Well many people have been asking me, why is there such resurgence in vinyl? Well I’ve a few thoughts on it so here goes…
For some of us older folk, there’s something to be said for saying it’s a nostalgia trip. I also think for many of us in our forties and fifties (and older of course) there’s also the opportunity to buy albums, that when they were released, we couldn’t afford. I remember in 1973 buying my first “proper” (and not half price) LP (wings, band on the run) and it cost about £2.50. That represented five weeks pocket money! It’s no surprise that my teenage record collection was a bit sparse. Of course I could spread the cost a long way by buying “session singer albums” called top of the pops and looking through the Woolworths half price section and that’s what I did. But it did mean that my album collection represented the best of “half price” LP records from the 70s. It’ll come as no surprise that for me (and many others “my age”) albums are at last affordable and slot in very nicely with my mid life crisis.
Just out of interest I wondered if the £2.50 LP of 1973 was expensive so I checked it up on the inflation calculator – The same album today would cost around £30 now if it was linked to inflation (you can buy five copies for this price now, if I had five copies of course) http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html
But ¼ of my customers (and a similar percentage globally) are buying vinyl and they’re under thirty years old. That means that most of them weren’t born when WH Smiths (and other major retailers) cleared their shelves of vinyl in 1992. So they’re not buying records for nostalgia. I’m thinking the main attraction here for the younger generation is that vinyl is in fashion? Take a look through adverts on TV or in shop windows and it isn’t long before you’ll see a record player or LP show up . Sometimes they’re used in shop window displays, or as decorations in stores not even selling music and they are in TV and lots of films. They are in fashion – LPs are fashionable – vinyl is fashionable. The other good thing about them that makes them fashionable is that they’re not mainstream – they can’t be bought in Tesco, they can’t be played on the iphone. Coolness – are records cool? Why of course they are and so are record players (also known as turntables by proper record collectors and boffins who really know stuff). There’s a huge increase in the use of turntables and records in advertising on TV and in print. The new Mercedes TV advert features a record playing on a turntable before it switches to the hub of the car (they didn’t choose a cd? ) If you walk down the high street in any city you might come across a record store but even if you don’t it won’t be too long before you see records or turntables either used in the window display or inside the shop for decoration . I’ve seen them used in a few fashion shops in Exeter and even in John Lewis Exeter. So they are cool – they’re also lovely and big so they make great displays, one reason why cds are not wildly used . Come to think of it what else could be used more effectively for window dressing – you’re not likely to see a download being used are you?
Records and particularly the needle setting down into the groove are used in dozens of films, new and old. I notice them a lot, next time you watch a new film, keep your eye out for them, I’m sure you’ll spot how often they are used. Of course you just can’t beat vinyl in the classics, for me it’s The Shawshank Redemption when Marriage of Figaro is played over the wardens record player by an offender https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzuM2XTnpSA and then this one from Marilyn Monroe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDpwBeDkrHY It’s a brilliant clip, stick with it till the end, her husband is obviously not a fan of vinyl .
Serious Music Fans
Vinyl is for people who want to listen to music. We’ll all say it has more clarity than CDs or downloads, but the truth is we’re going to notice the music more, because the act of playing a record means we’re engaged in the process of making the music ourselves. It’s such a drawn out process that we force ourselves to listen to the results, it’s bound to sound good if we take the time to listen, isn’t it? We take the record out of the cover and sleeve and carefully select a side positioning it centrally onto the turntable. Then we guide the arm across and carefully lower the needle down to connect onto the first groove. It’s then that we listen, aware we’ve a maximum of 30 minutes before the music will end and we’ll have to repeat the process if we want it to continue.
Vinyl makes us listen, it’s the key element that makes it sound so good.
How about the look and feel of vinyl for a genuine reason for its popularity? You only have to compare the LP to a CD or Cassette and straight away you’ll be impressed by how big the media is. You get a full 300x300mm album cover plus similar sized inserts with (in some case) the words of the song and pictures of the artist. Sometimes there are postcards included in the album sleeve and some are double sized so they open up to a whopping 600x300mm (that’s 2ft x one foot to pre decimal people). That is a mighty fine piece of art work and a huge reason why they are so popular. Some of the new repressings also come with a free download (ironic that so far, there aren’t any downloads that come with a free album on vinyl). I won’t compare how great a vinyl LP is compared to downloads because there really is no comparison – owning is always better than renting!
It’s still Legal
Now for me there’s just one more reason why vinyl’s making a comeback – Have you ever seen Tom Cruise in the scifi film Oblivion ? If you have then you know where I’m heading, if you haven’t then here’s the story…
Tom lives a sterile life in a sterile house with a sterile wife (not sure that sounds right) , all his clothes are white, all neatly pressed (it’s the sort of life Steve Jobs would select for us all ) everything is the same, it’s all perfect, all neat, all in order – no disorder . But Tom has a secret; when he goes out on his own on his daily missions in his little spaceship he sneaks off the map and goes off grid. Boy, does he go off grid ? He has a make shift shack that he escapes to down on earth. It’s dirty and disorganised, nothings white and nothings sterile, but it’s real and guess what? He’s got a record player (powered by solar panel I suppose) with a pile of LPs. I can’t remember what’s in the collection but I’m sure there’s Led Zeppellin and some real classics. In the end he selects whiter shade of pale (which, for a comparison with the apple way of life, it’s quite ironic, don’t you think?) but it all adds up to the fact that records are a way of escaping from the world …
Humanities last refuge…
So let’s play them while we can , before they become illegal !