Vinyl Records: A Hipster Dad's Tale

Glorious 12" vinyl!
Vinyl records continue to surge in popularity; as eager buffoons embrace the musical frisbee, and nostalgic traditions.

Sales are up a staggering 30 percent across the UK, to the delight of audiophiles and hipster twats everywhere. Experts predict that vinyl will outsell CDs this year, for the first time since the eighties. 

Have we all gone bonkers? Perhaps we should start wearing shell-suits and listening to Phil Collins? What time is the 'A-Team' on?

So, what is behind the trend? Well, basically, nostalgic old vinyl lovers like me. But younger people are buying into the trend too, because vinyl is a "new" experience. For the young, it's their chance to own physical music, instead of renting it from streaming services who (allegedly) "rip-off" artists.

The appeal stretches beyond the music, because vinyl is collectable too. I own 109 records (according to Discogs), including rare ones, signed ones, coloured ones and some limited editions. Vinyl is awesome, and I will try to explain why.

The Impracticality of Vinyl

Let's deal with the negatives first. You cannot hide the impracticality of vinyl, they are bulky, cumbersome and the stupidity doesn't end there. Vinyl has all sorts of rules and conditions.

My wife, Rumours have it.
It must be stored upright, kept clean and stored appropriately. You must not expose them to high temperatures or sunlight, or they'll turn into Gremlins (bright-light!). I once saw a vinyl record melt in my mum's conservatory, during a hot day. Fortunately, it was a Paul Young LP, so the world was done a favour.

Records also get dirty easily, so special brushes are needed to remove the static and dust from the record grooves and stylus (the needle), another ball-ache. Any significant damage or scratches to the record, will make your favourite artist sound like they are having a seizure, so handle with care.

In terms of 'portability', the vinyl has no redeeming qualities. Realistically you listen to records in your home, in a fixed location. One side of 12" vinyl accommodates just 22 minutes of sound. So, albums need to be turned over at the halfway point, which is where the "B-side" phrase comes from.

Growing Up, As A Vinyl Child

I was seven when I got my first turntable. It was a little red number, complete with flashing disco lights. I was ahead of my time, a sort of Essex-boy version of Fatboy Slim. I started out on vinyl, proper old school, I was no bandwagon jumper me.

That's my boy!
Normally I'd play the small 7" inch singles, but occasionally I got some 12" inch albums (if the pocket money stretched). Downstairs my parents played "proper" records on a "proper" turntable. Music from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Steely Dan were popular in our house.

I still own some of these records, and it takes me on a big nostalgia trip. Music has a powerful way of transporting you back to periods in your life, like a personal time machine. 

Recently I inflicted vinyl on my eldest. He is five, but he works the turntable like a pro. He gets running commentary, as I explain the stories behind the records. For example, he knows my copy of Steely Dan's 'Gaucho' belonged to his grandfather, and is pretty old. The indoctrination runs deep and he also shares my passion for 'The Darkness', among other bands.

I am literally passing the music through the generations. My boy will inherit my collection one day, along with the memories. The timing of this vinyl resurgence is great, because kids can enjoy their own vinyl journeys too, just as I did.

That Vinyl Sound

Vinyl is an analogue format, and the digital versus analogue debate is often lengthy and passionate. People start getting technical and talking about dynamic range, frequencies etc. All sound quality is contingent on the quality of your set-up. Everything sounds rubbish through terrible speakers or if the source quality is poor. Buy the best kit you can, for the best results possible.

It is subjective, but to my ears, there is a warm and unique tone to vinyl. With the right turntable, receiver and speakers, it can sound glorious. A lot of modern digital music is heavily compressed, making it sound synthetic at times. This is less evident with vinyl, particularly older records that were mixed and mastered decades ago.

Vinyl never suffers the buffer, if your internet connection drops, we're still in business!

Even streamed music sounds garbled, when the bitrate or source quality is poor. Vinyl never suffers the buffer, if your internet connection drops, we're still in business! Ultimately, I guess your sound preference comes down to personal choice, but vinyl sounds great.

Vinyl Is Artwork

Vinyl, as glorious artwork!
The cover art is a big part of the vinyl experience too. Vinyl covers are big, and they make great wall art. Their size means you see and appreciate every detail on an artistic level. Some people buy vinyl purely to display as art, and why not?

When I was a child, my mum had Fleetwood Mac's 'Tango In The Night' (see picture). The album cover features a glorious jungle-themed oil painting by 'Brett Livingstone-Strong'. There was so much detail on that cover and it mesmerised me. Sadly, the artwork of today has become peripheral or secondary, and that's a tragedy.

Vinyl retains this artistic element, because album covers are often iconic. Artists put a lot of time and money into their artwork. The Beatles spent £3,000 in 1967 to produce the Sgt Peppers cover. That's £50,000 in today's money, and you could record an album for that today.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps I have persuaded you, perhaps I haven't? Vinyl isn't for everyone, and perhaps you are perfectly fine with a Spotify subscription?

If you put aside the impracticality, then the format is good fun. I hope it continues to grow, because the format is unique, and a nice alternative to the streaming services.

I have many happy memories of vinyl, so long may this revival continue. Happy vinyl collecting, should you choose to do so!


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