I have recently located to a temporary permanent spot to live while ol’ Herb takes 5 or 6 months to walk from Georgia to Maine (I think he’s somewhere in NC right now). And since I’m gonna be in the same place for so long, I decided to dig my box of vinyl out of storage and bring it with me. Oh man! Oh the joy it has brought! It’s like getting 100 new albums to listen to all at once. I can’t stop the onslaught no matter how hard I try. Every night I sit down and just keep spinning records. DJ Hanson on the turntable comin’ atcha full effect no stop happy unicorn time jumping bean AWESOME!
And since I have been sitting and listening, I have had some time to think about what makes these discs of vinyl so much different than putting on a cd or an mp3 or whatever. There is a lot that goes into playing a record. There is the ritual of it all: You remove the giant disc from its beautifully decorated cardboard sleeve, place it gently on the turntable, click the button and watch the arm slowly move over and rest on the grooves. You hear that first crackle as the needle settles in and then the first notes appear. When I listen to a record I rarely, if ever, skip songs. It’s kind of a bitch to do, so why even bother. That makes you listen to the whole side in one fell swoop. It allows you to hear the record the way the artist intended. Revealing the theme of the album as each song builds upon the last. This is something I had pretty much forgotten about with my recent listening habits.
I love listening to music. But for the last few years it has been a secondary enjoyment. I was always doing something else while the music played in the background. Driving, cooking, eating, reading internet comics, cleaning, typing (full disclosure: I’ve got David Bromberg on the turntable while I type this). And I have fallen prey to the convenience and luxury of being able to skip around songs of an album as easily as a click of a button. I only had to listen to the songs I wanted to. Which of course doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it makes you miss a lot of great music. Don’t get me wrong, I still sometimes skip around when listening to a cd or mp3. Like when I really want to hear Mama Said Knock You Out by Ladies Love Cool James. I’m trying to find a healthy way to utilize both listening methods.
You know what else? Records are old and everywhere. They’re in every thrift store and flea market I have ever been in. That’s where the cheap ones are. You may have to spend half an hour digging through a collection of classical music and Linda Ronstadt to find that one record you want to own, but when you find it and see that it’s gonna cost you all of 50 cents, it’s all worth it. And used record stores are still out there too. You’ll have to pay more of a premium price for your listening pleasure, but there’s also a much better chance of finding something you are really passionate about enjoying. And sometimes there are surprises. Like yesterday when I went to a store and they had a free bin. And in that bin rested a perfectly fine copy of the Dead’s Europe 72. Sweet!
So the next time you find yourself with some time, don’t reach for the tv remote or best seller. Sit in your favorite listening chair and put on some music and just listen. Do nothing else. Turn it up. Pay attention to the vibrations of the sound as they hit your body. Focus. Make it an experience. It’s worth it.