It’s a confusing time to be a young record collector. All the hip kids are pirating thousands of digital tracks for free, gluttonously downloading years of listening time that they’ll likely never enjoy. The sole purpose of the CD has been reduced to something musicians’ girlfriends can sell at the merch table (well, it’s more like: “You like that hoodie? We’ll throw in the CD for free. Okay, just find us on facebook”). Cassettes are an ironic image to be printed on a t-shirt. And I actually have no idea how an 8-track works, but there’s a chick at the farmer’s market who makes furniture out of them. Essentially—and this is the modern crisis we face when it comes to all physical media—we’ve become poor consumers of music, unwilling to truly invest and truly listen, more concerned with quantity than quality.
A few years ago, in an attempt to infuse my life with some intentionality (see also: veganism, Skechers Shape-Ups), I bought a record player. Sony actually does a nice $99 turntable with a USB port so you can rip audio tracks from your vinyl. My dad donated an old Pioneer receiver he had in his garage and some speakers that work great, once I evicted the resident spiders. The whole set up sounds pretty good, considering that I have no AV powers. The first night that I sat in front of my speakers, spinning a Simon and Garfunkel album at a volume much greater than my computer can produce, I was struck by The Great Vinyl Truth—the thing you’re told over and over but never believe until the day you just realize—EVERYTHING SOUNDS BETTER ON A RECORD. There’s no comparison. Close your eyes and you can almost believe that the band is in the room with you, no drugs required, this is experience-enhancement at its best.
Of course, many of you know this. Have known this. You’re probably shaking your head at the sad state of today’s youth; twenty-two year old girl thinks she discovered the magic of vinyl. But I did, didn’t I? And against some pretty terrible odds. Vinyl, though seeing a little spike in popularity lately, is fetishized; tucked into a niche market along with typewriter repair and straight-razor shaving. People either do it because they’re old and inflexible or because they’re young and counter-culture. This doesn’t leave a generous space for those (and I suspect it’s actually a pretty big club) who simply love music, who want to hear great things and curate a well-rounded and intentional record collection. For this very reason, my first vinyl purchases were out of dollar bins at the thrift store (it takes a while to warm up to the $20 price tags on new, contemporary albums). It is why I have more than one Barbara Streisand record, the orchestral score to The Man of La Mancha, and a Best of The Lawrence Welk Show. They were cheap and I was confused--trying to apply my millennium consumption sensibilities to a measured, life-long pursuit.
We at Diesel are great proponents of physical media. We are library-builders, loaner-outers, and book-cuddlers. It is not lost on me that a society who forgets about vinyl is more likely to forget about books, eventually, someday. The reason I’ve got records on the brain (besides the fact that I just found a pristine pressing of ELO’s Out of the Blue), is that we recently announced the publication party for Michael Chabon’s latest, Telegraph Avenue, which is about the Bay Area vinyl scene. In conjunction with Chabon and Harper Collins, Diesel will be throwing quite the shindig on Wednesday, September 12th and the first 200 customers to pre-order a signed copy will get an invitation (for details, click here). That’s not the only reason I’m excited about vinyl today…but that’s a surprise for later so stay tuned.