When I was young, there were two ways of listening to stored music, so called cassette tapes or vinyl records. No CD’s, no streaming.
I was brought a cassette player when I was about 11 years old and it was my pride of joy. It instilled in me a love of music that continues to this day. It came with some issues though. Firstly, say you only wanted to listen to track three on the first side, you’d have to spend ages (unless you were lucky) forwarding and rewinding the tape until you eventually found yourself at the right place to play the song you wanted. Then of course, there were the occasions when the cassette player decided to ‘eat’ the tape. One reel would get stuck, spooling tape into the machine, usually rendering the cassette useless.
My other option was my parents old record player. Being allowed to use that, with their equally old collection of records was always a thrill. 33’s, 45’s and even old 78’s. Songs from my parent’s youth, and to be honest, it was more fun to be actually putting the records on and off the turntable than actually listening to the music!
By the time I was in my 20’s, vinyl was the only way really. My collection ran to many hundreds and my musical tastes were, some would claim, dubious. Like many of my age I’d been heavily into classic rock before the punk revolution arrived. When that departed almost as swiftly as it had arrived, I was drawn into the world of heavy metal. The denim and leather jackets, the mullet, the gigs and of course the vinyl.
At some point the CD arrived. I believe they were initially invented in the early 1980’s and certainly by 1990 they’d become the new norm. Vinyl was now a thing of the past compared to the new CD. Vinyl was easily scratched and inconvenient It was also simply considered old fashioned.
I began rebuying all my old vinyl on shiny new CD and my record player found itself packed off to a charity shop. To my eternal regret, my record collection went in a skip!
Now, 25 years later, what am I doing? Rebuying all my CD’s on vinyl. The world has gone full circle and I’ve probably wasted a fortune in cash. So what is it with vinyl?
Well it never really went away of course, but what is happening now is something of a revival in vinyl ownership. Vinyl sales are up every year since 2008 and topped a million in the UK last year, more than any year since 2004. Adele and Ed Sheeran have both topped vinyl sales charts and, while neither have a place in my collection alongside Black Sabbath, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, it shows that the younger market is helping drive the resurgence too.
In the world of music downloads and streaming, there is something reassuring about the physical. Listening to downloads is soulless compared to taking a vinyl from a sleeve, settling down with my inner notes and lyrics in my arm chair, listening to that slight crackle and then the music
Records may only account for about 2% of music sales, but I think there’s a place for this most wonderful of mediums alongside new technology. If your vinyl is dusty in the loft somewhere, dig it out. If you’re not going to use them, get them on eBay, you might find you’re sitting on a nice little earner!