Vinyl: the Before Time

A plain, sturdy, oblong, wooden box, lying on its side. Stored within are vinyl records or, as we used to call them, records. Sweetie and I bought hundreds of records over the years when the only other choices were cassette tapes and eight-track cartridges. Vinyl records, none of which can be played on the only stereo system left in the house, a CD boom box that sits on the wooden box. The Sony turntable with USB interface has never been unpacked.

'Tis a sad state of affairs! It's made even sadder by the fact that the box contains all the vinyl Sweetie and I have left. We sold so many records before we moved across a continent and an international boundary 20 years ago. It was 1994. Records were done. Much of what we sold as vinyl we had replaced with CDs. Compact, right? And lighter. Much less to lug from domicile to domicile.

And now, vinyl is back. That we have no turntable set up now is simply shameful, I know. But our records are all old. We're not collectors. Are we?

I have clusters of genres in what remains of my collection. These represent different periods of my life.

The punk years are lean but high quality. I have Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites, the first two Buzzcocks albums. UK imports. I have A Different Kind of Tension as well. I have the first Clash album--import version--and London Calling, which for me would be a desert island album. I have enough Ramones albums for the collection to include some of their not-so-good work. But the great stuff is there too. And to cap it off with a sneer, there's Generation X.

The post-punk years are just plain meagre. But Public Image, the first album from Public Image Ltd., is an import. It's also great! I have the original Mission of Burma Signals Calls and Marches. And just to lighten things up a bit, I have the first Romantics album. "What I Like About You" is one of the great songs of all time.

I have some juicy classic bits. A very special Abbey Road by the Beatles that was given to me for my 17th birthday. Buffalo Springfield. The Byrds, Greatest Hits (early material) and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Paul Revere and the Raiders (a later pickup). The Who: Tommy, Live at Leeds, and Who's Next. Most of my Neil Young catalogue (some is on cassette): Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (very well worn), After the Gold Rush, Tonight's the Night, Rust Never Sleeps, and Live Rust. And finally, the Flying Burrito Bros. albums one through five.

Got some roots I picked up well after the fact: Eddie Cochran, the Bobby Fuller Four, and an amazing album called Beatle Originals which contains original versions of about a dozen songs the Beatles covered. The Larry Williams versions of "Bad Boy" and "Slow Down" are killa!

I had a folk/country/roots/acoustic/purist phase in the 1970s before punk (some of which came from liking the Burritos). I have Mississippi John Hurt, the Weavers, Will the Circle Be Unbroken by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many special guests. I have a Dave Van Ronk album called Sunday Street, no doubt out of print. It comes from when I interviewed him for my campus radio station. And I have a more than extensive collection of Steeleye Span, again enough to have some of the lesser works, but much great stuff, including import copies of the first three albums. I also have a couple of albums that band members Tim Hart and Maddy Prior made before they formed Steeleye.

Then there are the outliers: the King Kong Compilation, which is ska, rock steady, and reggae from the 1960s; several Firesign Theatre albums (at least some of which I borrowed from and forgot to give back to a now-deceased coworker); and Boston stuff including compilations on which my band appeared. They can go in the punk/post-punk section. There's also a compilation called the Rock and Roll Show that I have no memory of and I'm not sure is actually mine.

I have a weird 10-inch record called Tennessee Stomp. I know it's mine, but I have no idea where or when I bought it (used). Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and several others are on the record.

And then there is a smattering of seven-inch vinyl, including a treasured copy of Spiral Scratch, the first Buzzcocks record, and later material by Buzzocks and Steve Diggle (their guitarist). There are some old Kinks singles in there, which might belong to Sweetie. And there is "The Metro" by Berlin.

Speaking of Sweetie, she has at least as many albums on her side of the box. Completely different than mine.

I have some of the records on my list on CD and just kept the vinyl for one reason or another. But many probably never made it to CD. We need to fix the turntable situation!

1 comment:

Coline said...

Call me old fashioned but the record deck and even the hardly used cassette recorder are still there where they were installed thirty years ago when I moved here.

I stopped buying vinyl the moment CDs were shown to actually work and a couple of years before the players became available. CDs were to be our salvation, crisp clear sound with no rumble, hiss or clicks. There was not a scratch on any of my discs, they were treated with reverence of holy relics, protective sleeves, no pressure on storage and run through a dedicated vertical vacuum machine to remove any trace of dust or static before the reverential placement on the platter...

My record store had long been trained to exchange records without discussion knowing that my system could analyse any imperfection in the manufacturing process and it was the sloppy, could not care less, use less vinyl in production, which made a seemingly fault free CD seem like the answer to our dreams.

Manufacturers jumped at the chance but like any change, good was lost along with the bad. Who ever looks at the artwork on a CD box? I do not have a magnifier strong enough to see it and nasty booklets stuffed into tight boxes! Now with downloads you get neither artwork or sleeve notes! Progress!?

CD transfers of our loved but worn vinyl should have been our salvation but they cost a fortune and some still do and the transfers were often done by tone deaf cretins and worse, idiot artists who thought that they could remix a classic album but often just filleted out all the soul...

I have CDs which are buried deep in storage, made unplayable by remixing, Led Zeppelin"s first album is technically so bad it is a danger to your hearing, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass is like a masterpiece painting after a bunch of school kids have spent the afternoon covering it with felt tip markers and a sweet Carly Simon album is lacking the final few seconds of fade out and a few noted removed which is like being denighed orgasmic relief.

Have we mentioned that few artists can produce enough to fill a CD so they think that they can stuff in a load of rubbish to top it up, perhaps a few really bad versions that previously got edited out and dumped. A classic album ends and you are flung into some random noises cape to destroy the mood.

There is still a magic about vinyl which makes me ignore yards of plastic boxes and accept the physical imperfections which come from scratching music off a sheet of plastic. I just hope my turntable keeps going 'til the end of my days...

Those clattery plastic CD boxes take up a hell of a lot of space!