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Vinyl Fetishists

[Editorial Assistance for whippersnappers]

I’ve been a record[1] collector since I first became involved in the punk rock scene way back in High School. My first record was probably the “Pull The Plug” single[2] by Neglect. I picked it up at the record release party at a club in Mineola called the Angle, way back in 1993 or so. I haven’t stopped adding to the collection since.

This was obviously during the greatest popularity of CD as the medium for sharing music, but vinyl fit much more with the D.I.Y. punk rock ethic in those prehistoric days before CD burners. It seemed like any band of kids could get together and put out a single. Buying records from small touring bands was a way to cheaply try out new music (I probably paid 5 dollars for the Neglect single), a way to support the scene and an extension of my previous interests in collecting comics and toys.

Some people are collectors. I’ve been one my whole life and I’m sure I’ll always be.

I still have fond memories of taping[3] a bunch of records onto cassettes. It was possible to fit thirty or forty songs from different bands on a single tape! Again, there were no CD burners or MP3 players. Having that kind of capability felt like living in the world of tomorrow.

I’m no Luddite. I’ve got a cheap MP3 player that is tiny and holds way more songs than a bushel of cassettes. I’ve got so many MP3s on my computer that I may have to start listening two at a time to get through them all. The internet and the digitizing of most of the sound ever captured in the world have been a great boon to a music fan. But I’m still a record collector.

There’s just something about hearing a great bass recorded to tape and cut to disc without going through the atoms to bits process. There’s something great about picking up a $2 dollar record just because the LP sleeve is a cool piece of art, dropping it on the turntable and listening expectantly to see if you’ve found a gem or a dud. There’s something great Some of my finds at the record fair.about the smell and feel of a record that was cut in the same time period when a tune was written and recorded. MP3s are great, don’t get me wrong. I even enjoyed my music on those hissy old cassette tapes[4]. But my ears are hard wired to something about that vinyl sound. If digital music listening is restaurant food, vinyl is Mac and Cheese made the way that only my grandma ever got just right.

By the way, it’s not pops, crackles, distortion or anything like that. I don’t mind those things, especially on forty year old Jamaican vinyl, but a well looked after record played on a quality turntable has none of those things and yet still has the magic. It’s not just a love for mechanical distortion that keeps us chasing these little discs. It’s the ritual, the fetish and that warm inviting sound that makes music listening into a pleasure. Listening to records is a short escape from the hectic world where we’re forced to drink from a the fire hose 24/7. For a brief moment everything in life doesn’t have to fight to be louder and harsher than everything else.

I had a small record collection while I was young, but it really took off more recently due to two major factors. The most important was I started making some money. Almost as importantly, nearly every single record I wanted was suddenly available on eBay. I try not to even type those four letters now-a-days.

BTW, there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl in the last few years. That’s great, as long as the new folks stick to new releases and don’t start picking up the cheapies at the second hand shops. Dibs!

Anyway, after a successful trip to this year’s WFMU Record Fair, I decided to finish a song I’d been kicking around. Sarah helped with nailing down the melody, sang backups and pounded out a little piano. Boltsy held down the low end, added more backup vocals and cheated at dice. Give it a listen!

Vinyl Fetishists

We are vinyl fetishists
There’s nothing we love better than digging in crates
Who loves vinyl? we love vinyl!
you’ll be hooked in one taste

A little taste of magic
in a disc made out of plastic
the needle hits that spot
and your body turns spastic

There’s something about the bass
each sound in it’s proper place
polyvinyl chloride
pushing sine waves right up in your face

Chorus

Hoping for the big score
never happens anymore
prices shooting through the roof
of every 2nd hand store

Dollar’s weaker every day
records head the euro way
global market’s gone insane
every pawn shop’s got ebay

Chorus

The world is changing rapidly
we spend our time vapidly
an iWorld full of iDiots
all thinking iDentically

There’s nothing wrong with mp3s
convenience or ease
but the moon’s turned Velveeta
and I’m still holding out for cheese

Chorus

[Download MP3]

…and yes, I’m aware that it’s kind of ironic to digitally record and release a paean to the glories of the analog world. Consider it post-modern.

  1. Polyvinyl chloride discs that stored analog information about sound.
  2. I still have that Neglect single, by the way. I don’t listen to it anymore though because lyrics about Grandmas and colostomy bags are a little bit more real for me now than they were at 15.
  3. Taping involved transferring the sound information contained on the records onto a magnetic tape based medium called a “Cassette”.
  4. Yeah, cassettes were pretty crappy. The quality was bad to start with and degraded the more you used them. Even worse you actually had to wait for the tape to wind and unwind when fast-forwarding or rewinding.