Reversing the Numbness

Monday, July 23, 2007

Records Matter

Every time I go to my in-laws house, I drool over my step-father-in-law's record collection. He doesn't even have a record player anymore, but he's still got all of his vinyl, and it's fabulous. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Bill Withers, CSNY, Neil Young, John Denver, Donovan, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Elton John, Jackson Browne ... he's probably got 150 or so albums, and it's all stuff that was born on vinyl. A lot of it I've never even heard of.

So I drool over it, and it's gotten to the point where I obsessively think about getting a record player. I don't want a nice turntable that plays through a nice receiver on nice speakers. I want a cheap, all-in-one record player, like the one pictured, or like the one I had when I was a kid. My dad was a DJ when I was a small child and he had a nice little collection of 45s. It's where I met the Beatles' "Penny Lane," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and best of all, "Strawberry Fields." I listened to Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" over and over and over again, my friend. I listened to "Snoopy and the Red Baron," to Electric Light Orchestra, and to so many more songs that I still know all of the words to. I forget a lot about being a kid, but I don't forget those records.

Later I got my own albums. Kenny Rogers, of course, was one of the first, and eventually I became a Billy Joel fan via vinyl. I also bought a lot of 45s. I loved Joan Jett's rendition of "Crimson and Clover" and also the Bangles' "Manic Monday." Also Elton John -- I had "Empty Garden" and "Nikita" on 45s. And who can forget the Beatles montage "Stars on 45"? Classic.

So I'll have a record player soon, and it's going right in my living room. I actually bought four old Billy Joel albums in Philly this past weekend, for a buck a piece, to start my collection. I can't wait to add more.

As much as I like music, I'm not much of a stickler for sound quality, so I won't care that my records will sound like shit compared to my CDs and iPod. I'll be too busy eating up the atmosphere they'll create. I can't wait to gently drop my first "new" record down on the turntable. The smell of old vinyl! I can't wait to lift the arm and lightly lay the needle down on the edge of the record, to feel the record take control of the needle and engage the first song. I can't wait to hear the snap and crackle of audio imperfection as Billy Joel sings "She's Got a Way" to kick off Cold Spring Harbor. I can't wait!

Sure hope it lives up to my expectations, because the anticipation is sort of making me feel like a kid again.

22 comments:

The Dalai Mama said...

I'm all for Sleek getting a turntable, but damn I really dislike most Billy Joel. I would like to have the entire Beastie Boys collection on wax, though. I wonder if my dad still has my Sesame Street album? That would be a good one to have.

SleekPelt said...

Oh, we'll spin the B-boys alright. How else could we have a weekly dance night? I just need a big piece of cardboard....

Fleming said...

four words: Eddy Grant, Electric Avenue

spooge said...

for being a musician, i'm not all about sound quality either. i don't care if i ever get a surround sound system for my tv. but I love vinyl. i love to hear the needle pressing down against the vinyl as it spins. the texture of the sound it creates is extremely comforting. I condone your decision to obtain a record player.

Rob Zero said...

Records actually sound much better than CDs (provided they are dust/scratch free).

On one of those crazy meters, natural soundwaves are "round". However, digitalized sound, like that coming from a CD, is "square".

One time, I spent an afternoon trying to nail a bass line on a surf instrumental. I listend to the CD over and over. Went to the drummer's house (who, incidentally, has a killer vinyl collection) and he played the same song, from the same record, on a turntable. I heard things that just don't exist on the CD.

Anonymous said...

A great turntable will put Cd's and mp3's to shame. If you want primo sound quality from a turntable, I would look for a Nakamichi Dragon or a Revox turntable. Look for the mid 80's models on bluelight specials, maybe on ebay, thats when turntable technology reached its pinnacle.

Anonymous said...

and while you're at it, listen to the folksy canuck group called Great Lakes Swimmers....

Anonymous said...

and while you're at it, listen to the folksy canuck group called Great Lakes Swimmers....

