The allure of vinyl

Last month, I watched a wonderful film/documentary entitled ‘Sound It Out’, made & directed by Jeanie Finlay in 2011 (on Glimmer Films). The subject in question was ‘the only surviving independent record store in Teeside’, in Stockton, UK, known as, strangely enough, Sound It Out. It was a brief look at, what used to be, a thriving record store – & indeed what were thriving independent record stores across the whole land. An interesting fact emerged out of the film-umentary (or should that be, docu-film?), comparing the number of these shops in America with those over here….& do you know what the difference in number is? There IS no difference! It appears that there are the same number on both sides of the Atlantic, which is incredible, considering how large the USA is compared to us (the little ‘ol UK). All I can assume is that independent record stores are fairing much better ‘over here’ than ‘over there’, although that isn’t saying much, as corporate giants HMV (& owner, Tom, from Sound It Out, says, ‘There’s HMV, but we don’t count them as record shops’) have limited the consumers’ choice by what THEY want to stock, which is mainly major record label music. There’s no chance of smaller, indie-type, labels getting a look in. But, I digress…….

The characters that patronised the shop were enthusiatic, obsessive, nerdy & just a bit……How can I put it kindly?…..Well, a bit/quite different.  Assistant David, says he likes working there because, ‘…..It’s not the ordinary people, it’s the random people…’ who inhabit this shop. Above all though, they are passionate about their music, & the fact that this record shop could supply all their ‘fixes’….& if they couldn’t, they’d have a damn good try at trying to track down a source that could supply their musical needs. Now, how many shops, could you say, would go out of their way to do that these days?! It’s the individual approach, character & friendliness of the small independent shops , that will hopefully keep them afloat in these turbulent times. They might be small on the outside, but on the inside, they are beautifully formed – full of hidden, unexpected treasures, just waiting for the right person to come along & find/buy the said item(s).

Apparently, record-collecting is a ‘male obsession’ (‘Well, it is here’, says Tom. He has about 50,000 albums/CDs/cassettes in stock – I do believe there is a collection in America that totals in excess of 1,000,000 (that’s ONE MILLION LPs!) & the owner is looking for a permanent home somewhere….I’m not sure if that’s for him, or the record collection!). This Tom is very insightful – & I suppose he has plenty of time to be, waiting for customers to find (it’s ‘out-of-the-way’, but next to the Job Centre), & then enter his shop – a world full of vinyl. Having vinyl records is akin to ‘…having the original link (to the artist), or something. Half the guys who buy these records probably don’t play them (…what??!), but you’ve got them in the hand, in the shelf…..’ – it’s the feeling of posession, I suppose. Anyway, he continues, ‘It’s all about emotions…& memories. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I play a record – who I was going out with…..It’s all about memories. Records hold memories’. ‘With records’, Tom says, ‘it’s never-ending. You can go on…..& on…..& on…..’.

I occaisionally buy vinyl records, usually from second-hand record collector-type shops. I can identify with the sentiments expressed in the film, as records DO take me back to the time I heard/bought them. My first vinyl album was Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliciano! ‘ (that includes his classic re-working of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ – a chart-topper over here, I do believe, back in it’s time)…..& it’s this ‘time’ element that reminds me that I bought it in Liverpool, in a lovely old-fashoned record store – with listening booths – whilst visiting my Aunt & Uncle, there.


Of course, it was quite a while before I could play the LP, as I didn’t have a record player! Months later, I borrowed my cousins Dansette player, along with The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ & The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ albums. It was wonderful hearing the lush violins & orchestral arrangements set to the amazing guitar-playing of Jose….& the music/other-worldly sounds of the Beatle-Beach Boy minds, that have inspired me to this day with my song writing & musical arrangements. You see, all these memories & details have come flooding back to me – although I don’t think they ever really leave.

My record collection was boosted, quite significantly, recently, when a musician friend donated 300+ vinyl albums. It was quite an exciting moment when, having finally got them home (in a somewhat over-full car boot), I looked through them & saw several that I never really owned, only borrowed & played in my school boy & college boy era, & to suddenly have them ‘IN MY POSSESSION’, it just felt really good. More of my youth was coming back to me, in vinyl form!

So, it is all about capturing the past – a sort of vinyl archive specific to me. It describes me, & also hepled shape me. I always keep a written diary, & this record collection is fast becoming a ‘sound diary’. I shan’t go into the esthetics of 12″ x 12″ covers, gate-fold sleeves etc., but they were, & still are, great for artwork & reading all sorts of details, particularly without the aid of glasses. But, vinyl albums beat CDs & MP3s anyday!!

Long may the LP reign, & long may the independent record store keep going….& going…..& going….&…….

Wire - Pink Flag

‘Art punk’ band Wire‘s 1st. album – ‘Pink Flag’. Some classic, short & spikey numbers on here, & riffs/samples much-used by Elastica et al.

Keef Hartley Band -The Time Is Near

Keef Hartley Band – ‘The Time Is Near’ (I first heard this album being played on the John Peel Show – there was something special about it, & there still is).