Vinyl has always been touch and go for me. As a teenager, a friend introduced me to the music of The Beatles via an old Pioneer turntable and a souped up yard market sound system. A Day in the Life has never sounded as good as the day I heard Lennon's weird, haunting inflections floating out of these monstrous speakers in my friend's cluttered double-wide. Until that moment, records were an anchronism, an inferior medium from my childhood. Now I began to see them in a new light. My friend and I would spend hours studying cover art with a dusty copy of Let it Bleed cracking and popping in the background.
My own player had been sitting in the bottom of a closet beneath some old sweaters when I dug it out again. Around that time I inherited a small collection of records from my parents when they moved on, like the rest of the world, to cassettes and CDs, and my aunt gave me a crate or two of some discs that had been sitting in her basement for a decade. A friend and I took a couple of trips to the flea markets looking for good deals, and I ended up with some decent stuff. Then my player broke, and when my friend took it to have it repaired by his handy father, he got into a car accident. The other driver slammed into my friend's car in the exact spot where my turntable was riding shotgun. I had no job and no way of replacing it. After that, I stopped buying records.
Several years later, I decided to invest in a new player and get back into the hobby. I coughed up a couple hundred dollars for a new model, which worked great until a drunken party guest stepped on the thing, breaking the arm. He refused to buy me a new one, so that was that. I got addicted to mp3s and forgot all about music you can hold in your hands.
Then, I wrote a screenplay for a screenwriting class about an aging record collector and his quest for a legendary acetate. I did a little research as I was writing it, and I came across a book about obsessive vinyl collectors (Vinyl Junkies, by Brett Milano) that really piqued my interest. Reading first hand accounts of mind-blowing listening experiences and Holy Grail style fanaticism left me itching to take one more stab diving into that world. I know I'll never be as much of a nut as Thurston Moore or the characters in High Fidelity, but a nerd can dream can't he?
Thanks to Niki, I have a brand new turntable and I just spent some money I don't have on a couple of low end speakers. There are two decent record stores in Wilmington, Gravity and CD Alley. A lot of times you can find good shit at both of these places for just a couple of bucks. This solves the problem I've been having since I'm a) broke and b) a reformed music thief. All the old vinyl I started with is back at my parent's house, so it's kind of like I'm starting over. When you don't have a job, things like this tend to get you really amped up.
I took my first record shopping trip to Gravity over the weekend. My first record purchases, this third time around, were as follows:In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, Neutral Milk Hotel
Paid full price for this reissue because it's one of my favorite albums, and it's one I know well. I wanted something that I could compare to its digital equivilant to see if all the reports of vinyl's superior sound are true. After several listens, I can't confidentally say that I could tell the difference in a blind test, but who cares? This thing sounds glorious, and it's as close you can get to the way they sounded live in the studio.For Adults Only
, Bill Cosby
Niki found this one. I love comedy albums. I love Bill Cosby. I love the way Cosby's voice sounds on a record. This is a copy from the 70s, so a lot of the grooves are dirty or slightly scratched. For $2, you can't beat it, and I'm one of those people who thinks the pops and hissing add a little something to the experience. Something vintage and inimate like this a great showcase for that phenomenon.Songs From the Big Chair
, Tears For Fears
Thanks to some long, late night music conversations with Paul, this was a no brainer. A classic album with Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, and Head Over Heels. I'm listening to it for the fourth time as I write this and, again, it was well worth the $3 I spent on it. Originally, I had a shitty set of computer speakers hooked up to my player, but this album, with its perfect balance between pounding beats and high vocals, demanded that I get something better.
Something happens and I'm head over heels, I never find out till I'm head over heels...
On top of these, I came across a big stack of hip hop singles in the free and dollar bins at CD Alley. Nothing spectacular in there, but I picked up a couple of early Raekwon singles, some Guru, and a track by Big Daddy Kane. For some reason, they all smell like incense. Incense makes me think of hippies, which makes me think of my friend who first played A Day in the Life for me. And so it comes full circle.