We didn’t know we had it bad. When there is little or no point of reference, you don’t know what you’re missing. This is true of pretty much everything in the world, ever. Did people in the thirties know how hot they were without air conditioning? No, because they never experienced air conditioning.
I still remember the first time I ever listened to music on a compact disc. Of course, no one calls them compact discs now, we just call them CDs. Or not, since CDs are quickly going the way of the dodo bird, the buggy whip, and cable TV. But man, that first time–someone tried to explain the difference between CDs and every other method of listening to music–but I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it, until I got it. Then I GOT it. Man, did I ever get it! “Chicago’s Greatest Hits” was the first CD I ever heard. I’d heard those songs hundreds of times, maybe thousands. I heard them live once, back in ’82 (or ’81, I can’t quite remember), on vinyl, cassette, and the radio, both AM and FM. But when I heard those songs on compact disc, I heard things I’d never heard before. The high notes by trumpeter Lee Loughnane were higher. The lows from James Pankow’s trombone vibrated the rafters. And the clarity! The clarity of every single note was like nothing I’d ever heard. The words were easier to understand, and the complexity of the music itself–it was something I’ll never forget. And it wasn’t just the notes, it was the beat and the lyrical content. It was like you could hear the heart of the singer, not just the voice. CDs changed the game in every way. No scratches, no turning the disc over to play the other side, and they’re easier to keep and store. Buh bye, vinyl records, it was nice knowing you.
There are things about the old days that I miss. There are things I do not miss. I’m not ever going back to giant tube-type televisions. Nor do I plan on going back to rotary dial telephones that require the user to be in a stationary position, due to cords and all. And why would I ever go back to vinyl records?
I first noticed the trend a few years ago, odd though it was–modern recording artists releasing new albums on vinyl, like it was 1977 all over again. Hippie kids getting turntables for Christmas, acting all snobby and aloof around us “CD” people. Please. Step aside, kids. I was spinning records for a living when your daddy was still wearing short pants. Going back to vinyl is like going back to propeller driving airplanes instead of jets, or getting a reel-type lawn mower when you could be rocking a Troy-built with a Briggs and Stratton. Like why? And don’t. And like, why?
I was at a friend’s house a couple of years ago–he’s young and hip. Seriously, like, a cool guy with flannel shirts and a full beard and man-skills. And he had a turntable. I tried to contain my eye-roll. Then I looked at his meager and pitiful record collection, and one of the titles happened to be the latest album from Jason Isbell, who has spent the last ten years sneaking his way into the number one position on my all-time favorite songwriter list. I didn’t even think of asking permission–I put the record on the turntable, and let my spirit do the rest. It was an odd feeling, one that I fear will be impossible to describe with words. It was like going back in time, but retaining all the knowledge acquired in my lifetime (that’s the only way a time-travel fantasy has any appeal to me–the ability to travel back in time while remembering what you’ve learned about women and the value of reading books and practicing the trumpet more and what stocks to buy and women (did I mention women already?)). I had heard every one of those songs numerous times in digital format, but this was different. There were the scratches, and the occasional warp in the vinyl. And then there was the order of the music–you can’t effortlessly skip over songs on vinyl so you had to listen to it in order, like the artist intended–it was like the old days, when a new record made its way into your collection. Do you remember? Either because you stopped by Starship, or Peaches, or you got your twelve records for a penny from Columbia Record Club, and your friends came over just so you could all listen at the same time–those were good times! Life was slower, more deliberate. I’d like to say that we appreciated things more, but I don’t know that we did. It was just normal.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Fighting commies.
We fought Communism, and won! We fought it so we wouldn’t have to listen to vinyl records and 8-track tapes anymore. Don’t get me wrong: I love the twenty-first century! It is the best century ever! I love the modern conveniences, like checking the security cameras at my house from work or a jet airplane. Or starting my car from inside the grocery store or from outer space. Sometimes I think it would be cool to go back in time and do things over again, but I like it too much over here.
Since I like it too much over here, and since time machines aren’t a reality yet, I would like to announce that I am now in possession of the next-best thing: a turntable. I’m kind of excited.
This all started at Christmas, when my secret Santa (Ms. Knowlton) bought me a vinyl record. It is no secret that I love music, but it struck me as odd to receive a vinyl record. Even healthy work relationships are built on communication, so I asked her why. Her response brought a smile to my face: “I don’t know, I just figured you for a turntable guy.” Me? MOI?? A TURNTABLE GUY?? Aw, shucks, Kaitlyn. You’re making me blush. I HAD been a turntable guy, when I wore a younger man’s clothes. Dad always had one at home, hooked up to the biggest speakers we could fit into the room. It was how I made my living for a few years, during a time when radio stations played vinyl. It only makes sense that I should be a turntable guy now.
I’m not alone. Last year, for the first time in more than thirty years, vinyl records outsold compact discs. Go back and read that again (it will be on the test). 1987 was the last year that vinyl records outsold CDs. At first that statistic surprised me. Then it occurred to me that buying CDs is about as familiar to young people today as buying vinyl records was to people who are currently in their twenties and thirties. Most music is downloaded digitally now, it is in the “cloud” or whatever. What a sucky life it must be for them. If all you ever do is download your music, how to you read the liner notes? How do you read the lyrics? I’ll tell you how. You buy it in VINYL. That’s how.
Two problems have now arisen. The first one is that I threw away or sold all my vinyl records, and all my mom’s vinyl records, and all Lisa’s mom’s vinyl records. Dang. There were some good ones in there! The second problem is this: WHERE CAN I BUY VINYL RECORDS? Can I still get twelve records for a penny? Is anyone driving to Starship?