"hi phil, the article you wrote on vinyl was wicked, big up!"
Thanks Mr Futurepast….It was actually by my lovely friend Mr John Tree from here in Blackpool though. I’ve been considering a reply but its a whole massive can of worms…
Chastity Potatoe (Luke Poot & Dave Birchall) in the woods near Blackpool the other night…can’t see much, like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Y9Er9OswQ&feature=youtu.be
Been threatening this for a long time now, so here it is.
I’m expecting a barrage from the vinyl heads, but just had to get this out of my system.
VINYL: THE EX-LOVER WHO NEVER QUITE WENT AWAY
Why does vinyl haunt me so much? I see it in bars, other people’s houses, on other people’s turntables, in charity shops…and like a jilted lover, I feel a whole mixture of conflicting emotions. Regret, hurt, jealousy, betrayal.
The music came first. I got switched onto it at maybe two or three years old, but my relationship with vinyl started when my parents moved house when I was eight. The previous owners left an big old radiogram from the fifties in the room that was to be my bedroom, my folks were going to throw it out, but I asked if I could keep it. There was a record left inside. Perry Como ‘Magic Moments/Catch a Falling Star’ which got played to death… I just loved the bass from the warm sound. It got added to quite quickly, birthdays, pocket money, 45s, and I add this list with no apologies or hints of ironies…Lonnie Donnegan, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch, Bernard Cribbins, Beach Boys, Thunderclap Newman, my sister’s Motown…thenThe Upsetters, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff…then the rock revolution: The Who, The Beatles, The Kinks, Led Zep, Deep Purple, Santana. Psychedelia, Soul, Funk, Reggae, Dub, Punk, Post Punk, Electronica. The labels: Vertigo, Harvest, EMI, Island, Capitol, Atlantic, Polydor, Asylum, Stax, Chess, Motown, Stiff, Electra, Polydor, 4AD, Rough Trade, Factory. Then I went backwards and discovered Jazz. Billie Holiday, Miles, Dizzy, Mingus, Monk, Charlie Parker.
In those days, music WAS vinyl, I loved the sleeve artwork, the labels, even the process of playing a record…but format-wise there was no choice, apart from cassettes. The cassette sound was disappointing, but you could make your own compilations and mixes…which I loved. I made countless mix tapes. I spent days with my double machine making scores of copies and sending them anonymously to friends at Christmas.
I had long left home, but always spent whatever I could afford on as good a sound system as I could cobble together. Often second hand gear, or kit speakers, but always the best I could afford. There was always a fly in the ointment though, from the word go. If a record got scratched, the inevitable ‘click, click’ would drive me to distraction. I started to handle all my records with care approaching, nay, surpassing anal. Dust bugs, cleaners. Warped records were just as bad. Living in shared houses, my housemates had no conception of vinyl care. so I always discovered the records that they liked, because they were ruined. These discoveries were the final last straw that made me want to live on my own.
To top this out, there was the flaky memory. I always tried to use decent cartridges in my decks…fair enough, they needed replacing periodically but they were important for a good sound. What I didn’t factor in was my swiss cheese memory. I will never forget (ironically) the day I came back home from a weekend away, and there was the record, still going round with the needle going click, click, click on the runout groove. Horror! This happened quite regularly, every few months or so, and it was not only expensive, but it was starting to eat away at me.
Then along came CDs. As a friend pointed out recently, I saw that fateful Tomorrows World programme. ‘perfect sound forever’. I spent two years hovering. Was the sound as good as their claims? I pestered everyone I knew…record shops, hifi shops, anyone. Must have seemed a complete obsessive. Oh yes, actually with hindsight, I WAS a complete obsessive. A total sound geek.
I bought a CD of something I already had on vinyl and borrowed a CD player to compare the sound…It was noticeably inferior. Bugger! But the sound became more ubiquitous. Mastering techniques also improved, players started to improve, and digital mastering slowly evolved to the point where the sound was becoming acceptable to my ears. CDs were taking off big style. I began to make allowances for the sound. It was ‘OK’ and the big plus was ‘no clicks’, and my phobia of scratches evaporated. I could operate as if I was a normal human being again. Bliss.
So I made the plunge, committed to CD and built up a very sizeable collection, spending many thousands of pounds over the years. I was still aware of vinyl, and still aware that it wasn’t going away… but like a lover that you split with, there was no going back. I knew why we split and it was irreconcilable differences.
Now here we are many years later. Vinyl has enjoyed a resurgence. Good! I always liked it. But along with the resurgence came a holier than thou attitude. It had become a cult. Old vinyl became collectible, to the point where original pressings were going for hundreds of pounds. Then ‘all vinyl’ DJ nights came along. I know of a number of nights where this insidious elitism has come to rule the roost. DJs who turn up with later pressings of the same record are looked down on…whats all that about?
Seems that many vinyl DJs are becoming the 21st century equivalent of the posh golf club captain. Only those with deep pockets need apply…or at least you have to ‘prove’ your commitment by spending large wads of cash on original pressings. It has become the fetishisation of the object. Its as if the music has become secondary.
I’ve also heard that many vinyl DJs accuse digital DJs of piracy. Not paying for your music is a crime, and I personally think that artists, especially those further down the chain from the superstars, deserve the revenue they get from music sales, in whatever form they are bought. I personally ALWAYS pay for my music, even downloads…but hang on a minute. If you buy second hand vinyl, where does that money go? Not to the artist.
I accept people of a less neurotic nature than me stayed committed to vinyl. I even accept that they are happy with it…although I also guess they are hardier than me, and can live with surface noise, scratches and warps. In fact the sound of surface noise has strangely become a badge of honour, of ‘authenticity’. John Peel famously said life has surface noise. Whilst vinyl, in its pristine form is often nicer, more so with older analogue recordings…but am I so alone in the belief that it is what comes out of the speakers that is important?
So my message to vinyl is simple: Goodbye old lover. We had some great times, but you know I can never go back. You have many charms, but you let me down too many times, and I can never forgive you. I have decided it’s THE MUSIC that I love, in whatever form. Can you please stop taunting me now.
Laurence Brewer has sadly lost his long battle with the most appalling-sounding Motor Neurone Disease. I didn’t know Laurence well enough to sum up his musical history properly, but he led Sign Language, a well-liked eighties Blackpool post-punk band who were included on the Vinyl Drip Blackpool Rox compilation series & put a 12” out on the popular indie Fire. After returning from London in the noughties he reformed the band as well as playing some excellent stuff with the Ceramic Hobs for a while.
This is an 1897 photograph of an early New Orleans band comprised of a group of “street urchins,” led by Emile “Stalebread Charlie” Lacoume (he is seated second from the far left). Other members of the group were Harry Gregson, Emile “Whiskey” Benrod, Willie “Cajun” Bussey, Frank “Monk”…
Facebook event page for that forthcoming Blackpool Sleaford Mods gig, promoted by Kate Fear from the Hobs: https://www.facebook.com/events/229304540570300
Baba-Tagwa Abelam Tribe Papua New Guinea Geo Magazine 1983 Diane Losche