Get into the groove...
By Douglas Byrne (Record Player)
"I don't know what 33⅓ means. It just means out of sync to me." - Judy Garland
Hiss. Snap. Crackle. Pop.
These are the sounds of my childhood.
My first "record" wasn't vinyl at all. It was an Archies record that I had punched out of the back of a cereal box. No one would let me play it on their stereo...no one would dare let their precious needle touch a piece of cardboard pretending to be a record. (I suspect now that it wasn't so much the cardboard as it was the Archies themselves.) I ended up listening to it on a Fisher-Price record player.
I was given real records after that, but my real love affair with vinyl didn't begin until I was fifteen, when my friend Pher introduced me to The Who's Tommy. I remember pulling the record out of its sleeve as he showed me how to properly handle an album. He placed my hands around the edge of the record, explaining about fingerprints and dust and grooves. He showed me how to drop the record on the turntable.
Up until then, I had only used the Fisher-Price system from my childhood and have to admit that I was a bit haphazzard about how I handled my albums. Pher was almost reverent about it, holding the edges with his palm, placing the album gently on the turntable, dropping the needle on the groove by hand because he didn’t trust the automatic arm to do it right.
He turned the volume up. The unmistakable crackle and hiss of needle upon vinyl filled the room.
I’m not an audiophile by any means. When I say vinyl is the best form of music, it has nothing to do with how clean or pure the sound is; it’s about my sensory relationship with albums. The way a record feels in my hands, the symmetry and pattern of the grooves, even the imperfections – the scratches and skips – are part of what makes vinyl matter so much to me and what makes each individual album unique to its owner.
Like the way my copy of Led Zeppelin IV had a little "pop" at the start and in my mind, became the intro to the song "Black Dog", the thing I hear right before Robert Plant’s "Hey, hey Mama..". Or how Pher’s copy of Sgt. Pepper had a scratch in it and to this day I can’t hear "A Day in the Life" without singing "found my way up…found my way up…found my way upstairs." Some might view those things as flaws. To me, they are part of the charm and personality of vinyl.
I’ve never met a CD that made me fall in love with it like a record. I’ll still love the music, but the CD is just a container for that music, where a record is part of the entire music experience.
It’s good to see that records are making a comeback. More and more bands are including album versions in their new releases. Turntables are selling again. A new generation is learning to embrace vinyl.
I hope they appreciate the imperfections that make records so, well... perfect.
Hiss. Snap. Crackle. Pop.
These are the sounds of my adulthood.