I rarely read the Wall Street Journal, but when it’s available in the hotel it’s hard not to at least pick one up. The USA Today is probably more common in hotels, but that wasn’t an option for me today. It was the WSJ or no way, so I went with what was in front of me.
So buried deep in section 4, or whatever that weekend section is called, was an article about the vinyl record. Vinyl was the way I learned how to listen to music, back in the mid-1970s when I discovered my parents’ old version of Beatles ’65. They had other records too, but that’s the only one that I remember anymore. Not Abbey Road or the White Album, but Beatles ’65. Better than nothing, I suppose.
The first vinyl record I ever bought myself was the Grease soundtrack in 1978. I liked the gatefold in between the two albums, with scenes from the movie splattered all over. You know, the things that a ten-year old looks for. I played the first record–the one that had all of the hit songs on it–and pretty much ignored the second record altogether. I wasn’t yet old enough to appreciate how the record label had packaged it all up into a double LP (that’s what we called them, and it stands for Long-Playing, if you’re wondering) to make me fork over more money than a single LP would have cost.
I actually used the Grease soundtrack to get myself into trouble once in grade school. It was my music teacher’s idea to teach us about what different musical instruments sounded like, so she told us to bring in a song and we could listen to the songs and pick out what the different instuments were. I brought in the Grease soundtrack–which was the only record I owned at the time–and wanted the class to hear Greased Lightnin’ with me.
When the teacher asked if there were any objectionable words in the song (since I wouldn’t yet know what lyrics were), I didn’t pause a moment before telling her that there weren’t. So when John Travolta sang out “You know it ain’t no shit, we’ll be getting lots of tit, Greased Lightnin’” I had been exposed, and the needle was unceremoniously pulled from off the record. There was some laughter from the kids, of course, but the teacher moved on to the next song to be played. It goes without saying that there was no discussion of the instruments played on the record.
The article I read today took me back to my own experiences with vinyl, which lasted through the middle of the 1980s. By 1986 or so it was all casettes, and by 1990, I donated all of my old LPs to Salvation Army because I didn’t own a turntable anymore and wanted everything to be on CDs instead. All the old vinyl, from Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog to Led Zeppelin II to the Eagles’ Hotel California to Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil to Boston’s first two albums to…I could go on for quite awhile, but I’m sure the point has been made by now.
Digital life and the cloud has made owning physical manifestations of music, whether it’s casettes, or 8-tracks, or vinyl, a relic of another time. But apparently it still lives on, and I’m happy about that. I won’t go out and buy a turntable, and I won’t be acquiring vinyl records again, but I’m glad to have the memories that I do. And I’m even happier to have a forum for sharing these memories with you. Thanks for reading.
Any comments about your own vinyl memories will be much appreciated.