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  • Writer's pictureGuy G. Gorman

Old Friends

This is somewhat less than half of my record collection.  (That doesn't include CDs, cassettes [Yes, cassettes], 45s, 78s [Yes, those too], or mp3s. It's hardly an exceptional collection size-wise, but it's significant enough that friends who recently helped me move ribbed me about not having discovered Spotify yet.

I've almost finally reorganized them and am loving getting reacquainted with my old friends.

LPs are "it" for me. I don't know what it is, but I just can't get excited about the other media.

Never could.

I never bought into what for me was an obvious scam when CDs were introduced in the mid 80s--a cheaper-to-produce format at a higher price.

Cassettes never sounded great (But I think high fidelity is overrated too). They are very convenient. I still spend many happy hours listening to them on my Walkman. (Yes, I have a REAL Walkman!)

78s are a highly underrated medium.  The electrically recorded ones from the 40s and 50s sound a lot better than you'd expect--even on a completely mechanical player. And oh, that glorious monophonic! 

45s for me are a novelty. Kinda fun.  Inconvenient.

Mp3s are just computer files, completely devoid of any romance or life.


I have great music on all these formats.

So what is it about LPs that stirs my soul?

Nostalgia is definitely a part.  I remember where and when I bought many of them: "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell and the Voidoids was in the cutout bin at Infinity Records, a converted movie theater, in Monroeville, PA.  I remember the excitement and anticipation when I first heard "London Calling" on the radio. "Just Rockin' & Rollin" by Ronnie Dawson was on display at Tower Records at Willow Lawn shopping center in Richmond, Virginia.  It piqued my curiosity and I later bought it at the stupendous Plan 9. 

I remember my state of mind when I was listening to many of them: I remember as a preschooler bouncing on the couch Saturday mornings with "Meet the Beatles," "Calypso" by Harry Belafonte,  and "Dance and Sing Mother Goose--Mother Goose with a Beatle Beat." I remember as a teenager in our basement family room pondering the meaning of life for hours while listening to "Who's Next," "Exile on Main Street," "Hendrix in the West" and "Road to Ruin" by the Ramones.  Sometimes I sat in the dark and stared into an orange, glowing fireplace.  I ALWAYS rocked in my chair.

It's more than that, though.  LP covers are famous as an art form.  One can buy huge coffee table books of album art.  Some covers are iconic: "Meet the Beatles," "Sgt. Pepper's," (The Beatles have a special place here), "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," "Led Zeppelin," "London Calling," I could go on and on.  Even mediocre LP covers are enjoyable. There is a special joy in flipping through albums in the record bins. How many of us have bought LP's for the art alone?  The medium is so compelling that Facebook pages are devoted to album cover art--good and bad!

For CDs, cassettes, or mp3s, I can think of one: "Nevermind" by Nirvana, which I think was released primarily as a CD.

Liner notes (or back cover notes) were an art form too. The hoopla about "the big beat sound of that fantastic, phenomenal foursome,"  "We hope that this album gets you OUT OF your HEADS," or "It's the classic tale of most inspired performers" helped us appreciate the music just that much more.  The notes were considered so important that they were usually credited.

LP's are great for conveying straight information too.  Think songwriting credits on the label or inner sleeve, or back cover.  Much of my early musicological research was done by discovering songwriting credits on the label and then going out and buying albums by the songwriters. What LP lover, hasn't spent many an afternoon staring at a cover or inner sleeve deciphering cryptic lyrics, especially as a teen?

LP's sound pretty darned great.  The reason CDs sounded so good to us when they first came out is that the music was recorded on more modern equipment.  The LP's of today are recorded digitally and are just as phonically impressive.  But what about scratches and surfaces noise?  They add a pleasure of their own. My girlfriend and I were listening to Schubert recently over dinner.  We agreed that the pops and scratches actually enhanced our experience, transporting us to a bygone era.

In fact I appreciate LP's more because they are fragile.  It makes them more precious and special.  The whole process of listening to an LP is like a sacred ritual. They must be handled carefully, especially the old ones that shatter easily.  If you're a little more serious, about them you make sure not to touch the edges. Those of us who are verging on fanatic even clean them every time we listen.  You even need to have a special place for the player.  Often you have to be careful about not stepping too hard in the vicinity of the turntable.

Some of my LP's have been with me as long as I can remember.  Some predate my appearance here and pass on wisdom and beauty from earlier times.  Some are newer acquaintances who keep me "up to date."  They've cheered me up in good times and bad.  I've learned from them.  As with any friendship, they must be treated with care.

Oh, the joy of spending time with old friends! 

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