SleekPelt said...

fleming: Oh, I'd spin me some Eddy.

spooge: We'll have to have a record party like the kids used to do!

rob: As if I wasn't excited enough. Now you've got me positively reeling.

anon: I'm certainly not against superior sound quality, but to me it's not worth the cost: having more stuff, i.e. a receiver, speakers, etc. I just want a box that plays records, which sits on top of a stand that holds records. The sound quality is secondary.

SleekPelt said...

anon: I've heard of those guys before, and I look forward to checking them out.

wildflower said...

Check out Goodwill or any other thrift stores in the area. We've had good luck finding decent, cheap equiptment that way in the past.

Let me know when the spin party is, our collection is a little over 200 now and we don't play them like we should.

SleekPelt said...

wildflower: You're cordially invited -- bring records!

Zee said...

Yeah, I recently read something written by a rock & roll guru named Jeff Dahl that if you were to A/B the same song on an mp3 player and vinyl, the difference is utterly clear and totally remarkable. The sound is for more compressed and losses a great deal in a digital format.

jon555mcc said...

I'm enjoying the same journey myself. I've just bought the very same record deck you have pictured, and I've also bought an old 60's automatic Bush mono record player. They both arrive tomorrow. I can't wait! I've already bought about 30 records, mainly Rock, i.e. Yes, Frampton, Meat Loaf, Bob Seger. I'm really looking forward to hearing it rip out of some old speakers with all the crackles! Awesome!

SleekPelt said...

jon555mcc: Welcome! Congrats on your soon-to-arrive package, I bet you feel like a kid waiting for the propeller beanie you ordered by saving box tops from Sugar-Coated Chocolate Bombs. For some reason I still haven't gotten a player -- maybe I'm just trying to bask in the anticipation for an extended amount of time. Will you let me know how the Crosley works out for you?

jon555mcc said...

Ah, slight problem there. It didn't come, they said it got lost in the post. Instead I bought a 1971 Bush SRP51. It only cost me £35! It's awesome! Definitely worth getting an old retro machine instead of a new one. Having difficulties getting stereo out of the player, but it's great fun leaning about it. It just sounds brilliant!

SleekPelt said...

jon555mcc: Thanks for the update! I think I'll be ordering my player in the next month. I'll probably get something off of eBay, so here's hoping I get one that works well. I'll definitely be making a new post when I finally get it.

moneytastesbad said...

Sleek, you gotta come check out my collection! A few years back my neighbor gave me his old (vintage) Hi Fi System. In the 70's he worked for a Stereo store, and he had gear that, at the time, was top of the line. I have the Power Amp, Reciever, Tape Deck and Turntable. The Turntable has a Diamond needle.

Along with all of this he gave me his album collection. Some Beatles, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, LOTS of Neil Diamond, LOTS of the Monkeys, Led Zepplin, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Even Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA.

Unfortunatly, the system itself is huge, and I don't have anywhere to put it at the moment (Damn Cats!)But I do have all the records at my house.

SleekPelt said...

$: I'll take you up on that!

Crusselldrums said...

What I love about vinyl is that in the era in which that was the only medium, EVERYTHING was produced, mixed, and mastered (read: eq'd) for that big black disk. The record was THE only medium for about 90 years... and of course there was so much great music between 1880 - 1970!

There are so many albums that I now have on CD/digital media that sound so bad on anything but vinyl.

For instance listen to these songs on vinyl and then listen to the "new-fangled" versions:

"So Far Way" - Carole King (Tapestry)
The drums sound like they are being played in the same room as you... amazing!!!

"Steamroller Blues" - James Taylor (Sweet Baby James)
The horn section has a such a full "round" sound on vinyl. The cd version is flat.

"Beth" - Kiss (Destroyer)
The orchestra sound is AMAZING on this track. All rock bands using orchestral treatments in their songs should ask Bob Ezrin how it's done! Bonus - you can actually hear the lighters being lit and comesbeing pulled from back pockets to come feathered mullets if you listen closely...


no not really.

Crusselldrums said...

OOPS. I meant combs. I should have previewed the post first.

SleekPelt said...

crusseldrums: I have Tapestry here, so I'll check it out. My record player is so advanced it has a tone knob, dude. I can totally control the tone of this player.