I have a bit of a confession to make, I have recently fallen in love. Not in the traditional sense unfortunately but I have fallen in love with Vinyl records. Now I am not one of these people who think that the old ways are best. On the contrary I am a massive fan of innovation and technology. I personally own an iPhone, iPad and iMac so I am by no means a technophobe.
Recently though I was helping my parents clean out their loft and one of the boxes that dropped out contained a load of old vinyl records. My sister is a big fan of vinyl, she owns a turntable so we played a load of them and that was it, love at first listen. You can probably divide the record collection into 3 categories, 1: the records I have heard of and for the most part are in my iTunes library, 2: the records I have heard of but don’t have in iTunes and 3: the ones I have never ever heard of. Now I will admit some of the records in the third category haven’t aged well and feel very dated. That’s part of the downside of vinyl that I will come onto later. The other two categories have things like Bowie, T Rex, U2 and even a Queen live album. These are all absolutely fantastic. My parents have some good taste in music.
Now as I said earlier I have some of this material on my iTunes library. On the day we found these albums I actually had already been listening to some Bowie on my iPad. For some reason though it all sounds so much better on vinyl. It’s still brilliant on iTunes but vinyl seems to add an extra element I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be that handling the vinyl takes so much more care and love. You have to carefully take the record out of its multiple layers of protection, place it carefully on the turntable, dust it, place the needle in exactly the right place and pray there aren’t any cracks. Bit different from clicking on an album in iTunes.
It could also be that the records aren’t perfect, they’re a bit warped, have the odd crack and are a bit dusty. Vinyl is more endearing than the more clinical digital version. My last thought is the mechanics of the whole process. You get to see how it all works and you are part of the process. Placing the needle, watching the record spin, choosing the right speed etc. Now it’s all done for us by magic pixies (or whatever it is that makes my iPad work). Feeling connected to something like this certainly enhances the experience.
That is to say that there aren’t downsides. My iTunes library contains 52 albums, most people will probably have more than that. Now being able to carry that all round in my pocket and play it at will is much easier than carrying a turntable and vinyls around with you. I’d imagine that it would also be even more frustrating if you buy a bad album, as we have all done in our time. With iTunes it’s easy you just delete it or don’t add it to your various devices. But because of the physical and emotion investment of traveling all the way to the record store buying the album and carrying it all the way back home to find out its crap must be irritating. Not to mention taking up space in your house.
Right so what am I trying to say with this article? Forget about iTunes? Throw out your iPod? Buy only vinyls? No, that would be unreasonable, especially since most new music isn’t available in vinyl format and I am a fan of new music as well. What I’m saying is firstly have a dig around your parents loft, basement, dark hiding place and see what you can find. There might be the odd hidden gem. Secondly if you love music make room in your life for a few vinyls. Keep the portable and durable iTunes, but appreciate what is also available on vinyl and listen to the odd album or too. I certainly will be investing in a turntable of my own and maybe a few more vinyls. You can thank me later.
by Jack Troup