(From top: Mind Games, Revolver, View the Whole World)
The last of my vinyl has been sold. Once, when I lived in a house with a rocking (and actually rolling) stereo setup (something of a slant to the living room) I had two hundred records, collected over six or so years, I have forgotten exactly how long. This morning a good kid from Boulder came by the RV park (he couldn’t have been more than 20), and bought the last twenty, and probably the best, of my records (perhaps the ones I loved best). The B-52s, the Beatles, John Lennon, Talking Heads, Hank Williams, Yes, Phoebe Snow, Stravinksy, Alice in Wonderland; all are gone now. But into good hands, I think. I tried to sell them first to a record store, but since the covers weren’t in mint condition, the ornery propietor didn’t want them. Records, like books, want to be loved, and mine were stuffed in a box in the backseat of the car. I don’t even have a record player anymore (gave it away last summer), and I live in an RV; space constraints have made me a minimalist.
The first record I remember listening to (over and over and over) was a very trippy birthday album, sung just for me from a Spaceman Someone (can’t remember his name, alas), and there were wonderful sound effects of a rocket ship blasting off for the moon. The cover was a kind of Yellow Submarine art, with a pink spaceman in an orange rocket, big round letters. My parents have a good-sized collection of vinyl; growing up I listened to the Who, the Beatles, the Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, many others I can’t call to mind. Just as important as the music: the scratchy space between songs, a place where secret messages could be received. I started collecting records just after college, from thrift stores and record stores, sometimes used book stores; I had a second or third hand family record player, and mediocre speakers. Good friends donated some of their latent vinyl, and one especially good friend gave me all his Rolling Stone albums and his fine, like-new stereo (when I moved out west, I gave him everything back, plus a few Zeppelin albums; that was a gift to be greatly honored).
What I love most about records, apart from the anticipation of dropping the needle onto the vinyl followed by the wonderful crackling, is the sense of entertaining they create. Listening to the car radio, putting on a CD, streaming Pandora: all of these are ways to enjoy music (going to completely ignore the analog vs. digital debate in this post, if you couldn’t already tell), but records are something different. When someone comes over and you put on a record just for them, it’s like an offering. Planning went into the choice, a certain kind of sound energy is being renewed. I remember buying the 1812 Overture from the Salvation Army in Latham, NY, specifically for the next time my brother came over; I wanted to drop the needle on the most-blastingest part, just to see what he did. And it was like a beautiful cartoon, he air-conducted exactly as the moment dictated, after a long moment of confused eyebrow lifting.
And so the vinyl is gone, farewell. May the kid from Boulder and his roommates treat my old friends well, may they smoke many joints and daydream to their music, as I once did (and maybe, like the people who had the records before me). And, when they too must give away their record player, please, kids, don’t trash that vinyl—some of them are three times older than you are, and they all have a storied, layered past.