Back in the summer, before my wedding, I told my wife I wished I had taken the old-school stereo system from her brother when he moved out of his apartment. We had just moved into a new house of our own, and it would have gone nicely in my office in the basement. Why did I want it? Surely, I wasn’t pining for the bad ol’ days of cassette!
Oh, no. First off, somewhere in my boxes o’ junk is a classic iPod I intend to restore with a solid-state drive and reload with my entire iTunes and Amazon collection. Plug that thing into an old-school receiver, and you suddenly have the power of large speakers and a graphic equalizer. Plus CDs are still a thing in Che Winter. My wife frequently consults with the previous spousal unit (I think it’s a Kentucky blonde thing, but I can’t get away with anything with those two being friendly.) about what I might want. Neither lady shares my taste in music but they sure as hell know it well.
But I also said to my wife, “I think it’d be great to listen to Led Zeppelin on some scratchy old vinyl.”
Fast forward to Christmas Day. My wife is excited about two gifts, one of which was the Tom Petty box set American Treasure (Buy it now!!!!) I listened to that on my sparse-but-profitable Uber shift on Christmas Eve. But the one she wanted me to open most was a large box. I tore it open and…
I am now the proud owner of a Crosley turntable with an RCA-to-headphone cable. After playing with my computer and coaxing it to recognize this strange, archaic machine now plugged into the sound card, I went back in time.
Literally. My wife and stepson went to a local record store… Cincinnati has at least three that I know of! I was presented with a Rolling Stones greatest hits LP from back in the day, Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, Blondie’s Eat to the Beat, The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, a Monkees collection, and ZZ Top’s Fandango. Three of these I listened to either on my mom’s ancient Philco console stereo or my Uncle Mark’s then-ultra-modern rack system. Holy God, did the Stones’ Tattoo You sound fantasic on vinyl through a Panasonic receiver, but did my uncle hate my equalizer settings. My grandmother let me have at. Hey, it was her house and right up the street.
It’s something of culture shock going from Spotify and Compact Disc to Blondie on vinyl. My poor Dell doesn’t have the sound controls to manage the turntable, and the Crosley doesn’t have a preamp. I’d forgotten preamp even existed. But these are things I shall acquire before next Christmas. To quote Wayne Campbell, oh, yes, they will be mine! There is no reason my vinyl should not sound as rich and full as, if not fuller than, my Spotify subscription.
But my wife has taken me back to an earlier era when you had to hunt for music in physical stores. I recall driving all the way from my boring little exurb south of Cleveland to Spin More Records in Kent, near Kent State University. Spin More was an institution as late as the early 1990s, and it’s quite possible I rummaged through the exact same racks as The Eagles’ Joe Walsh, who started his career in Kent. I know Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders shopped there at one point.
But I noticed something Neil Young complained about when CDs became dominant that I didn’t until the MP3 era. Digital loses tiny little chunks of the music when the sound is compressed for storage. So all those songs on Metallica’s Black Album that blared from my stereo in 1991 or from my various cars since then sound weak in MP3. ITunes does a better job sampling, but some power is still lost. (Apple should be ashamed of itself for killing Pono, Young’s fuller, richer digital technology.)
So right now, as I write this, I have Blondie’s Eat to the Beat on the Crosley. And I remember why Deborah Harry was the first woman I ever lusted after, even if I didn’t know what it was I wanted to do with her. (Fortunately for Deborah, we’ve never met, and at my age and hers, it’s more likely I’d geek out over Robert Fripp’s appearance on Autoamerican.)
So now, in addition to golf clubs, books, and cooking recipes, vinyl has become my new vice.
Of course, a woman who understands this about me without explicitly saying I wanted a turntable is a woman I should marry.
Oh, wait. Did that last summer.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Everybody’s Records in search of Abbey Road and Zeppelin IV on warm, rich vinyl.