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Vinyl vs. iPod

I spent my childhood collecting Beatles records with my sister Barb and bought my first LP with my own money at the age of 12 when I started babysitting.  It was 1972 and I bought Tapestry by Carole King, which I think is one of the best albums of all time.

That was the beginning of decades of collecting the music that became the soundtrack of my life.  My favorite scene in the John Cusack movie, High Fidelity is when he's reorganizing his LPs autobiographically.  While laughing hysterically at this scene it was also appropriate for me to laugh at myself since I thought something like, "Wow, cool, why didn't I think of that?........"
So it was a huge thing when I gave away my collection of LPs.
"You WHAT?!?! You GAVE them away?!?!"
Yeah, I did. 
The thing is, I didn't want to sell them to some stranger even though many of them are valuable (full collection of Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, original Yessongs, Woodstock and Thick As A Brick).  I hadn't listened to them in 10 years and they were languishing on a shelf in the basement.  They were lonely and it wasn't good for the feng shui in my house.  #hippieproblems LOL
I discovered one day at school that two of the 20something teachers I work with are really into vinyl and that apparently collecting LPs is a "thing" with young, hip music lovers.  So it was with great joy and relief that I sent my beloved collection off to two new homes where I know they're being lovingly cared for and listened to with much enjoyment.
Plus, I no longer have to worry about shlepping them around.  LPs are heavy and I've been moving them from house to house since 1977 when I left home.
However, I've been curious about why these younguns are so into vinyl as I relish having enough memory on my iPod to fit my large, once heavy music collection.  Jill at school talks about the warm snap, crackle pop sound and the cover art work, a sentiment that apparently is widely shared by new LP listeners.  She's also into the retro aspect of it.
The comment I was most struck by came from one of my guitar students who's a film student at BU.  At his last lesson he talked about the commitment involved in listening to vinyl.  This is something I hadn't thought about and he's right.
When you listen to an LP it's an event.  You have to be in the room or at least the same house/apartment/dorm room.  You can't carry it with you outside or play it in the car.  You also have to be present to turn it over to the other side.  Also, you're committed to listening to the music as a whole piece of work versus a song here or there chosen for you in iPod shuffle.
While he was talking about this I was flashing back to the many hours of my life through my twenties spent just sitting and listening to records.  This goes back to sitting on the floor with my sister Barb playing with our Legos while listening to Abbey Road, Peter, Paul and Mary records, various classical albums for kids my mom bought for us (the children should have a little culchah....) like Tchaikovsky's Peter And The Wolf and musicals likeThe Sound of Music, West Side Story and Oklahoma.
Sometimes I would get together with friends and specifically listen to records and this was a normal, common activity.  Most of the time it was me in my room, dorm room or apartment listening to the music, reading the cover information and memorizing the lyrics.  I still remember many of those lyrics.
So while I'm really psyched about my "excellent rectangle" (see video below), it was really nice to remember the many hours I've enjoyed listening to my LPs with others and alone.  Once I started buying cassettes and CDs most of my music listening happened in the car.  With my iPod this is still the case.
During my heaviest touring years (1992 - 2002) a crucial part of packing for my trips was choosing the cassettes I would bring in the car with me to keep me company as I drove to Texas and back.
My LP listening years also informs how I make my own recordings.  When I've released my cds, the songs are chosen carefully and put in a specific order to take my listeners through the experience in a particular way.  The songs are available for single downloads but that creates a different experience for the listener.
On the other side of things, I really appreciate the single song download especially as a teacher who's often using them as part of a lesson plan calling for one or two songs.  I love the convenience of buying the songs I want and putting them in a specific order on my iPod.  I used to create mix tapes and cds for myself and friends so being able to do it on the iPod is an excellent "no muss, no fuss" experience.
And no, I never owned any 8 tracks - from the get go I thought they were a wikkid pain.
I also prefer the digital sound which is a fact that would horrify many of my musician friends.  I really don't miss the snap, crackle, pop or having to flip the record over, not to mention the risk of the record skipping, getting scratches and warping.
How about you?  What's the first music you bought with your own money? Which format do you prefer now?

Comments Section

Hi Janet, I still have my entire record collection. (And I know you would love it!) However, I have no turntable! If we can get a turntable, we should enjoy my collection some time.
Hi, Janet. I just happened on your blog and have to believe you are the same Janet Feld I knew, a little, in Lexington in the early 60s. Barb (Barbie, is how I remember her) was my best friend, and leaving her was the hardest thing for me about when we moved away in 1966. Please give her my very best. She would remember me as Susie, but I use my middle name, Rachel, now. I think about your family often -- your mother was a real influence on me, with her firm but gentle moral compass. I live in Syracuse, NY now, but wish my teenage daughter could take your guitar classes! She is just beginning, and loves the instrument.
Janet, This is such an enjoyable post. I especially enjoyed reading about your memories of collecting and listening to records. I love vinyl for the nostalgia aspect (my first album purchase was "Men at Work" -- shreik!!) but also love the scratchy, warm sound and communal (or solitary) experience of enjoying an entire album as a whole - as the artist intended it. The raw quality of those old blues recordings takes me back in time! But the iPod is SO cool and easy too, isn't it??? Ha! I can just see you and Barb sitting in your room jamming out! Such a fun read, thank you!

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