Recently, my abandoned passion for record collecting became reignited, for no other reason than I found a newly pressed copy of a BB King album on sale in a discount supermarket in Poland. I purchased this album without having the method to even play it, something in me awoke a dormant desire to hold and listen to this old school mode of musical pleasure.
For years I have diverted my listening methodology away from the analogue to digital, forsaking old fashioned “experience” for the modern, musical zeitgeist of ubiquity and convenience.
They say that if you don’t want your kids ending up on the wrong side of life, buy them a motorcycle; The 1976 release of “Elvis 40 Greatest” was my Triumph Bonneville; the germinal element that began a consummate passion with records, thus ensuring that I never had the time, nor the financial means, to transgress, as both resources went into adding (and adding) to that first, gifted 12” disc of plastic.
At the cusp of the digital revolution I had an impressive collection, not only of records but of the vast library of information contained on the sleeve notes. Recording session dates and the musicians who played on them became a currency of credibility; quoting the fact that DJ Fontana didn’t play drums on any of Elvis’ Sun Studio sessions, elicited an acknowledgement of acceptance as a parishioner, into the church of LP.
And then, back in the mid ‘90’s, it happened. Almost overnight, my devotion and unwavering adulation for wax came to an abrupt end, I became a vinyl Judas and a CD neophyte, almost in the same breath, fickle?…not much! My once coveted turntable was considered as anachronistic as a chamber pot, yet less valuable; not even antique collectors would take them off your hands. So the Thorens turntable ended up as another, blanket covered, shape in the corner of my garage.
A few years after replacing the turntable with a sleek, state of the art CD player and replacing the albums for the same songs on CD (albeit now with a “bonus” track), I found myself, one day, in a Bang & Olufsen showroom; for no other reason than to offer my disparaging thoughts on their stylish, Scandinavian built equipment. I remember guffawing, almost, at the salesman telling me that the future is streaming and that the CD would be defunct in the not so far away future, that was 2012 and he was nearly right. The future would be different, for sure, but the once dominant, CD format, would become an historical reference point of transition in the story of recorded sound.
Nevertheless, I took the bait. Soon, all the old “hardware” took up yet more blanket space in the garage, as the player, amp and speakers were replaced by pieces of equipment with names from the NASA glossary of terms (think, docking station) and music became less of an earned pleasure and more of a perfunctory reaction. I could buy one song for $0.99, listen to it, never to do so again, if I didn’t want to.
Music downloads probably helped define the Generation Z ethos, one could hear a tune and have it downloaded onto a device now, without context; no sleeve notes, no annoying booklet and the, even more annoying, plastic cases with broken spindles, just the song.
Whether coincidence or not, my journey had started with one King and was about to resume, after a lengthy hiatus, with another.
I took that bargain basement repro of the BB King album home and my 18 year old daughter, Adrianna said, “Wow, what’s that?”. As I explained, with paternal gasconade, the breadth of my knowledge of vinyldom, the light of re-genesis shone brightly, I was captivated once more.
Of course, for me, Adrianna’s interest was both the motivation and an excuse. How could I justify spending anything, let alone what I deemed to be a “small” amount, on record playing equipment? Well, I was just being a caring, culturally broadening, Dad; pure altruism.
Using a combination of my own experience and the guidance of the knowledgeable followers of the private member group “Turntables” on Facebook (LP parishioners now flock online), the right TT was found. Now, as I’m of the “disposable income” generation, it wasn’t the base model but a couple of stages up the ladder, for the sake of my daughter, of course.
Putting together that system for Adrianna was an exercise in paternal pride. It’s a rare occasion for a self-confessed nerd, of whatever denomination, to be allowed an unfettered opportunity to appear smart and sophisticated but here was mine. I placed such reverence upon the audio set up that Adrianna placed a Post It ® note with the words “bądź ostrożny” (be careful) on the top, to deter any innocent intruder from even making glancing contact with the prized equipment.
With the turntable output linked to my B&O A9 active speaker via an audio pre-amp and With the set up working, now was my pièce de résistance..the unveiling of my record collection; dusty, partly flood damaged (yes, some were kept in the aforementioned garage) but still, mostly, playable. The entire collection dwarfed the 4 albums that my daughter had already began her collection with; selfishly dispatching fatherly pride into geeky hubris in one fell swoop. An unfortunate character flaw of the nerd.
Being the intelligent and perceptive teenager that she is, she realised that stopping me, full tilt into the process of archiving, would have a devastating effect, so she patiently allowed me to continue, unabated. After all, the true audiophile keeps their record collection in a manner rarely seen outside of eminent Atheneum; curated by name, genre, sleeve cover or any number of vinylpathic methods deemed relevant to the collector.
We were then ready, me to revisit a long lost experience and for Adrianna to, hopefully, become a disciple of the new analogue era.
I took the treasured plastic disc and placed it onto the turntable platter (after checking the skate/tonearm/cartridge/stylus and using a microfibre cloth to remove any dust, of course) and then we idled into our listening chairs (or chairs, as they were known 10 minutes earlier) to enjoy the music, while reading, for the hundredth time, the sleeve notes. All this effort for 25 +/- minutes of relaxation and listening nirvana. That’s dedication.
I’m proud and delighted to report that my daughter’s record collection has flourished since the day “we” set up the system. With the heightened demand for vinyl and the corresponding increase of traders to meet that demand, I have been able to introduce her to other vinyl junkies, to the extent that we are now frequent visitors to the inner sanctum of record collectors; the record fair.
I would like to think that the aura of “cool”; the epithet of “old school” are both bestowed upon me by association but, as much as I can’t hide my delight that Adrianna has began her vinyl journey, I know I’ll just have to settle on being a catalyst. Nothing’s changed, I’m still a vinyl nerd and I’ll settle for that, if I can have 25 minutes of sonorous nirvana every now and then.
© Andy Collinsson 2020