Full Circle – The Rise and Fall and Rise of LP’s

When I was buying LP’s, new albums were about 8 bucks. Cut-outs were about 3. Remember cut-outs? Vinyl and tapes (cassettes and 8-tracks) were almost all there was for purchasing recorded music. I could, and probably will, write reams about the days of buying albums, and caring for albums and cleaning albums and displaying albums and reading the liner notes and on and on. I had 2 large fruit crates that my albums were in so I could flip through them and see the covers. In those days the album cover was just short of a poster. It was art. The cover of an album was a part of the value and impetus to buy it. I myself bought some albums simply because the cover was cool, and not necessarily because the music was guaranteed good. Any Yes album, for example, ”Emerson Lake and Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery”, etc. I was a typical consumer. My LP buying and playing ritual was well established and steadfast in those days.

It wasn’t until I was in college in the mid 80’s that I bought my first CD’s, and almost fell for the alluring mini-disc fad that later died off. I carted my albums around with me, vowing to keep them all until I replaced them with the CD version. Eventually I did replace most with crisp clean CD’s or digital equivalents. I was ecstatic about not having to wipe them down before every play (yes, I was one of those) and never hearing scratches or skips.

In subsequent years I went to almost all digital… only buying a store bought CD for almost religious reasons: Smashing Pumpkins or Nine Inch Nails releases.

As a result I rarely frequent music stores, except for while on vacation for fun, for Christmas gift buying or stopping in to a CD shop onState Street to catch up on who has released what lately. I get my new bands from college radio or word of mouth mainly, though Pandora and 8-Tracks are a good way to go on that too. More on them later.

I did notice during these rare music store visits that there were bands still putting out vinyl, I wondered who was buying it, but good for them I say. Pearl Jam has always done this and I respect them for it. Then of course I have heard the age old tales of vinyl being warmer sounding and still can’t be beat. For me, the sheer volume of music I listen to, and my absolute need for portability has precluded me from ever revisiting LP’s.

Then there was the whole world of sampling. See: DJ Shadow, one of my all time favorites. That is another tale for another day, but you get the drift… vinyl was still out there for select use.

My crate of surviving records in the basement has dwindled over the years. Some being sold (if you have the original vinyl of “The Who – Live At Leeds” with the original inserts and art you can get some good money for that one) and some tossed after replacements were purchased. There were some that I just couldn’t get rid of, ones that reminded me of the old days. A few were given to me by friends or purchased on the recommendation of visiting friends (“Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years” was Jeff’s recommendation and a great one at that) and a few of my purchases that are more statements than anything else. My plastic covered copy of “Couch Flambeau – Mammal Insect Marriage” I will never part with, though I don’t even own a record player anymore.

Mixed in were a few that just had cool covers.

My pride and joy vinyl is of course my out of print “Jimi Hendrix – War Heroes” LP on Polydor Records. Purchased at a used record store, played once to tape it then bagged in plastic and kept safe for about 25 years now. I bet I could probably find it on E-bay for cheap, but my copy is of course… priceless.

My son used a good few of them to decorate his room for a while, no, not the Hendrix. He had about 20 pinned up in a grid of coolness and color. “Kiss – Love Gun” and “Journey – Escape”  and “Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle” and even an “Earth Wind and Fire – Greatest Hits”  album made his wall. He was amazed that I still had them. His interest was purely from the art perspective however. He is a strictly digital man. Go Zune!

My daughter recently, in a classic case of retro, decided that she wanted a record player. I for the life of me couldn’t understand why, but, she bought one. She had no records to play yet, but wanted in on the vinyl world. Her record player she ordered online from Urban Outfitters. Simple. It was a compact (really compact, the record sticks out from under the dust cover) and USB with speakers built in. Not a Sony with a carefully weighted arm and pitch control, but an all in one unit. Perfect for her. She was stoked. Then the hunt was on for records. Madison proved to be short on the type of albums she wanted to buy. Though there are several good places to buy them around Madison. She was on a mission. No garage sale cast-offs or local music or moldy basement resale records.

Her trip to New York that summer found her in the city and still searching for vinyl… and the shops there did not fail her. She purchased “Queen – News of The World” (she has a thing for the Brits) and carefully returned to Wisconsin with it… a new vinyl owner and proud of it. She has since accumulated a collection of about 10-12 albums. Arctic -Monkeys and Smiths and Queen and even some new Pop music (Adele is on vinyl).

The prices of vinyl these days is high! What was seemingly cheap before now has become almost a collector level item. Go on Best Buy’s website right now. And I quote:

Whether you’re an audio purist, DJ, or just a music fan, hear music the way it was meant to be played — on vinyl LPs.

Get the warm tones and nuanced sound that only vinyl provides.

”Nirvana – Nevermind”, though arguably their best work… is priced at 24.99. That’s American dollars! What is going on? Sheesh. I bought my “David Bowie – Live” double LP for only about 14 bucks back in the day!

Ugh, I MUST be old.

Welcome aboard Abbey. Remember these days.

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