So I finally hooked up my old Technics turntable to a Pioneer receiver that I bought for $75 at a used record store. Paired with some $5 KLH speakers I found at a yard sale, my vinyl listening days and nights are beginning again. One of my literary heroes, the great modern British wit and Idler founder Tom Hodgkinson wrote, much more poetically than I will here, that if you go back in technology ten or fifteen years, you can live like a king. Just last summer I bought over twenty 80’s-era CDs from a guy at a garage sale for the price of one album on iTunes. And don’t even get me started on VCR tapes. My vinyl journey has just begun again (blame it on mid-life crisis), but I’ve thought about it a little bit, and I’ve come up with a few rules that apply to records. And, I think, to life.
Tread lightly. Like your mama told you, don’t play ball in the house. Walk with little cat feet when music is playing. The fear of a skip or a scratch should cause you to be mindful around your turntable. That’s not to say you can’t dance or play air guitar if you want. Just crank the volume knob and do it in the kitchen.
Pay attention. Listen with your whole body. There’s more to music than just the words and the guitar solos. Next time you listen to a song, follow just the bass or drums, if you can. Or focus your listening on different instruments throughout the song. Listening to an album, really listening, can demand as much attention as when our grandparents listened to the old radio programs. But that attention will be paid back a hundredfold in joy.
Be committed. Let’s face it. When you put on a record and lie down on the couch or better yet, floor, it’s a pain in the ass to get up and skip to a new song. That’s OK. Each album side will have some songs you like and some you don’t. Like life, take the good with the mediocre, or even the downright awful. We can’t fast forward or shuffle our way through real life. And when the side is done, the needle will come to rest and you’ll have plenty of time to get up and play side two.
Handle with care. Vinyl wants to be loved and cared for. Put your records back in their sleeves when you’re done listening to them. They like to rest in the cool paper darkness. Hold them by the edges. Treat them as delicately as you would your own head and they’ll last you a lifetime. Just like your own head.
Share your stoke. OK, that’s s surfing term, but it totally applies here. There is an entire community of vinyl aficionados and collectors out there. Visit flea markets and yard sales. Drop into your local record shop. Chances are they’ll have a used vinyl bin. My local place sells most vinyl for .97 cents. A ton of bands are even releasing new albums on vinyl as well as CD and digital. And take off your headphones. There’s a time and a place for private music, but it’s better when everyone can listen in.