First things first: I hate being wrong.
Second things second: I may not always be the greatest person at admitting when I’m wrong.
Third things third: I was wrong. Sorely, sadly wrong.
Several years ago, mostly during my college years, my cool and hip friends back home got really into buying old records. They’d cue up their phonographs and play the latest album they picked up. I have to admit, I was annoyed. Really? CD’s aren’t cool enough for you? An iPOD’s too mainstream? Come on.
Several years later, I’m sitting here in my living room, winding down for the evening while listening to my first new record. Again, I admit…I was wrong.
Over the holidays, a good friend of a good friend of mine restored a little old record player and passed it on to me and my wife for cheap. We’d recently thought about giving in and getting off our high horse and trying the experience out for ourselves. I tried this recently with tuna. FYI…it’s still cat food. Anyway, when I mentioned the whole vinyl thing to my friend, Taido, he wondered why in the world we were interested. And it was about then that I really understood for myself.
Music has become consumption. It is quick, commercial, cheap. There is nothing substantial about the listening experience. Most of us never hear an entire album. Many of us rarely finish an entire song. Vinyl changes all that. I began to realize that the reason I was interested in diving in to this old-fashioned world was because it made listening to music incredibly intentional. It takes work and purpose to put on a record. Just pulling it out of its case and slipping it out of its sleeve and physically laying it on the player and moving the arm over and gently laying the needle down and cuing up the sound and speakers and volume and then sitting down with anticipation of hearing that first little scratch and hiss and pop before the music finally plays…it’s all kind of beautiful. And that work makes you want to really stay put and listen to the album in its entirety. When it’s time to flip the record over, there’s excitement about what’s in store on the second side. It’s bringing music back to life for me. Slowly but surely.
My eyes really began to open up a few months ago in Chicago. I was staying over at a best friend’s place, my wife and I and him all sitting back in the living room, relaxing after a long, long day. Our host gets up and puts on a record. A John Denver record. As of this moment, my friend now has two strikes against him in my book. But then that record spins a little bit, and somehow, for the first time in my life, I’m actually enjoying John Denver. It’s actually John Denver as it was always meant to be. The audio’s slightly muted, everything’s less crisp and clean and pretty. It almost sounds rugged. At that moment, liking listening to John Denver for the first time in my life, I knew there was something magical about this new/old way of playing music. Little did I know then that during my first record-buying experience myself a few months later, I’d come home with that very same record. And wouldn’t you know I couldn’t wait to get home and put it on. Did I mention already that I’m sometimes wrong about things?
Over this past weekend, I made another big leap: I bought my first new record. I wasn’t digging around in the 2-buck pile for this one. It had a fresh $15.99 sticker on it, and I wasn’t the least bit concerned about the price. If you know me at all, or you’ve read old posts here on this page, you know that that’s saying something. I held that album with excitement, even though I’ve listened to this music for the past two years, and couldn’t wait to get home to put it on. I waited a day to unwrap it. Another to really pull it out and look at it. And then finally last night I put it on. You see, I didn’t want to just consume it. I wanted to be able to sit down and sit back and let the music consume me. I felt like that boy in Almost Famous. Even more, I actually felt something while listening to music. It was perfect.
Could I have just as easily put Sigh No More on in my iTunes and cranked it up? Surely. But I’m sure within three clicks of Firefox I’d have forgotten what I opened my computer for in the first place. I’m not saying you need to go out and buy a record player to appreciate music. I’m not that cool and hip…yet. But I am saying that it’s certainly working for me. Heck, admitting that I was wrong never sounded so right. It’s music to my ears.