On The Record

Way back around 1978 BC (before COVID) our family had a decent stereo component system featuring a turntable, cassette, AM/FM stereo receiver and floor speakers. Not state of the art but magical for me, especially since I wasn’t allowed to touch it. I’d spend hours in front of those speakers listening to rock and roll albums my parents enjoyed and flipping through the album art. It was a great day indeed when I was finally permitted to use the turntable when I wanted. Trips to the library became less about book rental and more albums seeking and hitting pay dirt when one branch had an eclectic and modern collection of 80s pop instead of 50’s gospel.

Later on, Dad scoffed at my Sony Walkman because albums sounded better than cassettes. My argument was it was portable and therefore, better. Next came the compact disc, which was not portable. After that, the iPod and so on. There was a brief moment back in 2005 when I bought and personally restored a vintage RCA floor console but had to part with it to make room for a nursery. Even more brief was a portable record player from my mother that was damaged in a move. The album collection warped in the heat inside a storage unit. Since I left that old stereo behind I haven’t really touched music like I used to, and it hasn’t touched me the same. Holding a record album in your hands gives me a sense of connectivity to music like I haven’t experienced in years. My fingers are used to scrolling and tapping a screen to access my digital collection, or from a streaming service. Speaking of streaming…

This past month you may have read previously, that I’ve been listening to a new album every day and came across one from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. On a whim, I traveled one city block to a proper record store and it threw me back in time. I’ve missed those days of flipping through album after album on the racks. And that smell of aged alcohol, tobacco or stronger burned into those paper album covers? It hasn’t changed and I am grateful. Anyway, as I was flipping through albums and inching up and down the aisles, I kept seeing stickers around the store saying “Herb Alpert Is.” Um, what? “Herb Alpert Is”….what? A scavenger hunt it seems. I found my way back to the jazz section and came across another sticker “Herb Alpert Is HERE!” So my whim paid off unexpectedly and purchased the same album I had never heard of but streamed the day before. Again, magical.

Yes, digital music is fantastically convenient but I have missed the tangible lately. I am buying physical books again and borrowing digital books from the library. I am investing in film cameras and enjoying prints again. From here, I want to buy and touch music while I am borrowing from a streaming service. The old ways aren’t necessarily better but they are standing up to time better.

The joy of reviewing and opening a record album, and placing it on the turntable, the having to get up and flip from side A to Side B makes me appreciate each song and artist even more. And just how freaking cool is watching a spinning disc produce a sound that never fades?

Record store even threw in one of their stickers. Streaming won’t do that.

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