It's All Mine
I turn on my receiver and listen to that warm hum while I turn up the volume to -3 decibels. I flip Al Green’s Still In Love With You album over in my hands. I pull the plastic sleeve from the cardboard cover. I hold the record between both of my index fingers and eye it’s surface. I set the record on my turntable and set the needle down, gently. There is that familiar low static and repetitive clicking as it enters the grooves. A wave of sound comes out of my speakers. I close my eyes and stand up as I listen to the velvet voice of the Reverend Al Green. I grab my computer and watch the record spin as I jump back to Jeff and I, heading to Deep Groove.
I skim through the movie soundtracks and world music sections. I stop at the Jazz section and heavily consider a very clean copy of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. I don’t spend much time in Jazz. I have never been much of a Jazz fan. Blame it on the smooth Jazz hits of the late '80s and early '90s. I can’t think about it without thinking of goofy haired horned players. I also have a distaste for most Jazz fans and their habit of talking in onomonopia. I admit I should not hold the sins of admirers against an entire genre, but I struggle nonetheless.
I take a long time to sift through the Blues and Soul sections. My first love in this life was the Blues which gave way to a love of Soul music. That is followed closely by a love of early Hip Hop music but my feelings on the downfall of hip hop would take up the rest of this article. I reach the Rock section and I take a moment to look around the shop. I am always so focused on the records, I rarely look around. There are posters covering nearly every inch of the walls. There are turntables old and new for sale. There are record brushes and headphones on shelves. I look over and see Jeff checking his angles and snapping away. I barely notice him when we are out. He moves like a predator. Hunting and capturing the images he wants and leaving the rest undisturbed.
I turn back to the sea of vinyl in front of me. These bins make up the largest portion of the store. There are great Rock finds from the halcyon days of mind bending solos and the sweet sound of young songbirds who are now withered or gone. You can also come across new records, still sealed in plastic and 180 gram weight. They have never met a needle. They have not yet flowed out of speakers to someone’s ears. There has been a reemergence of vinyl since digital downloads became in vogue. Most modern albums give you a free download after you buy the vinyl. For myself, this is the perfect compartmentalization for my love of music. You have a physical copy in vinyl with all the rights and privileges that provides. Then you have your digital copy for your convenience on adventures.
There has been a surge for vinyl with the support of some well known artist. This culminates in Record Store Day every April 19th. Record Store Day is my new Christmas. You will find deals, box sets, special releases, and free records. For me, the argument for vinyl is fairly compelling.
I turn the albums over in my hands. I feel satisfied enough to checkout. I set the albums across the glass counter. The albums pass over the ticket stubs from hundreds of shows. Jay flips through, adding the prices. He adds in tax as I look past him to the albums autographed to him from various bands. He smiles and tilts his head up as he tells me the total. I give him my card and pull out my notepad. Jay rarely says more than he has to, even less when you are attempting to take notes. You have to get him in an organic conversation on something other than himself. Ask him about session guitarist, or the studio of Jimmy Cliff, or Bruce Springsteen. Anything beyond his own shop.
I do ask why he has a vinyl shop. He tells me he grew up on the 12 inch. It is what he knows. He says it has nothing to do with the sound quality. The argument for vinyl versus digital compression is compelling but I agree doesn’t make much difference if you don’t have a system to support it.
Jeff has put his camera back into his bag. We are saying our goodbyes and heading for the door as Jay adds a few last words. He takes off the glasses that sit on the end of his nose and looks across the store. He says he had to stop personally collecting. Jeff and I hasten for a moment. He looks back and says with a half smile, "In a way, they’re all mine. It is just about sharing it now.” Jeff and I look to one another. We smile and thank him again as we head out of the door and out of the warmth of the shop.
Those last words hang in my head. There is something so comforting about feeling less like we are owners and more so caretakers of the music. I don’t have a collection of vinyl for myself only. It is to be enjoyed with others. I started in vinyl listening to my father’s albums, then with my friend Blair who introduced me to collecting. A love of music and more specifically the sharing of it is one of the few things I have inherited from my family beyond a strict adherence to social obligation, high blood pressure, and alcoholic tendencies.
The sharing of music really what it is all about. Sharing the sound, the cover art, the inserts, and the memories they bring. I am warmed by the thought that I am carrying on the stewardship of sound contained these records. Jeff tells me he thinks he needs a turntable. I smile and think of a few albums to start his collection.