Vinyl strikes back this Saturday as most independent music stores around the country release special songs on records to celebrate.
Cassettes, 8-Tracks, and CDs are becoming obsolete in the iTunes, downloadable Mp3 era of music we live in today, but why does vinyl continue to stick around?
Most audiophiles feel that the crackle of vinyl holds a special place in their heart. In an age of digital remastering it is amazing that such an archaic form of music continues to sell widely and gain popularity.
To those that really know music the easiest explanation comes from the difference between the digital and analog recording process. An analog recording reproduces sound waves onto vinyl grooves, while the digital recording process makes unique mathematical estimations to arrive at sound waves. If you have decent hearing you may be able to hear the difference, but usually it is a bit difficult. The most defining difference among collectors comes from songs featuring staccato drum beats. You can really hear the sticks hit the skins on an analog recording compared to a digital recording.
Jack White of The White Stripes/Raconteurs/The Dead Weather was on the Stephen Colbert’s show last summer and explained that he was trying to keep vinyl alive. He was promoting a vinyl release of Colbert performing a song with The Black Belles.
“I like the idea of having it in your hands and holding it,” White said of records. “I mean, you can’t hold an mp3; right? I understand the portability of an mp3, but this is about putting an object and dropping a needle and sitting down and looking at the cover and reading it. That’s the romance of music that we’re losing in this generation.”
Vinyl allows you to touch and feel music. It usually has unique album artwork, giving the band or artist a bit of mythology.
Records also beg for careful handling as no one wants to scratch it and ruin the sound.
White is releasing three different vinyl items through his Third Man Records Store in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday. The one that makes me wish I lived there is a copy of a song off his new solo album being produced on liquid vinyl.
This is how White’s label explained the unusual liquid and etched pressing on their website.
“Truly a sight to behold, the etching [on the release] depicts Third Man’s iconic logo and the grooves of the record play through the image, presenting consumers with the world’s first-ever playable etched record®.This is an entirely different process (and look) from your Styx and Split Enz records from the 80’s. No lasers, holograms, or rainbows are involved in this playable etching. Third Man took the playable etching one step further and used the same parts to make a limited-edition version of the “Saltines” 12-inch single. Not only is the etching playable, but the record itself is pressed on clear vinyl and filled with psychedelic blue liquid. While the soundtrack for the 1978 film The Black Hole was initially prototyped as a liquid-filled disc, problems with leakage prevented it from ever being released. The liquid-filled “Saltines” is the first-ever disc of its kind to be made available to the public.”
The lines are already forming in Nashville for that liquid release. Considering that White’s tri-colored 45rpm of the same song is nearing $400 on eBay that he sold last month in Nashville, this one will be worth a ton.
Locally there are signs in the windows at the Electric Fetus in Duluth and the Vinyl Cave in Superior promoting Record Store Day. The Fetus features lots of fresh new vinyl while the Vinyl Cave has the largest overall selection of LPs and 45s.
If you don’t know about records an LP or album is a full-length recording by a band containing many songs. They play at 78rpms (revolutions per minute) and are approximately 12 inches in diameter. Then there are 7inch singles that have one song on each side and play at 45rpms.
Mark Lindquist, best known for his bands The Little Black Books and The Lindquists, has released a few 45s locally himself. When I was looking through the used 7inch section at the Fetus last month I purchased “They Are Never Wrong” with the B-side of “Whiskey So Soft.” If you hurry he has a few older selections still available in the used bin.
Now that I have a 1965 Seeburg jukebox I go to the Vinyl Cave in Superior weekly in search 45rpm singles to stock it. Last weekend at the Vinyl Cave I overheard a father explaining what records were to his young son. He told his boy that the records had really cool artwork on them and talked about getting his player out of the attic. His son asked if they had any music from his generation and the dad lamented that he did not.
I can still remember looking at my dad’s “Beatles Greatest Hits” record with a picture on the cover of the band when they were young and clean cut. When you opened it up they had their long hair and looked much older, but they were standing in the same spot as their younger cover shot.
The first full-length album I remember purchasing was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I was obsessed and believed that when I laid out cushions and did cartwheels I was break-dancing to the music like I had seen on MTV. Cassettes were slowly taking over, but in the mid-eighties every kid had a small portable record player.
Recently I dug out my old case of 45s from when I was a kid to search for anything useful in my jukebox. Mixed in with Gremlins and Return of the Jedi books with records were a few of my old singles. My two favorite songs from back then were “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.
I really didn’t go back to vinyl until the mid-1990s when I began to get into 1960s music. I started by collecting all six of The Doors studio albums and hung them on my wall in college. Then I found the two LPs that the band released after their lead singer Jim Morrison died. The last record The Doors released post-Lizard King was titled, “Full-Circle. It came with a cut-out inside that could be placed on a record player and show the transition of a child into an old man.
There were other unique records from the 1960s that started me on collecting. The coolest were Andy Warhol’s design for the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album with a workable zipper and The Doors’ “L.A. Woman” with the band behind yellow transparency film.
The album artwork from the 60s eventually led me to collect concert posters as that was tangible evidence of the music. The artists who created those same record covers started out as concert posters artists and then moved to the larger medium of album covers. There actually is a White Stripes concert poster that was printed onto old vinyl records that sells for nearly $1000.
The Vinyl Cave already has some releases for Record Store Day in a box toward the front of the store. The bands were a bit obscure, but on Saturday there will be many more available.
Check out vinyl and listen to how music is meant to be heard. Today record players can be purchased with an adaptor to record from analog to digital. You can buy a record and make your own MP3s for your iPod.
Rediscover music and support our local shops this Saturday at the Electric Fetus and Vinyl Cave. Visit www.recordstoreday.com for more information.