Sunday, January 27, 2013

LP means Long Play

If you have old records and you haven't taken the time to play them lately you really should do yourself a favor and do it.

And look, it takes time. It's not a quick scroll through your Playlists to find what you're looking for, click the button and then go. No.

It. Takes. Time. But man, oh man. It is time well worth spending.

I grew up listening to records. Not just the radio; although that's the only place that I heard current stuff, but my dad's record collection. I've written about this before. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, etc. In our basement we had Dad's stereo set up with all of his records taking up about 6 feet of space on the bottom shelves. Going through those record covers, flipping by them, pulling them out to inspect. I literally spent hours of my youth doing this.

At first we had one of the turntables that you could stack up several records and after a side finished playing another record would drop down on the turntable and it would start up. It was fun, but you know if you want to listen to an entire album you either had to have to copies - which we didn't - or you had to not do the stacking method. 

[aside]Nothing is convenient about records. Nothing. And that's probably one of the main reasons that they went out of style. As I said above, it takes time to listen to a record. Very few of us want to take that time to do that nowadays. Nowadays? Good grief. [end of aside]

So sometime around 7th grade I started getting my own records. We upgraded the turntable around the same time. Gone was the stackable option. That was okay because I didn't do that too often. I think maybe that was really for playing a stack of 45s for a Rompus Room Dance Party. I never had a Rompus Room Dance Party. Promise. My dad was a member of Columbia Records Club. I enjoyed going to the record store more than ordering records from the Club though. Again it is the visual and physical sensations of flipping through the records, looking at the front and back album cover art and design.  In the the Club if you knew what you wanted that was one thing, but in a record store a big part of the experience for me was browsing.  [I still enjoy it today; although I can't tell you the last time I was in a store that sells records] 

I think the first record I bought with my own money was Rush - Moving Pictures. 

Great record. Great cover and inner sleeve design too. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep the inner sleeve in good condition because it was printed on really thin paper. Really thin. As you know, 7th graders aren't necessarily gentle creatures so as you can imagine, my fear was well founded. Even the record cover paper was thin. I was surprised. I was used to handling thick cardstock covers from my dad's collection. This was so thin. So was the vinyl. Dad's Ventures album was about two times thicker than my Rush album.

If you had your own record collection, or were allowed to use your family's then you know how to handle records. I just said that 7th graders aren't gentle, but to have access to the records in my house you had to prove that you knew how to handle them correctly. Fingers had no part of holding a record. Dirt, oil, grease, who knows what else could be on those fingers. The less skin contact you were able to make with the record surface the better. That was one of the harder things about the Rush album. It was so THIN and flimsy! Holding it between your palms, (or once my hand got big enough to put a finger in the hole of the record my thumb on the edge of the vinyl) showed a lot of flexibility. Lots more than I was used to. I remember being at friends' houses who didn't put so much care into their records. Finger prints all over them. Dirt and scratches. Not at the Benefield house. As I said, you had to prove that you were ready.

So along comes the Walkman and suddenly music is totally portable. At first I was content to record my albums on cassettes. TDK Chrome was the best blank cassette you could buy of course, but I didn't get those as often as I'd like.

 Then I started just buying the cassette versions of the music I wanted. In my mind it was far superior because it saved me the time of making that recording. Making sure I had the levels just right so it sounded good on the cassette. I got a little obsessed with cassettes. I had so many cases that I would take with me on trips because I had to have ALL of my music with me in case I wanted to hear a particular song. Obnoxiously I would take three or four cases full of cassettes on trips.

The Walkman to the Discman to the iPod. Portability and convenience. I love it, but it is still a different experience listening to music on the iPod than it is on a record player. Like so much else that goes on today it's quick and impersonal. The picture you see of the album cover, if there is one at all, is maybe one square inch. Liner notes? Maybe on the Internet. Convenient, yes. An Experience, no.

So again, if you have records and a way to play them I would encourage you to take set some aside some time, grab 10 - 15 of your favorites and immerse yourself in that aural joy of records. It's good by yourself, but it can be even more fun with a friend. I need to get my turntable fixed so I can share this with my Girls.