“It ain’t no joke when you lose your vinyl.”
– Afrika Bambaataa.
Ahh, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” by ELO on 12-inch fluorescent yellow vinyl, Styx’s’ “Paradise Theatre” with it’s artwork laser-etched into the album itself, and the Saturday trip to Sunrise Records (Walsall), and Reddingtons’ World of Records (Birmingham) to search for the latest Japanese imports by Genesis. Happy days.
And then this modern monstrosity called the CD cast its cold, soulless cloak over the land, condemning our beloved vinyl collections to the musical wasteland. Or so it was thought.
Despite our vigorously digital age, vinyl records are making a much overdue comeback. Vinyl sales are at their highest level for 15 years, according to figures from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Official Charts Company, with acts such as the Arctic Monkeys’ “AM” being the biggest selling vinyl album of the year, ahead of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and David Bowie’s The Next Day. The Official Charts Company has recognised this by launching new vinyl charts, with separate countdowns for singles and albums.
Pop-pickers, this much-anticipated revival is fascinating. “Shout” by Lulu (recorded in 1964) is at No 5 in the very first chart. (preceded by High Flying Birds, Arctic Monkeys, Zeppelin, Floyd), Jess Glynne, with Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Sia, Meghan Trainor closely in pursuit.
There are many reasons for this. A vinyl record is the cultural equivalent of a hardback, a completely all -encompassing experience that is incomparable to its digital counterpart. A vinyl record envelops you in much the same way as a book – once you’ve put a record on it dares you to walk away, or even to skip a track. Vinyl is, for artists and listeners alike, the cool dude of the musical arena.
Anyone can generate an mp3 track now – there are so many easy-to-use programmes like ProTools, Logic, et al, out there for would-be music-makers. Even a free app on a smartphone will generate an mp3 for you. But producing a vinyl product is another matter entirely.
A vinyl album including all its packaging is an object d’art; the artist expressing their uniqueness, giving an unrivalled feeling when viewed, smelt and felt – just as books do! It’s again fashionable to play vinyl, and is an indication of a resurgence of an active music listening culture. More engaging, involving looking after the record, the player, the needle, a bit of dusting perhaps, turning the record over every twenty minutes or so – all of this is much, much more fun than clicking “Download”.
It is also undeniable that vinyl just sounds better; more dynamic, and broader in depth of sound and dimension in music like nothing other. Also, everyone benefits – by buying vinyl, there’s a greater chance that a good portion of the money that we spend returns to the artist.
It’s surely a niche product – but it always will have enough fans to survive. Take up by the younger generation is increasing, with a growing fan base, so it’s definitely not just a nostalgic fad for the old fart demographic (i.e. me). In actuality, the main format that has stagnated and is heading for extinction is now the CD and whether the CD will survive is another question.
Vinyl will. Even though as I open Spotify on this laptop to catch up on the latest, I know it’s not going to sound great. But it’s convenient. And my beloved vinyl will always be there to deliver for me.