Music is ever-present in our home, and I am enjoying the “vinyl revival”. I have several hundred from my early days of listening to music, and adding more.
The entire vinyl experience is, to my mind, completely different to all of the other ways we listen to music today. The “large scale” of the album ensures that you first study the album artwork, read about the music and how it was made, and generally gain a better appreciation of what the music and artist are all about. The best artwork delivers an almost visceral feeling about the music. Ask anyone that grew up with or is now collecting vinyl, and they will talk about the album cover almost as much as the music. The artwork often represents a moment in one’s own history, reinforcing both the impact and the memory of the music.
Then, you don’t just press “play”. You have to physically put your chosen record on the turntable – and turn it over. So retro-manual. And once it is on the platter, if you are like me, you will find it hard to leave the room whilst it is playing. The very act of placing the record on the turntable tends to ensure that you want to listen to it all. No background Spotify, or modern-day “muzak”. Much as I love streaming services, vinyl forces you to take notice in ways that even CDs don’t.
Of course, many listeners also swear by the warmth of the vinyl sound, compared with today’s digitisation. That is maybe true, and I always just play vinyl “straight’ – mono or stereo, with no fancy surround settings. In my opinion, though, a good sound system and speakers probably do more for the music than the actual recording format, assuming that the format you chose and the mastering is of the highest quality.
So it was a very special pleasure to have Record Store Day with us, once again. This was founded in 2007 in the US “as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly independently owned record stores”. It started in the UK in 2008. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica, apparently.
Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day, and many stores host free gigs by local and international artists. Fun for all.
We went across to Raves from the Grave, in Warminster, Wiltshire. Their other store is at nearby Frome, where on the day they had artists performing live outside the store. The staff are extremely knowledgeable, super friendly – and there is a massive collection of new and old vinyl, CDs and DVDs at both stores. Warminster carries a lot of music memorabilia, too. T-Shirts or mugs, anyone?
A music lovers paradise, in other words. The clientele is varied and all ages, and all share a common passion for music. Oh, and I love the image above as I used to have a white MR-2 – my “rave from the grave”.
It’s a kind of “brinks and mortar” Glasto …
They had a terrific collection of Record Store Day specials – and I must admit I rather over-did the purchases. But the event is such a celebration of music, and is supporting independent retailers – so my excuse is that it is “a very good cause”.
Special 7″ Items that took my eye included Robert Plant, The Flaming Lips, Roxy Music and Holger Czukay. And there was a wonderful single from Johnny Marr.
Many of the major record labels produce (rather over priced) remasters of classic albums especially for the occasion. Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Eno, John Grant and The Small Faces amongst them.
Is this big label commercialisation some kind of “sell out”? I think not, as long as the independent retailer is making the sale, and I found this article in Pitchfork really thoughtful on the subject. I love this paragraph:
“A significant number of RSD shoppers are young people with little knowledge of vinyl records – 21-year-olds in 2015 were born at the peak of the CD-driven alt-rock boom in 1994, and even their parents grew up in the cassette and CD era. For a lot of these young music fans, vinyl records are as much “new media” as Songza or Spotify – a novel way of interacting with music that requires a bit of a learning curve.”
However, my “find of the day” was a compilation album, presented by Alocopop! on behalf of several indie labels, on Sensible Records. Not only was all the music refreshing and enjoyable, but the vinyl itself was beautifully produced in multiple, recycled colours. All limited to only 500 copies, and retailing at a fixed £10. As if that wasn’t enough, the album included a code card that allowed the free downloading of 160 tracks from the Indie labels – each label contributing about 150mb of music. A heck of a deal!
Summary and review here, on Forkster.
The whole experience was a wonderful confluence of music, art, photography and just old fashioned fun. If you didn’t get involved this year, please pop by your local store soon, and find out what the fuss is all about.
All images (except the Sensible album cover) taken with a Leica M-P and Noctilux F/1.0