Saturday, 30 May 2015

FOR THE LOVE OF VINYL! One man's insight into vinyl collecting and its culture.

Alternative aficionado Ryan Sweeney takes us through why he loves vinyl, World Record Store Day and what he calls "the beauty of the LP."

Heavy. Impractical. Redundant. But, beautifully endearing. The gramophone vinyl record is the reason the music industry exists today. Invented by the Thomas Edison Company in the mid 19th century, it revolutionized the way music was consumed, allowing the recording of and distribution of audio. Think about the effect this has had for a moment; without this we would not have music radio, studio recorded music (which also includes things like synthesizers and sampling), the entire touring system as we know it and to some extent the very idea of celebrity and fame is affected. In my opinion the vinyl record is one of the most important cultural advances ever achieved. But why in a world with CDs, Spotify and iTunes are we still drawn to this technologically outdated and ridiculously cumbersome way of listening to music?

Personally, I believe the whole style and look of a record reminds of us a time in music that fans can point to and say "that era was the most productive, the most creative and the most entertaining era in the history of the music industry." This is debatable I know, but if you look at what is often referred to as 'the Golden Era' by vinyl collectors you can see why some would think this. Within this time period from around 1960 to about 1985 the music industry exploded and the LP became the artists tool of expression and a must buy for the music fan. Think about what came out during this time: Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles, Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan, Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel, Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath, Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd, Rumors - Fleetwood Mac, Hotel California - The Eagles and moreThese are only a few albums that are not just associated with vinyl collecting but have also etched themselves into the fabric of modern popular culture. So I feel there is a hearkening back to what is viewed by some as being a better time for music and the desire to relive these classics in their original form, hoping to recapture the magic of when first hearing them.

"Nothing beats the warm crackle of vinyl just before the track kicks in." We can debate audio quality until the cows come home. Yes, we know the Blu-Ray CD will take over the world. Yes, we know the remastering of Moving Pictures is so good that you can hear the sticks striking the skins. But vinyl just has an indescribable warmth to it, you can judge how loved a record is by all the little audio imperfections it has gained over time. Each little skip tells it's own story and each bit of fuzz is an anecdote unto itself. It's this wear and tear that gives the vinyl more personality than the CD and streaming services, but unlike the CD and the cassette, the minor degradation does not harm the listening experience. My 1969 original press copy of Tommy is battered, some of the tracks are fuzzy, there's a few skips here and there but I still love this edition of the album over my CD copy. Not in spite of, but because it just has that worn, well loved feeling about it, from the cover to the LPs themselves. It's this charm that I feel adds a more personal connection to the vinyl than other available mediums.

In this modern times of extensive capitalism and the global domination of chain stores, I feel it is important for us to support our local, independent record stores and what better way to do that than my favorite time of year that lets me have a consumerist binge than World Record Store Day? The one day a year that exclusive, new vinyl releases appear in independents all round the world. Over the last few years this event has grown in support, from a regional event to a world wide phenomenon. It is the perfect time of year for casual fans to check out new releases and the hardcore collectors to get their hands on limited edition, coloured, remasters, the good stuff people need to add that bit of flair to their record collections. Over the last 2 years I have taken part in the event I have come away with some really quite neat items that all take pride of place among my collection. I urge any fan who likes getting up early in the morning and standing outside shops to go down, you might just find something you like.

Will the vinyl revival last forever? I can't really say for sure, I know vinyl will always have a special place in my heart. The days killed listening to whole albums over and over again, the excitement of opening the cellophane, examining the record and flicking through the booklet. Vinyl has a magic to it that I know I will always love and it's this magic that I believe will be the reason vinyl will stand the test of time. When every new technology comes along and takes the limelight we always end up coming back to vinyl because the history of vinyl is the history of the music industry and as long as that warm crackle is still audible somewhere in the universe, someone will always be drawn back to it.

This has been one vinyl junkie's opinion on the phenomenon that is vinyl, what do you think? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Let us know and remember keep checking out Musical Chairs for more news, reviews and articles.

R.Sweeney (@thecautiouscrip)

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