I recently made my first vinyl purchase in close to 20 years. It’s good to be back.
For some, vinyl never went away. DJs, collectors or just purists who believe in the warm, velvet tones when stylus meets groove would vehemently argue this point, undoubtedly looking on with derision at the great record revival currently sweeping the globe.
Back in the late ‘80s my father moved with purpose into the CD market, bequeathing his entire record collection – which dated back to the ‘50s – to my sister and I. It sparked a desperate, and at times physical, scramble for this impressive catalogue of audio history that included a plethora of record rarities.
I had amassed a substantial collection of my own by that stage. Buying vinyl was a weekly passion – almost an obsession – that had begun when I was still in single digits; inheriting the old man’s records was the jewel in the crown.
Alas, I too eventually made the move to CDs; the records were put into storage and the turntable bundled into a car boot sale along with all my Star Wars toys that I was told would never be worth anything…
The soothsayers had long predicted the death of vinyl, and with the advent of new audio technology, you couldn’t give the stuff away in the mid ‘90s. Building skips could regularly be found topped with abandoned mail order gym equipment, and discarded albums and singles. The record manufacturing industry, it would seem, had gone the same way as the milkman.
But eight or so years ago, a mainstream resurgence of interest in records began in earnest. In the STACK office, we noticed more and more artists releasing new music on vinyl alongside the standard industry formats (CD and digital stream/download) with each passing year.
What caused this renewed interest in records? From the people I spoke to, it was fuelled by audio lovers tiring of listening to music on compressed digital files. Others had exhumed vinyl long buried in storage and were revisiting passages of personal history to the soundtrack of particular albums.
I had flirted with the idea myself, but my Australasian vinyl fail had discouraged such a venture. That was until last year, when I took home an Audio Technica turntable which had been reviewed in STACK.
Now in a bigger house, my intention was to grab some speakers, salvage what vinyl was still playable from the crates in the garage, and kick-start my own record renaissance.
These plans were temporarily scuppered with the arrival of a second child. However, on a recent trip to the Chadstone JB, I was immediately drawn to the racks of vinyl. Records were sifted through with deft fingertips, resurrecting hand skills I hadn’t used in years.
Finally, they stopped at Radiohead’s In Rainbows. I made an audible groan of satisfaction before pulling the record out, gently spinning it over, back and forth, like a valuable antiquity in an auction house. In an instant I was surging towards the till with intent, and $33 later there was a long player in hand for the first time in nearly 20 years.
That evening when the house finally fell asleep, I lovingly perused my purchase. Awash with nostalgia, my eyes were transfixed to the pressed grooves chasing circles through the gloss of pitch-black polyvinyl chloride.
Playing vinyl was always more than just listening to music. It was a commitment; a calming, congenial experience best shared with companions. The entire process demanded your attention, with the artist on the turntable the sole focus. Like a hobby, the investment of time was richly rewarding. All of these memories were rekindled simply by holding a Radiohead album.
Before long I was sweeping dust from the crates of records stored in the garage. They were no longer just heavy cargo to shift from house to house or momentary reminders of a youthful gait. I’m back in the game. Now I’ve just got to get those speakers.