I remember the first record I ever owned. It was a hand-me-down from my mum’s collection – Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize”. It was a tiny record that fit perfectly on the single size turntable. Then came my first ever purchased record, “Johnny Diesel and the Injectors”. I remember that moment vividly! I raced into my bedroom, carefully slicing open the plastic sleeve where I took a moment to stare at the front cover. Diesel with a soft case on his back, band members in the background all infused with metal and red rust. Cool hair! It was one of the first questions I asked him when we first met. “What products do you use to get your hair to stay up without it looking stiff?” Ha!
The smell of every new record made me feel the same way as opening up a new guitar case – it was as if something awesome was about to happen. I carefully pulled out the paper sleeve that contained the record. Placing it on the table where I ever-so-gently slipped out the vinyl masterpiece, balancing it on the insides of my hands to avoid finger prints. That would be life over if a finger print landed on a record, I’d have to find a cloth, wipe it clean and pick up every tiny piece of lint to protect the needle. It added another 5 minutes to the process and messed up my qi! Down goes the record, carefully placing the needle at the very start, ensuring that it played from the edge so not a single beat was missed. I sat watching the vinyl spin for a few seconds before the first guitar riff of “Lookin for Love” started, blasting through dad’s EV3 speakers with an ever so slight sizzle from the needle.
I sat watching and listening until it was time to flip to the other side. Like watching a clock tick, I’d follow the needle as it travelled further and further into the shiny black coaster of music. It was a shit album if I was waiting for the end, it was a great album if I was disappointed that the end was nearing. In this case, it was the latter. If I wanted to back track, I’d have to lift up the needle and place it to where I remember my favourite part to be. Very carefully. This process made mix tapes so much fun. It wasn’t something I could set up and leave – I had to be on the journey from start to finish. Record on the tape, needle drop. Pause record at the end of song. Change vinyl, get a level check by playing new. Drop needle at precisely the right spot allowing enough time to let up the “pause” button. Crunch, drop, vwiip, crackle, flip, slip, slip, flop, drop, check, crackle, drop, pause.. Aaahh fuck I unpaused, too late! I can’t have a mix tape with 2 beats shaved off the intro. Gotta do it again! Rewind.
That was such a therapeutic process. Buying a new record was a real event and made me appreciate the music in a different way. Even though the process was much more streamline when CD’s came out, the effort to play them back was similar.
At the risk of sounding like an old timer purist who is ungrateful for the advancement of technology, do you think it’s easier or harder to take the time to really listen to an album? In the days of vinyl and CD’s, the means of play back forced us to set aside whatever task was occupying our minds at the time to fully listen to a body of work. And it wasn’t as easy to skip, so we gave it a chance. Sure, we can take a moment to do the same thing these days, but that relies on our own self-discipline. It’s kind of not the same thing.
So my question is, do you allow your world to stand still when you listen to your favourite tunes today? Or does music mean something different? For myself, it’s definitely changed. Whilst technology literally exposes me to a world of music, I’m guilty of not giving new music a chance. Or at least I have to make a conscious effort to not judge so quickly. I can tell this by the ratio of new release vs classics in my iTunes library. I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s all a matter of preference, but for me, I really miss that ritual. If I did it today, my mind would be saying, “Dude! It’s much easier to make a playlist in iTunes. You’re wasting time!”. Food for thought…