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An Ode to Vinyl

Geoff Anderson By

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The album concept carried on into the CD era, but has disappeared with the popularity of, first, iPods, and now streaming. Listeners can pick and choose individual songs unhinged from any other works by the same artist; making the songs mere dollops of sonic pudding floating in the jetsam of an audio mish-mash. Oh well, their loss.

The Hipster Problem

Some of the greatest advocates, some of the latest converts, some of the most zealous fans of records seem to fall into the "hipster" category. Hipsters seem to be the current younger generation version of "hippies." Hipsters—Hippies— they're pretty close both semantically and in attitude and hygiene, both priding themselves on their counter-culture outlook on life. This counter-culture lifestyle is no doubt a big reason hipsters find records appealing. Of course one ironic difference between this aspect of hipsterism and hippiedom is that hippies rebelled against the older generation; their parents' generation. Hippies wanted to change the world and create a new way of doing things. Hipsters apparently want to go back to the way (at least certain) things were when their parents were kids. Hipsters also like irony, so maybe it all makes sense.

So my love of records could, potentially, get me lumped in with hipsters (in the minds of some). I wouldn't worry about that for even a second, except for another, much more troubling hipster affectation: the fixie. Fixies are single speed bikes whose pedals must always turn when the back wheel is turning. (related photos.) I ride a bike a lot and I find fixies to be about the dumbest thing to come along since Ted Nugent started talking politics. With the pedals and the back wheel locked together, the fixie can have only one brake: on the front tire. Ever lock up the front wheel during an emergency stop? Here comes the pavement! Better yet, some fixies don't have brakes at all, relying instead on the theoretical braking power of trying to stop the pedals. That and crania apparently made of granite.

I had a fixie once. It was a tricycle. No brakes. I outgrew it at about age five or six. Then I got a single speed bike with a coaster brake. (The same day I got that record player?) At least I didn't have to pedal whenever the bike was in motion, but I still couldn't wait to get rid of the single speed and get a shiny new 5 speed. (Now I have about 25 or 30 speeds depending on how you count.) Here again, hipsters seem to be going back to their parents' childhoods.

But don't take my word for how ridiculous fixies are; a famous world leader has already explained the problem in some detail.

So Why Records?

Hipsters can ride and crash on their fixies and listen to their records on $49.95 "record players." I don't care. They can even touch the playing surface of their records with their greasy hipster fingers, store their records horizontally and play them without dusting them off first. It's a free country, after all. I'll keep listening to my records and sitting right between my speakers.

Records get scratched. They warp when exposed to heat. They snap, they crackle, they pop. They demand constant attention. Every 17 to 20 minutes it's" "turnmeover-turnmeover-turnmeover!!!"

Yet, over the years the Vinyl Vault has grown to around 1200 to 1500 records and there are many, many real gems in there. Most of them still sound great. (Maybe not ear-lobe-licking great, but pretty close, on average.) I picked up many of those records for free from the various radio stations where I worked over the years. Many others I picked up used or as cut-outs (discontinued by the record labels) for two or three dollars each. Records are still for sale at a few stores here and there. Many of them still sell for two or three dollars, but lately, some prices have been going up. It seems the hipster demand has been having an effect on prices. *Sigh* However, not all the stores have caught on and you can still find plenty of records out there in the two to three dollar range; many great ones too.

So that's the real reason I'm a record fan: I'm cheap.

Steely Dan: Gaucho, $2.50
Horace Silver: Sliver & Brass $1.50
King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black, $1.95

And so on...

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