The Needle and the Damage Done….

 
July 8, 2015

I had the most incredible experience the other day.

My kid has always had an interest in “Classic Rock” and, what I would otherwise categorize as, exceptional musical taste. Anyways, for some reason or other, quite possibly to avoid studying for exams, he asked if he could accompany my wife to meet me for coffee at a local purveyor of “The Bean” called Death Valley’s Little Brother in Waterloo, ON. After we had swilled some of the finest java the county has to offer, he was, under strict instructions from his mother, my enduringly patient wife, to go straight home with me. Of course, “straight” and “home” being left as somewhat ambiguous terms open to some interpretation by the two of us, it is no surprise we led each other astray.

On this occasion, he and I, left unsupervised, ended up in yet another fine establishment known as the “Orange Monkey” flipping through old albums. A cool turntable that Graham had had his eye on found its way to our home, as did a Jimi Hendrix album. Immediately when we got home, I dug out my old Yamaha Amp and a set of old bookshelf speakers we had laying around. A few twists of a wire here and a couple adjustments to a sticky old volume knob and we were in business!

Ten, fifteen, twenty years? How every many it has been, it has been TOO long. The sound, the crackle, the hiss! I had forgotten the organic, kinesthetic feel of music played on a turntable. I actually almost teared up when my 17 year old son asked me ” show me how you know where the next song starts…” We listened to different albums from my collection all evening! What a gift sent to me from the old “Gods of Vinyl”.

It got me to thinking about all the things that have changed since we listened to LP’s on a regular basis. The social aspects surrounding the ceremonial unwrapping of the new vinyl, the exploration of the cool album cover and, the possibility of discovering that the record sleeve had been adorned with graphic details of the bands tours, lyrics or antics as well. The group sitting around listening, chatting, laughing. The friend, that friend – you know – that could NEVER lift the needle without the scratch sound, the others who blushed at reading what the real lyrics were to the song they had been “singing” at the top of their lungs. All of it. Gone. Not in one fell swoop, but more of a fading, a general dissolution of a rite of passage and in a time now lost. It made me sad.

I started thinking of all the other things that have changed. Graham and I had a great discussion about all of them and reflected on the impacts of things from only being able to find a certain type of commodity at “Big Box” stores, to building inspectors that have never been “builders” in the field, to kids wearing “concert t-shirts” for bands who’s members were dead, long before the kid was born. Believe me, the conversation, like this blog, went everywhere.

I will save you the “LP” version and get to the point.

As time changes, we have upped the “volume” and killed the “experience”. Remember back when cars used to LOOK different, you had no idea what a band looked like unless you saw their album cover or had seen them live and you really could taste the difference between domestic beers? It was the “experience” that let to the enjoyment. Although the legitimacy of those experiences still exists, it is admittedly more watered down now by trends and fashions that make everything look and taste and, to some extent, sound, the same. The good news is, there is a whole new generation out there that have never had the opportunity to build a bird house for themselves that wasn’t from an insultingly easy to follow pattern kit at the local Big Home store. They haven’t heard the crystal clear pop and hiss of a cool LP on the turntable. They have yet to discover the joy of sitting around and listening to music while crowding around an album cover. Forget booking some virtual trip somewhere or downloading some music your kid likes and trying to meld in to their scheme. Get out there and buy a crappy old amp, a nice belt drive turntable, dust off some old speakers and spin some vinyl like the old days! Your kids will think you’re a super-hero! Then you can sit back and tell them about how the needle works, reflect on the damage done, and talk about where to go from here….