I’m going to just come out and say it, Hipsters be damned and readers who think I’m being a hypocritically arrogant ass can criticize all the want: vinyl is just better.
I know you’re going to tell me I’m nuts. “CD’s and iPod downloads are just so better! They can go with you anywhere, you can take them with you, all of that.”
And you’d be right.
Yes, you can take the equivalent of every CD and LP I own with you on a single iPod, I’m sure. But that doesn’t make them better. You have to understand, I’m not talking about audio quality or digital download rates or even the frequency sweep or response of the audio signal. Vinyl is just better, particularly for me and my family.
When I was a kid, you waited desperately to see if there was a new album coming out from your favorite artist. I loved Santana, Clapton, the Eagles, BB King, Alan Parsons, Floyd . . . all of it. Even when cassettes came into fashion I bought vinyl anyway. You could always make a copy of the LP, you couldn’t easily (or sonically) make a good copy of a cassette tape.
I remember growing up and going into town to the department store and going through the records. I remember the feel and shape of the sleeves. Every LP was like a picture wrapped in cellophane. Layla is one of the most amazing records ever recorded and it’s got one of the most distinctive album covers of all time. Led Zeppelin III has a spin wheel inside where the crazy, psychedelic items move through windows on the front cover of the album. Santana’s Abraxas and III were both literal works of art. Hell . . . Velvet Underground’s LP was done by Andy freaking Warhol!
There’s also the ritual. An iPod isn’t shared music. And LP is. You have to turn off the TV, the extraneous noise, and be careful not to bounce around and skip the needle. You have to listen. You gently pull the sleeve out of the cover and clean the record and let the needle do its work.
When I was little, no more than 7 or 8, my Dad brought home new LP’s nearly every week. He’d walk in and before we even ate dinner he’d take them out of the bag and we’d go through the stereo ritual. We’d take the album out, clean it, start the turntable and listen. I remember the very days he came home with Hotel California; Aja; Fly Like an Eagle; Live at the Regal; Time Out; Kind of Blue – the greatest records ever made and I was sharing the experience thousands – millions – did as well. The disc turned and I read the liner notes and looked at the gate-folds and reveled in the music.
Don’t get me wrong, I walked around the Black Keys concert I attended with my daughter and had to get a beer in order to chemically calm myself from grabbing a razor and a shotgun and forcibly shaving the awful hipsters around me to act like earthly human beings. That, and the number of guys my age trying to find girls Abbi’s age who were wearing t-shirts cut to show cleavage and shorts that rode up to reveal far too much of their asses. I don’t like the idea of vinyl because it’s a status symbol.
At our home, vinyl is put on the turntable for dinner. We use it to relax. It’s a shared experience. I have the stereo set up in the living room and we listen. Each child gets to choose, and while they have the option of grabbing a CD, we’ve only done that a couple times in over a year. The kids like the idea of using the records, some old, some new, like the Tedeschi Trucks LP you see up there.
It’s a routine we’d never done when my wife was around. We used the awful sound from the DVD player or used the Jazz channel from the cable box when Thanksgiving or Christmas came around and it grated on me. Andrea always wanted me to get rid of the stereo but I wouldn’t. I’m glad I never relented. I have the same turntable I did through High School and college. I have the same stereo.
Having been in the recording studio and my brother and I knowing that the analog equipment sounds better than the digital – I understand the appeal. But for me it’s not just the vinyl. It’s the memories.
Memories that are old . . . and now the ones we’re creating. So you can be cleaner, digital, cold and crisp in its sterility and perfection. It’s the mistakes and off-key notes that make life interesting.
Vinyl is just better.