Experiencing the Glory Days of Vinyl
Editor’s note: Record Store/Vinyl Appreciation Day is April 22, 2017. For participating stores in RI: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Stores?state=RI – there is also more info below this article.
There was a point in time when listening to your favorite album was an actual experience rather than just an accompaniment for your car ride or wallpaper behind a study session in your college dorm.
This unique type of experience required you to sit down by a record player, maybe put on some headphones for maximum musical teleportation, and give your undivided attention as you entered an imagined world of musical exploration. A key component of this (possibly literal) “trip” was something now considered an ancient artifact of years past: liner notes.
Whether you were following along word for word with the lyrics to each song or browsing acknowledgments during the solos, there was often much more to discover than just the music flowing through your speaker cables. In fact, much of my arguably useless but extensive knowledge of music trivia is attributed to studying the producers, engineers, musicians and songwriters on each – I started to say “track,” but that’s a CD thing with place in this article – “cut,” I believe is the correct word.
Before social media became a magnifying glass into every celebrity’s life, there was this added element of mystery. The album artwork and inside sleeve were sometimes the only way we could get a glimpse into the studio sessions, who worked on the album, and in some instances what the band actually looked like! Sure there was the occasional magazine poster/article from popular music magazines such as Creem, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Circus, but you also had to go to a physical store and purchase them. These days every thought, idea and bathroom trip from an artist involuntarily pops on your news feed. This definitely can be a good thing when you are obsessed with a certain band and can’t get enough information about them, but ultimately what it does is take away the mystery that always made the music listening experience a magical one about the music itself. It can even turn you off when they tweet something you don’t agree with, political rants or a preference for ketchup on their toast.
I will never forget and fondly look upon growing up in the 1980s, which I consider the glory days of vinyl. Around 1986 or so, cassettes dominated the marketplace and pushed vinyl to the back of the musical listening chain. In defense of the cassette, although the sound quality was significantly worse, at least the inner sleeve including liner notes was still intact as with vinyl.
I would often discover a band from an MTV video of a song and patiently wait for the album release date. Walking into a record store at that time was a magical feeling. Looking around at all the wonderful and intriguing album covers on display, I would see so many blockbuster albums that are now considered classics all together in the new and recent releases section. These included Synchronicity by The Police, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1984 by Van Halen, Thriller by Michael Jackson, Seven and the Ragged Tiger by Duran Duran, Heartbeat City by The Cars, Kilroy Was Here by Styx, Like a Virgin by Madonna, Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution, and I could go on and on but you get my point. MTV became a huge part of this experience: The visual, outward accompaniment to the internal listening experience. MTV was almost single-handedly responsible for launching so many of these artists to superstardom.
Though I did follow the various other subsequent mediums that music has morphed into over the years – cassette, CD, MP3 – I never lost my affection for those days of mystery and discovery. The last few years, with newfound interest and manufacturing of albums in the vinyl format, have enticed my longing for that forgotten and missed listening experience that I once had growing up. Although I do indeed listen to music digitally, it is for convenience on the go. My home listening preference has come full circle to strictly vinyl, and I have significantly increased my record collection since then, but I must confess: Every time I walk into the many used record stores I frequent across the country, it is primarily for one reason – to get that magical feeling back and experience those glory days once again.
Record Day Specials and Events:
Saturday, April 22
(sales and releases vary from store to store)
Ed Note: Record Store Day is an organization that requires participating stores to sign a pledge in order to take part. There are plenty of additional great record stores like Round Again and Analog Underground which are sure to honor vinyl while not specifically participating with the RSD organization (recordstoreday.com).
Armageddon Shop: Along with sales and specials, they will have an exclusive release by Tor Johnson, a local label. They’ve made only 60 copies of Ratstab, 5 tracks of raw d-beat punk on 7” vinyl with mylar sleeves, silscreened and very collectible. “We wanted to get back to the brick & mortar roots of RSD and put out something rad and limited enough that it would be sold out in a day,” says producer Paul Dichichio. 436 Broadway, PVD 02909,
In Your Ear: 462 Main Street, Warren 02885, (401) 245-9840
Kangaroo CD’s and Tapes: 1759 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence 02904, (401) 353-5480
Looney Tunes: 562 Kingstown Road, Wakefield 02879, (401) 782-9860
Music Box: 160 Thames Street, Newport 02840, (401) 849-6666
Newbury Comics: 74 Providence Place, Providence Place Mall, PVD, RI 02903, (401) 383-0044
Newbury Comics: 1500 Bald Hill Road, Warwick 02886, (401) 821-3170
Olympic Records: 580 Wickenden Street, PVD 02903, (401) 301-9266
What Cheer Records & Vintage: Celebrating its 10th Record Store Day, with special sales, Limited edition releases, and live music by Tall Teenagers, Allysen Callery, The Low Cards, Kate Mick and more (wait, isn’t live music the opposite of vinyl?). 180 Angell Street, PVD 02906, (401) 861-4244
Vinyl Guru Record Shop: 152 Broadway, Newport, RI 02809, (401) 374-0760