The Magic of Vinyl
Updated: Jan 15, 2020
About a year ago a good friend of mine finally convinced me into purchasing a record player. At first I resisted. "Why," I questioned stubbornly, "would I spend money on music that I can already get for free on Spotify?" Like many, I had fallen into the inexorable trappings of streaming music. Attempting to navigate myself in this ever-growing digital universe had left me numb, floating ever more precariously towards the event horizon. Was there any escaping it? Not likely. But that's when it hit me. I finally understood what my friend meant when he said, "Bro, listening to music on vinyl is like listening to music on another planet. You'll see." He was right. I needed to change dimensions in order to have the inspired listening experience I was so desperately looking for.
As a passive listener for so long, I naively or perhaps incredulously ignored the impact music streaming was having not only on my listening experience, but on my listening habits. Not only could I skip tracks on any album now, but I could jump from artist to artist with the speed of a time traveler. All this for $12.99! Yet with all this freedom and a seemingly infinite access to music, strangely, I felt jaded. Maybe what I needed was less choices when it came to music? It had dawned on me, I could not recall the last time I had sat down and listened to an album start-to-finish. My cds had long been packed away and I had no cd player to play them on. So I took the plunge. I went out and bought a record player. At first I was obsessed with the vintage ones, so I found an old Zenith Solid State on OfferUp. I eventually upgraded to a fuller sound system (but still very affordable). Now it was time to get some records to play.
I remember coming home from Easy Street Records that day after my first vinyl purchase. I won't lie, I felt pretty hip carrying that old school paper bag, strolling down California Ave. I even had some butterflies! I had not had this feeling since the 90's, waiting in line at Tower Records at 6 am for the release of Use Your Illusion I & II (for all you Guns n' Roses fans out there!). There was that anticipation all over again. It was wonderful and familiar; it had been so long and it made me feel like a teenager all over again. When I got home, I immediately played all three records I had purchased, back-to-back (Elvis Presley, Leon Redbone, and The Righteous Brothers). I stood over my record player transfixed. I couldn't believe what was coming out of the speakers. It was as if Elvis was sitting right there next to me on my couch belting out Jailhouse Rock. The sounds of these records, their organic warmth, even the occasional crackle and pop, and the long pauses between songs, made it all come alive for me again. When I went to flip the record, I held it up to the light. It was like I was holding an artifact, and realizing the grand history of it all. I wondered how many people before me had owned this record and felt what I felt when listening to it? I felt connected once again to music like I had not felt since the pre-digital era.
Fast forward a year later, and I own approximately three hundred records. That sounds like a lot, I know. I mean it is. But I'm starting to slow down. However, when you compare that to the volume of amazing music waiting for me to collect, it's a drop in the bucket. I'm also proud to say that it's a hobby that has not broken the bank. I find most of my records in the discount bins, priced between $.99 - $3.00, and once I take them home I clean them thoroughly before I give them a spin (look for my next post on cleaning records). My friend warned me that it was a deep well to get lost in. He was right. It is virtually impossible for me to walk into a record store and not find something that I want to bring home and listen to. In the process, I have found so many artists and records I would have never stumbled upon if I had only been streaming music. I do believe streaming services and digital music have their place and applications in the world and have certainly allowed for a wider distribution of music and greater accessibility. However, there's now a lot more of it now to comb through. If I'm going to sift and comb through music, I much prefer to do in record stores where it still feels real to me. I am so grateful I found vinyl and the journey it has led me on. I'll never go back to listening to music in any other way again.