Why I Still Love Vinyl

Sonny Rollins is bad ass!

I enjoy listening to music.

I assume since you are reading this blog that you also enjoy listening to music.

If you are at all like me then you also prefer listening to your music in vinyl format.

Over the past few years I have had more and more conversations about the merits of listening to music in what I consider it’s purist form: vinyl. I won’t get into all the technical aspects of analog vs. digitally recorded (or altered) music. Most listeners could really care less about how a record was recorded (that’s for musicians, engineers, producers, critics, bloggers, and audiophiles to debate); they simply want to listen to something that sounds “pleasurable to their ear.”

Some of these conversations have started because I have matching 45 record spindle adapter tattoos. Most people think they are those saucer-like pellets that used to shoot out of toy guns or I am a DJ. Neither is true.

Example exchange:

“What are those tattoos?”

“It’s a 45 adaptor. You know, those old, smaller records, the disc you put in the center to place it on the turntable. ”

Blank stare.

In the day of instant-everything, iEverythings, and attention spans of a fish, the vinyl-listening music fan has been relegated to a subculture. The mp3 listening public looks at us as throwbacks, “hipsters” who think we’re too cool for digital music, or out of touch with the realities of new music distribution methods (which change about as often as Neil Young changes genres). I usually respond to these things with one or more of the following statements:

Statement A: I think that music sounds much warmer, fuller, and richer when I listen to it on vinyl. If you don’t believe me, put on Sonny Rollin’s Horn Culture and then listen to that same recording on CD or mp3. Tell me you don’t hear a difference between the bass tones and fullness of his horn on the vinyl version vs. the digital one.

Statement B: I come from a youth where the highly anticipated release of your favorite band’s album was a yearly ritual. Couldn’t wait to see the new cover, the recognizable band logo, the artwork on the inside sleeve of a double album, illustrations, wild photographs, and album credits. And you did this while listening to the entire record; sometimes six times in a row, sometimes sixteen times in a row. Side one ended and the first act was done. How would the second act open? What about a grand medley to end the second side of the album? Artists recorded albums to be listened to as just that, Long Playing music. You don’t buy a book and only read the fifth chapter, you don’t only watch one scene from a movie. What I wonder is when someone says, “well, I don’t want to download the entire album because I only like the one song I heard.” Ummm, well, how do you know you won’t enjoy the rest of the song? Chances are, you will.

I don’t think iTunes even displays any artwork besides the cover!

Look, don’t get me wrong, I have an iPod, I listen to CD’s in my car, I rock iTunes at work, and I absolutely love the instant gratification of downloading and listening to new music . I understand not everyone has record players—or systems equipped to handle a good record player. I understand the hassle of not being able to fast forward, rewind, or skip songs on vinyl. I understand buying records has also become more expensive (did I really just see the Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique on vinyl for $28 at a record store!?!?!), and I understand the benefits of being able to play an album straight through (for those of you that still listen to entire albums) without having to turn the record over. I won’t even address the skipping issue.

In the end, all I am really saying is that for those of you that enjoy a delicious vinyl record on your turntable keep analog alive, and for those of you who either “used to listen” to music on vinyl and now choose not to, or those who never have, give it a try (again) and see how pleased you’ll be. There are still a few great local record shops and bands that do still put out their music on vinyl. Just think, you can sit and study the covers and liner notes while listening.

This was originally posted on The Vinyl District  blog on June 23, 2010.


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