A weekend with vinyl is a weekend well spent, in my humble opinion. My ideal weekend always involves looking through record stacks in music or thrift shops, then listening to my discoveries. Records are finely crafted works of art that contain sounds and words from past and present and have brought me great pleasure for over a decade now. I am hopelessly devoted to music, and I truly feel that vinyl offers the listener the richest, most meaningful experience. So here's the first and most important reason to ride the vinyl train: record recordings are AWESOME- crackles and all.
Like any worthy pastime, aficionados of vinyl speak their own language. LP stands for 'Long Play', which is a 12-inch record of album length. 45's are smaller records that spin at a faster rate than an LP, and are also referred to as 'singles'. The numbers relate to the RPMS (revolutions per minute) that the record spins at. BEWARE, vinyl-hounds: if you play an LP at 45 RPM, then it will sound like the chipmunks. Unless you are playing a Chipmunks record, that is. If you are new to the word of records, then reading up on the basics would be time well spent. Click here for a guide I found earlier.
3. Unfold a work of art
Unlike more recent music forms such as iTunes and Spotify, you can hold a record in your hands, and read about the mechanics and makings of the sounds. Album art in LPs is beautiful and very often the sleeve notes in the two-fold covers is a joy to behold. My records of choice are often salvaged from charity or thrift stores and from the folk, rock and classical genres. Open up an LP and you will find all manner of strangeness and surprises, such as this photograph of guitar virtuoso Julian Bream battling John Williams at a game of Ping- Pong:
A word of warning here. Record collecting is a powerfully addictive activity. I began collecting when I literally stumbled over a folk LP at a Car Boot sale, and I now own over a thousand records with no intention of stopping. There is a wonderful satisfaction in creating a collection of sounds and I feel very proud of my records. Among my most prized record possessions are the contemporary folk albums that enrich my ears and heart. Like many modern LP 'pressings' (which mean issues or releases), they are made from heavyweight material and sound wonderfully deep and resonant. I love listening to older records, but time and treatment can literally warp the delicate grooves of LPs, whereas new vinyl is both crisp and clear. Here's a trio of folk greats:
Three Wise Men: the folk giants Chris Wood, Martin Simpson and Richard Thompson.
In a world where we can carry thousands of albums in the palm of our hands via phones and iPods, there is something deeply satisfying about holding a record in your hands and creating a collection. The spark of my love for records came from my Dad, who is an expert at finding unusual records in unlikely places. My growing collection will one day be taken up by my son, who bought his first record last weekend (at the tender age of 5 and a half). Despite using old technology to be heard, there is a timelessness to vinyl that I shall always love and I never tire of records. So why not invest some time and effort in vinyl land? You will not regret it.
A family tree of records. My Dire Straits time capsule.