We’re rediscovering vinyl, or as once it was, LPs.
My daughter now has a turntable, as a Christmas present, and I want one. Boxing Day evening we sat down and played music, vinyls she’s just been given of War on Drugs and Tame Impala (band names, for the uninitiated) – and then some real oldies from my collection which haven’t seen a turntable for 20 years.
Sergeant Pepper for one. I’d bought the LP on 1st June 1967, its release date, and retired to my room on Oriel Street to listen. I can still remember a mild perplexity listening to the first track, to the band striking up.
And now? A Day in the Life, A Little Help from my Friends… I’ve listened to the CD in recent years, but the tracks all sound way better on vinyl. Maybe it’s just watching the rotation, being mesmerised, watching the needle. Maybe the sound is actually better. There’s an immediacy about vinyl that there isn’t about a CD which we slide into our music system, and the sound surrounds us, there’s no locus, or an MP3 file which even more is pure sound, all virtual, nothing else. Do we need some kind of focus for our musical attention? At least give me something tangible – give me a record sleeve. Remember all those wild Roger Dean album covers from the 60s and 70s!
I mention vinyls to friends and there’s a refrain I hear – ‘I chucked them out 20 years ago.’ A minor gloat – I didn’t, and there’s a whole world of discovery, re-discovery, awaiting me. And maybe they’re actually worth a bob or two!
We tried a recording of Tub Jug Washboard Band music, one those happy musical byways I explored in my Oxford days. ‘Catch another mule sleeping in my stall/mama, going to tear it down.’ Love the image. Wonderful, crazy – and obscure.
And then the second James Taylor album, which I’d bought when it came out in 1970. Nothing obscure here. He’s as popular today as back in 1970. ‘Country Roads’ accompanied Martin Sheen as he walked the Camino, or at least the soundtrack did!
Joni Mitchell – ‘Michael from mountains/go where you will go to/know that I will know you/someday I will know you very well.’ All sorts of resonances from the past, shared with Rozi, who loves America, and loves song, and connects to Joni Mitchell as I do. Will thirty years on the next generation connect to another great songwriter, and Rozi’s hero, Sufjan Stevens? Let’s hope so.
Rozi has her turntable. And I will shortly have mine, and I’ll play my old collection, 200, maybe 300, one by one, and dig out the memories and the associations each has. Blues and folk music – so much that I used to sing, and have almost forgotten.
Almost, but not quite.
Tonight there’s an Open Mic evening at the local pub, the Black Horse, and I might just sing one or two of the blues hollers and the folk songs that I used to sing in clubs either side of 1970. I don’t need to hit high notes… the old bass resonances are still there, and that’s what matters, I can still deafen myself and others, given half a chance.
I will report back…..
No go. Pub too crowded, no space for a newcomer! But for next time I have a holler or two (Red Cross Store – a place to be avoided, charity in 1920s America, with strings), and a few folk songs (Euan McColl’s version of To the Beggin’ I Will Go – if you didn’t want to work the looms, you could take to the road). You can get a great driving rhythm going on both.