stop, look, and listen

When my dad called me to ask if I knew where his boxes of LPs might be, I knew that something had changed. My dad, a champion of modern technology and all things new, boxed up all his vinyl upon the advent of the CD, bought a laser disc player, then a DVD player, and insisted my brother and I learn the computer when few owned such a thing. This is not a man in any way nostalgic for the past. So the fact that he went out and purchased a turntable (and has since spent many hours positioned at the optimal distance from his speakers, listening to Dark Side of the Moon) is proof enough for me that vinyl is well and truly back. His christmas presents last year included the reissue of the Beatles’ LP collection and 12 Bee Gees LPs. Add that to all the constant news stories about the resurgence of vinyl, and the number of labels releasing and re-releasing their catalogues on record, and we’ve got a mainstream movement that has woken up from the false promise of digital with the realization that vinyl not only sounds better and warmer, but that the experience of holding a record, removing it from its sleeve and cover, and actively engaging with it, has proved to be far more gratifying than a quick click of an mp3. Less convenient, but isn’t convenience just another failed promise of pleasure?

For my christmas present (and just so we’re clear, I’m not religious, christmas is simply a time to eat, drink, and exchange vinyl), I received a reissue of a book from 1977 called Album Cover Album. Peter Gabriel wrote the forward of the updated edition, lamenting the loss of record sleeves–“physical objects to possess, touch, sniff, scrutinize, read, and savor.” He concludes with a gorgeous sentence, so sensitively illustrating the impact of digitized music. “Now we send our little babies out into the world naked and we wonder why they catch a cold.” Magic. This was written in 2008, just a year before the New York Times and pretty much every other news outlet declared that vinyl was back from the dead. And the stories keep coming. Just a few weeks ago, the BBC did yet another piece on “crate digging and the resurgence of vinyl.”  And when I started compiling a second edition of Nippon Girls for Ace Records, they asked that I include a track-list for the vinyl edition as well.

Peter Gabriel would be proud. 

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