Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm a nostalgic kind of guy. I like old fashioned things. I have antique radios lying around (they work and look better), collect older things that may not quite qualify as antiques (sports memorabilia, old movies, et al), and in some ways I feel like the keeper of some sort of misplaced guard, because it seems very much like the generation after mine has lost touch with the deep past. They strike me as lacking interest in events of the past as they chuckle at things they regard as "old", and are obsessed with the technological. I was late to the dinner table with almost every advancement in that department. I didn't go "CD" until 1989, DVD until 2003, and high speed broadband til last summer.

A couple of winters ago, I became the owner of a nice Emerson entertainment unit, complete with AM/FM tuner, vinyl turntable, and cassette deck, allowing me to pull out my moldy oldies and dig in to stuff that's been hanging in my musical limbo for about a decade. Now that my sister-in-law's furniture-style hi-fi with built in 8-track is a fixture in my basement, all my audio bases are indeed covered.

I do have a soft spot for vinyl records. Don't get me wrong, the sound superiority of the compact disc is leaps and bounds better obviously, and I have very many of those. While late on the uptake in the CD conversion, I'm wasn't stupid enough to be one of those stubborn hangers-on in the vinyl downsizing. (You could still get vinyl recordings of new releases, but boy, will they cost you!) They even have specially made discs that have superior sound compared to the old method, and high quality turntables are still manufactured.

But periodically, I still pop into my local retro record store, Fox Music in Watertown, Wisconsin. ( Why? I'm not sure. There is something supremely tactile about the 33 and 1/3 RPM record. It's great to look at, as the artwork is large enough to really examine it. While giving kudos to CD booklets and "digipacks", I must say some vinyl liner notes and fold-outs are unsurpassed. This is something during the beginning onslaught of compact discs that Frank Zappa himself alluded to. If you buy a used LP, which I often do, it gives you a chance to try out an artist from the past that you may be somewhat unfamiliar with, and at half the price. In addition, they can make pretty cool wall art. At the perilous risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, they are suitable for framing.

Plus they smell great. They smell like 1982. And that lull crackle before track one starts is a soothing sound to me. Maybe someday they will release a relaxation CD of vinyl buzz, like Whale song or thunderstorms, that's looped to fall asleep to. That would be metaphysical balm to an old soul like me.

On the CD side of the coin, newer updated releases come out, super-remastered, with unreleased tracks, extensive (and sometimes excessive) written information, and weblink dohickeys. But as time passes, if you like that particular CD enough, buying what is essentially a DVD-styled "special edition" more often than not elicits a double dip. Not to mention that the price of a new release CD more often than not is the same price I was paying for them in 1987. That is much unlike their visual counterparts, the DVD, that pricewise have come down exponentially, with bargain bin selection of DVDs being tremendous and ultra low-cost. That's something not true with CDs to date.

I have recently acquired my vinyl ultra jewel, The Spinal Tap soundtrack, resplendent in solid black, complete with the hilarious faux past album cover art on the inside. Uncertain of the british punk band, The Jam, I picked up "Setting Sons" for $4.00, and damn, if it doesn't rock the house. Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" doesn't sound right anymore without a little crackle preceding the opening bars.

I hope vinyl never completely disappears, because as the past becomes even more of what it is, the past, I'm afraid they will be forgotten.

To me, it's possible we may be moving too far too fast.

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