The way it's meant to be heard



A mans look into the history of vinyl music and why it has become so popular in todays scene

Trends are cyclical. What was once popular eventually goes out of fashion, and often, after some time, it returns to the scene only to be adopted by a whole new generation. Im sure we can all name several of these re-surfaced trends that got a hold of us at some point, even if were perhaps too embarrassed to admit it.

Over the recent holiday season, as the masses poured into big-box electronic stores all over the GTA on a quest to return home with the everpopular Ipod Classic/Nano/Touch, I was held up at flea market just south of Barrie, searching through cardboard box after cardboard box of dusty old vinyl records. Thats right, records. For Christmas I received a brand new turntable from my parents, and have since been on a non-stop quest for vinyl.

The question I keep getting asked is why? With the obvious benefits of digitized music, why revert to such a bothersome, time consuming, and clearly inferior technology? Inferior? Obviously, the person posing the question has never heard Hey Jude on vinyl.

Music recorded before the digital age was intended for a record — the sound that is produced from a compact disc is simply a compressed digital version of the artists original analog work. It is this desire to hear that original product that is driving the vinyl trend.

Aside from the audio benefits, records provide a highly physical connection with the music. It is not simply clicking a file on a computer screen with a finger, but a process that is respectful of the work itself. It requires constant cleaning, manual starting and stopping, temperature control, and sometimes going through three separate layers of protection to simply get to the record. The actual process required to play a record may seem tedious, but I, along with many other audiophiles, find the process enjoyable. The music that has had such a profound impact on my life deserves more than just a mixed CD-R to play it on — it deserves respect.

Recently, bands have begun releasing limited edition versions of their new albums on vinyl. Bands like Coldplay, Guns N Roses, and The White Stripes have had great success with their vinyl releases which are readily available at most major music retail outlets. Even though music from these modern groups was made during, and for, the digital age, the vinyl trend has begun to slowly creep into their record sales.

Personally, I dont see the point of buying modern music on vinyl. Perhaps it is a novelty, but it is definitely not worth the $30-$50 that most newly pressed vinyl costs. Modern projects were mixed with an eye toward the digital format (the ubiquitous CD) so there is not much to gain from listening to them on vinyl.

I spent an entire day on Queen Street West, the so-called place-togo for vinyl, going from record store to record store in search of classic vinyl recordings. I ended up leaving each store just as quickly as I had entered them. They were geared towards the new, independent releases on vinyl and had a limited selection of vintage records. I asked the employees, who were no older than myself, about where to find things in the store and other various questions about record maintenance, and was answered with little more than a shrug and an awkward, somewhat embarrassed, smile.

So I turned to the all-knowing oracle of information: the Internet. There, I was able to find a glut of information dealing with record collecting, maintenance, and all other essential information for a budding vinyl enthusiast.

I was also lucky enough to stumble upon the website of a true vintage record shop, In the Groove, on the east end of Queen Street. Here was a store that contained the very records that made the format so desirable. Specializing in vintage and collector records, its the store to go to for those in search of music meant for vinyl.

The current vinyl trend shows no signs of dying down in the near future. The warm, analogous tone of years past is again available to the masses. Whether you desire the sounds of the past, or the sounds of today, you can surely get in on vinyl.

So dig up that old turntable, pull out your parents old copy of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and listen to A Day in the Life as it was originally intended to be heard; because when it comes to music, and trends in general, what is old often becomes new again. Just dont push it — that Beta-max your parents bought in the 80s was, and always will be, a mistake.