I scored the last Butch Walker End of the World (One More Time) 10” at Shake It Records on Record Store Day last month. I held the record gingerly because it is the one form of playback everyone reveres. We jammed in 8-tracks, pushed in cassette tapes, and drop CDs. Records require gentleness. It is much like chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) in which every movement the host makes while preparing the tea has purpose and care while drawing you into Zen. We cautiously slide them out of their protective sleeve, blow the dust off, hold it delicately between open hands, and carefully place it on the turntable. Don’t leave it in the heat or it will warp. Never grip it between your fingers or it can break or scratch. Set the needle down like you set a sleeping baby in their crib.
In the quest for a clean, perfect sound digital music was created along with auto tune (don’t get me started), and the new thing – Beats by Dre. We forgot that music wasn’t always about a clean sound or a perfect sound. If that were the case there would be no rock, punk, singers with raspy voices, jazz musicians riffing in the moment. One of the joys of vinyl is finding the perfection in the imperfections. Vinyl-lovers always return to the medium for the sound. There is nothing like the initial crackle and hiss when the needle makes contact with the vinyl. The grooves offer more depth than digital formats, making everything sound fuller, rounder.
I have a small collection of vinyl. Elvis, The Beatles, Jan & Dean, Cecilio & Kapono (contemporary Hawaiian music if you’re scratching your head), INXS, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Shaun Cassidy, and Tom Jones to name a few. But my favorite is The Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby. The sound of the entire album is so rich and thick I can float on it. I get excited just before putting it on because I know what’s coming. The beats, the tinny acoustic line from Terence then BOOM! The striking entrance of everyone hits you hard and makes you pay attention. HERE I AM. Digital versions of “If You All Go To Heaven” lack the roundness of the deep, heavy bass on that entrance.
Vinyl should have gone the way of reel-to-reel, 8-track, and cassette tapes (really just a portable version of reel-to-reel) in the evolution of music formats. Vinyl flourishes in an age where we can hold all of our music in something the size of a men’s wallet (or smaller). It refuses to die because the sound each groove holds will always be purer than anything on an mp3 player or in a CD player.