Independent Record Store Day
Over the years a disproportionate amount of my meagre savings has gone on records, bought from independent record shops wherever possible, and I am in full support of preserving them now they are under threat from the digital download. Being an anorak, I still prefer to consume my music via CD because I'm the kind of person who, apart from admiring the artwork, pores over the tiny print, reading all the information about composers, producers, studios, engineers and guest musicians and constructing arcane links between one piece of music and another. There is no record shop in Calne or Chippenham, the nearest to me being in Marlborough.
Oddly, the saviour of the record store at the moment seems to be the vinyl record. When I began buying records, the only alternative to vinyl was the open-reel tape album. There were on 3.75 ips twin-track tape and had been duplicated mechanically at such speed that they suffered badly from tape hiss and drop-out, had low dynamic range and sounded progressively duller and duller as they wore out. They were superceded by pre-recorded cassettes. These had a convenience factor but suffered from all the same problems, times one hundred. They were vile and unlisteneable.
I was never a fan of vinyl. I found it frustrating to hear the sharp snap of a needle landing on the vinyl, followed by the hiss of surface noise and rumble from the turntable, which was audible under the recorded tune. Every time one played a record, it had more aural damage than the time before.
After the advent of the CD, vinyl hi-fi buffs would occasionally show off their expensive kit to me, enthusing about the warmth of the analogue sound and the dynamic range, but their equipment showed up even more clearly all the excruciating surface noise and unwanted sybillance, often beyond the threshold of actual pain as far as I was concerned. They seemed to overlook that their vinyl record had been mastered and cut from a high-quality multi-track state-of-the-art tape, and that any extra warmth was the side-effect of an imperfect transfer. The first generation CDs were often badly mastered but even so they were vastly superior to any vinyl or pre-recorded tape to my over-sensitive ears.
The great man John Peel defended vinyl with the observation that "Life has surface noise". Indeed it has; it has noise leaking through party walls, barking dogs, leaking earphones on buses and trains, crying babies in supermarkets, rattling skateboards crash-landing on pavements, the over-loud walk-now beep of a pedestrian crossing. These are surface noises without which my life would be immeasurably better, but perhaps that's just me.
Since the introduction of the CD I have gradually been replacing my vinyl record collection with digital versions, largely funded through trading them in at the Music And Video Exchange. It was the music I was acquiring, not the format. However, there are a few records I am loathe to part with, including these four. All of the music on these records I do now also have on CD or on mini-disc from a CD source, with the exception of Annette Peacock's wonderful I'm The One album (catching all the reflections in this picture), which is shortly to be released on CD for the first time.
Joy Of A Toy was the first solo album by Kevin Ayers after he left the Soft Machine, and the artwork seemed to capture its mood and the mood of the times. In that respect, the generous 12" by 12" format of the LP was the one distinct advantage the format had over its smaller successors.
United States Live is a box set of her 1983 tour project, which I witnessed at the time over two magical nights at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. The Fabulous Ronettes is still possibly my all-time favourite album and I think is the first album I ever bought, back in 1964, involving a special train journey from Four Oaks to Birmingham to buy, as I remember.
Lens: Pentax 18-55mm
Consecutive Blip #382
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Vinyl records spin back into vogue
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