Mian took the week off so guys thought I’d tell you about my vinyl love affair.
I have been collecting records since I was 13. I cannot remember what inspired me to buy my first turntable, which incidentally, was housed in a 12 foot wooden unit that probably weighed close to 200 pounds. How and why my parents decided to let me put that into my basement bedroom remains a mystery to me.
But what I do remember is excitement I felt when I listened to my first record on my first record player in my own room. It felt like I was listening to music for the first time, or rather, that I was really experiencing what listening to music was like for the first time. (This is why to this day “Crocodile Rock” remains one of my all time favorite songs).
Last week I went to the DC Record Fair in Silver Spring, at the Fillmore. Just the sight of an entire auditorium filled with crates of records, separated only by the steady flow of other audiophiles was enough to make my entire week. I had planned on going there first of all to empty my wallet and fill my already full crates with more music, but secondly to write a post about the monumental advantages of listening to music on vinyl.
And I am not alone, sales of vinyl have been climbing over the past couple of years, and many record labels such as Jack White’s Third Man Records continue to release new music on vinyl. But the more I thought about the advantages of vinyl, the more it occurred to me how little the medium actually has to do with the experience of music.
The other day a group of friends and myself went to a record store to kill some time. One of my friends found what turned out to be an amazing album (Temple Tudor’s “Let the Four Winds Blow” for those listening along at home). What drew us in to this gem … an incredible album cover and someone credited solely as “The Indispensable Man”, both of which are alone the makings of an incredible album. But what really makes listening to that album great is the experience of going out and finding that record ourselves, and of finding out that the person behind the counter had actually seen the band live!
I tell that story not only because it was a truly awesome record store find, but it is similar to another experience I had that involved zero records. A friend was excitedly telling me about a show she had recently been to. And while the enthusiastic descriptions of the music already had me sold, she had a sudden insight to just play the album for me. (Oddisee’s “People Hear What They See” for those of you still listening at home).
It could not have been a better introduction to an album. That album provided my sole soundtrack for the next couple of days. And I don’t know if I would have been as pumped to listen to it so many times if I hadn’t been introduced to it personally, through my friend’s glowing review, and by sitting down, listening to it together, and talking about how completely awesome it really was. Her showing me that album became part of the experience of listening to it.
The main draw of vinyl, for me, is listening to it with other people. It is the moment I can pull out the record I’ve been listening to over and over and showing it to someone else. However, this experience isn’t limited to vinyl. All the people who champion vinyl are doing so because yes, vinyl is awesome and it is worth the effort to invest in a turntable, but also because going out and talking about, interacting with, and participating in music is what really makes it amazing.
Half the fun of collecting records is going out and looking through albums you would never have encountered before, talking to the person behind the counter and just experiencing music. So I encourage everyone this week, for the love of vinyl, to go listen to an album all the way through with some friends, and really experience the music.
Bryan Flynn is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland where he studied English and American Studies. Living in Washington DC, he spends his nights behind a local bar, as well as works with a local arts space to book shows and bring people together through music and art.