the simple things in life

April 30. 2017

Old Vinyl

» by Danni Miller

Last month I got back from what turned out to be, what I would call the best vacation ever.

More about that later.

As many of you know I love the sound of old records. That hum, that slightly static laced sound that is unlike anything you get from modern music formats. It is what, in part makes, vintage vinyl what it is. At least for me. Some people feel at home with a warm cup of tea in hand, a cozy blanket or an evening in front of the fire. For me, it is music. I am not very particular about the genre, the sound is important and I can get that from almost any artist who had a decently long career. No, for me music is something that draws you in, it fills the room and when it is really good you can feel it inside as well.

But when the needle falls, and the first sounds emerge, then I know that I am home. When you go about collecting old records, many people, myself included (once) thought it was about finding the old, the elusive, and the hot album. I realized later that isn't the case.

Collecting Records Is About the Journey

When I start, I started. That is what you do when you begin. There was something different in my case though. I had started before I realized it.

When I was growing up my uncle moved, and as families do, we helped out. It was fun. And when we were all finished he and my aunt through a pizza party. For a twelve year old with a big appetite this was amazing. While I still love pizza, it ranks as one of my favorite foods my appetite is more moderate. I recall eating one and a half pizzas then. Different slices from different flavors, but still. Today, it can be a challenge to eat even half of that. But it is a memory I think of fondly.

Now you might ask yourself where all of this is going. Well, the food was only part of my payment. As we got back to moving things into the right rooms, at this point it was stacked in the living room, my uncle handed me a moderately sized box and it was heavy. I asked him where it should go and he said: "to your house." I looked at him with a curious expression. It was then that he clarified and told me that it was for me. It was the start (and it should be noted, the most important aspect) of my collection. It was a corner stone, that at that time was not appreciated by my twelve year-old self. In all seriousness few will be able to appreciate music from their parents' generation unless they also grew up with it.

My excitement was obvious and he just laughed.

The box of old records sat in the corner of my room for a couple of years. Honestly it was half a decade. When I turned seventeen I got this fascination with what I called "classical" rock. It was dumb, I know that now, but for some reason the musical style of the late 60's and early 70's just struck a nerve with me. Queen, The Who, Deep Purple, and AC/DC were the songs I had looping for hours. My CD collection was impressive. I bought the best sound system I could afford on my meager budget and I chilled in my room. My father would chuckle to himself when he caught me playing to air guitar to Led Zeppelin or the Stones.

One day I was moving my room around, trying to get the ultimate sound. I had just bought new speakers, in part because one of my old ones had gone out, but also because they were all around low-quality. It was during the Summer after I graduated high school and I was working to save up some money for when I started college at the start of the next semester.

Now you may be thinking, that really doesn't count as saving. True, but I did manage to save some so I guess it wasn't that bad. One thing that had happened was that that box of records sat pretty much where it had since I got it all of those years before. And it fact it had sort of become a sort of table. Come on, grimace with me. Here was a box of records, from the era that I had gotten into, dumped on the floor, no care taken for properly storing them, and in general, neglected.

When I took the stuff off that was sitting there, I remembered what was really inside. If I had to guess I would say that I had looked through it a handful of times. Without a record player in the house I had no way to play them. And this turned out to be a plus since what was about to happen makes me tear up even today.

Everybody knows how CDs work. You stick it in, it plays, you treat it carelessly and it get scratched.

You think that I would have been smarter, but for some reason this basic logic didn't carry over for me. Because careful wasn't part of my vocabulary when I handled what I thought were just vinyl CDs.

Still, I got really excited. There were bands here that I loved. Albums that would have been snatched up by any serious collector, and they were in about the same state as my CDs, so in other words, very good condition. Some even mint. Again this was lost on me. Maybe because I didn't understand what I was holding.

To make a long story short, I went and bought a second hand record place. Something that you would find at any garage sell. It wasn't great. And once I got it set up, it was even less impressive. Record player are not CD players, even though they share the same last name. Record players need to be loved, cared for, and most importantly they should have a standard of quality. And mine did not. The needle was worn and the sound that came out was anything less than stellar. It also applied too much pressure and I damaged some albums because of it. The player landed in the garbage in under a year, but the damage that it did still persists to this day. Hopefully Mr. Mercury finds it in his heart to forgive me.

When World's Unite

Recently I have gotten a taste for real classical music, and so it was a real treat when my girlfriend surprised me with a birthday gift/vacation to Rome.

That is Rome, Italy, and it was my (albeit) early birthday present. It was two weeks in a city with so much culture that you could never take it in. And it was an experience that was made even better, there I was in the most romantic city in th world, with the woman that I love, and if you have ever been there, you know that it is a city filled with music. The Italians are a people full of life and it was nothing to sit at a café, people streaming past in both directions and the most pleasant music playing in the background. Even with the commotion, it was the most relaxing vacation I have ever been on. We found a great café, the music was played on a record player, it was beyond amazing. And it fit. They got most of our money when it came to meals.

The hotel had breakfast included so we would just fill up in the morning, buy drinks over the day and then at night we would eat supper there. It was beyond perfect. And I sort of feel like it was made just for me. But I know it wasn't. That and the owner told us that they were established in 1824. And I am not that old.

It was a journey. One that tied everything together.