The feel of a record in your hands.
The art work and the sleeve notes.
Analysing lyrics and scanning for insights.
The anticipation as the needle lifts and lowers, a few silent revolutions, before the sound kicks in.
I miss vinyl for that.
I used to love my parent’s record collection. I spent hours playing records, often too young to know what anything was so often just going off the pictures on the cover. I remember staring at a Steeleye Span and Rolling Stones cover and loving Elton John. Elton was probably not representative of the scope of the collection by any means, but appealed to my 7yo love of pop. My tastes did broaden.
I loved playing with records as a kid, my parent’s record collection was always so accessible. Not like today when all our music is so buried on phones and the kids don’t want to delve into our dusty CD collection.
Record players were such a part of my youth. I used to love going up to Manchester on the train and rifling though record shops for something new. I loved indie and grunge music and Manchester was exploding with the Madchester scene at the time. It was a magical time for music. I would come home with Mudhoney, Ned’s, Cud, Inspirals, Ride, Charlatans and Nirvana records.
I loved record shops.
I still have all those records. A few years ago my Dad brought them over and they have moved house with me, but sadly they lie unplayed, I have debated getting a record player many times, but not quite carried through with the plan.
Until we got my Dad one for his birthday.
We gave Dad his present at our house, so of course we wanted to plug it in and get it going for him. One band we’ve always had a shared love for is Nirvana – see I told you our family tastes broadened far beyond Elton. So we stuck that on the turntable first.
I had always thought sound quality had been improved by modern technology, it’s only recently, via my Dad, I started to understand that record players actually nail sound better. And it’s true. As a sound engineer explains:
Digital music engineering, particularly for radio-bound music, is often marred by a volume arms race, which leads to fatiguing, hyper-compressed songs that squish out the dynamics and textures that give recordings their depth and vitality.
So music made for vinyl, has more depth and vitality. It’s also meant to ‘warmer’ in sound, in other words closer to how human’s organically experience music. Which possibly explains why the sound of Nirvana playing took me right back to my teenage bedroom, and to Nirvana playing Reading festival 1992. Where I was lucky enough to see them play, just before Kurt Cobain’s death.
I can’t remember much of the performance at all now, although I remember having one of those moments, as I stood with a warm paper cup of Heineken, surrounded by friends. Thinking it was probably one of those moments I might tell my kids about, if ever I had them. So I remember standing there, but not the music itself. But hearing them on vinyl really brought that feeling back.
I really want my kids to play my records (well some of them, some of them really aren’t that amazing on reflection) to experience at least some of the classics, and not just the drone of digitally enhanced RnB that seems to be their diet via Radio 1 (I’m sorry – so not my thing, but I am trying not to show my age).
If you are looking to bring your vinyl collection back to life, or perhaps extend it – after all there is nothing like record shopping to while an empty afternoon – record players are actually really affordable these days and lots of places online have them. Plus the compact and colourful design of brands like Crosley, means they don’t take up much space, appeal to kids and are portable.
Do you have a record collection?