Vinyl's Final Fling - Page 5

Music lovers celebrate as old-school phonograph records continue their surprising comeback
Vinyl
Invented by the cash register and now celebrated each year, 'Record Store Day' draws lines worldwide, including here in England in 2014.
Vinyl
Vinyl
Village Music's John Goddard (top); Bob Perry, who recently took over Cheapo Records, outside of Boston (above).

Furthermore, Harp says, because many new records come with free access to the music from downloads, vinyl buyers get "the best of both worlds."

Such a perk does not interest purists like Goddard, who has more than 20,000 records and no downloads in his collection. By way of explanation, he says, "Of course, I like funky. I like clubs where your feet stick to the floor."

"I've cut it way, way down," the Marin music lover says earnestly of his collection. Even with current digitally recorded releases, he says, "I firmly believe that music sounds best in the format it was recorded for."

"The 'active' consumer prefers the records. It's a commitment," says Green of his Amoeba customers, referring to both the price and the shelving-space needs that come with vinyl.

Many music lovers tire of providing all that space. Bob Paris has trimmed his vinyl collection from a thousand down to about 60 and put all his music on two IPods.

"I ran out of room at the house," he explains of his Granada Hills home. "You have maniacs out there, and they'll devote a bedroom to their collection, or the garage. Usually it's a bedroom because the garage 'isn't good enough.'"

"Records have always been my favorite toys…I'm going to L.A. this month to pick up some more," says Selvin, one such 'maniac' who ticked off several reasons why. "They sound better. They look better. There's liner notes you don't need a magnifying glass to read."

Somewhat ironically, Goddard cites a Chronicle column by Selvin as convincing him that owning more than a couple dozen records by any artist or group is overkill.

"Then I looked at my vinyl collection and realized I had 125 John Lee Hooker albums, and I only need 25," the Mill Valley resident says with a straight face.

Harp also collects different-colored vinyl records. All those groovy colors, he says, bring "about a sense of community among record owners, and going into record stores. It's something that gets celebrated."

Ah, yes, today's 'Record Store Day,' one of those special holidays invented by a cash register and now celebrated in music stores worldwide. Fans of the retail music marketplace celebrated its tenth anniversary this year in April.

Our experts were mixed about the annual event, with one predicting its demise. Others find it very symbolic.

"They're a fetish thing. It has that religious or sexual connotation," Selvin theorizes of the vinyl obsession. And Record Store Day, he says, "Isn't that a religious convocation? It strikes me as a religious holiday."

Not only do people celebrate vinyl, we imprint and associate it.

"I guess it's like sex: you always remember the first time," says Goddard. "I can't remember the last time I asked someone and they didn't know."

Sure enough, every source cited here could recall what disc was the first they bought and why. The stories varied with the person's age and comprise a timeline of late 20th century pop, from 'Heartbreak Hotel,' Bobby Vee, and A Hard Days Night to the Chipmunk's Christmas album and Wizard's lone LP, all the way through Madonna and mid-career Neil Young.

"I think it's a different kind of love," Duckworth Weiblinger says, recalling her new LP of Madonna's greatest hits. "I would shut the door of my room and turn it up...[and] sing along with my hairbrush, as girls do."

"It's hard to explain what makes that emotional connection," says Selvin, citing academic studies that attempt to prove analog sound reaches a different part of the brain than digital.

To Bob Perry, a label exec and retailer who prefers CDs in his own collection, it's much simpler than nuances of sound and physiology.

"There might be something to that, but I personally believe it's because people like to have things," the Bostonian said soberly. "I think music lovers tend to have a passion for the artists they love, and a way to express and display their passion is by owning the record."

 

Photography: Wilfried Joh, Sergio Piumatti, Phil King, Natalie Hutcheson, Joan Timpanaro, Pörrö, Mathias Klemme, Now; and courtesy Bob Perry, Tony Green, John Goddard, Joel Selvin, Rico Tee Archives