, I still had CDs.  I still had the physical act of listening to music.  I didn't have cable (due to money, not availability) and I didn't have the internet (at least until my last year of high school) to steal my attention.

Do people nowadays actively listen to their MP3s?  I'm sure some do, but it ain't easy, and as an artist and a music lover, that's a shame.

…And on that note, a cool article, which spurred this rant/reminiscence, about a guy who's selling his gigantic vinyl collection.

One Response to “The Joy of Vinyl”

  1. Paul says:

    I was an adult during the vinyl-to-CD transition, so I have a lot of both. I’ve been resisting getting CD’s of what I already have in vinyl. I never was a total anal-gotta-have-a-perfect-turntable kind of guy, so I get by with a decent-enough turntable and a cartridge that I don’t replace very often.

    CD’s do have certain advantages, but vinyl is pretty likeable. I was used to dealing with album sides, so having the whole thing at once on a CD with no flipping is good but not so much of an improvement that it says, “Gotta get the CD.”

    A lot of good vinyl is dirt cheap right now, too.

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