Dermot Lane recalls the excitement and pleasure he got from collecting vinyl records, the first time around!
Dropping the needle gently into the groove of a new record for the first time is an almost lost pleasure these days. The first playing of a new vinyl record was, for me at any rate, the culmination of a series of events which began with the saving up of pocket money.
With funds finally gathered, and against a background of parental disapproval for wasting money on frivolities, there came the big decision of what record to buy.
If it was a single, the choice was straightforward enough. I had my favourites: Slade, T Rex and David Bowie. If any of these acts had a new single out, it immediately zoomed to the top of my wants list, a new entry at number one in my own personal chart.
And yes, my friend Dave and I did have our own personal charts, which we compiled weekly in our copy books, sat in the back row of Mr. Doody’s Irish class.
One week’s pocket money was almost sufficient to cover the cost of a single plus the bus fare in and out of town. On one memorable occasion, when paying for a record, I was surprised by an outrageous five pence increase in the asking price.
I had exactly enough money in my pocket for the expected cost of the record and the journey home. The price increase wiped out my bus fare. I bought the record anyway and walked home.
If the object of desire was an LP, it could take weeks to accrue the necessary funds. Many a Saturday was spent haunting the record shops, flipping longingly through row after row of unattainable records, before happily, on those rare occasions where the finances were sufficiently in place, bringing the final selection to the counter.
The LP, or album, if you wanted to be posh about it, would be opened on the bus home and removed from the bag to have a closer look at the cover art and peruse the sleeve notes.
Of course, this also presented an opportunity to demonstrate to the other passengers that I was a cool dude and had great taste in music. (Mind you, and don’t tell anyone this, the first single I bought was Seaside Shuffle by Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs. Oh the shame!).
In these days of instant downloads and the constant availability of music on TV and radio, it’s probably hard for some to imagine how special it was – how big an event it was – to buy a record and bring it home, then – making sure to only hold it by the edges – carefully placing it on the turntable and lowering the stylus into the first silent grooves.
Such ritualistic reverence could never be afforded to a CD, a piece of generic mass produced plastic, pretty perhaps, but with no soul, minimal cover art and sleeves notes printed in such a miniscule typeface as to be virtually unreadable without the aid of an electron microscope. And don’t start me on digital downloads.
It used to be a matter of pride how many albums one owned. A record collection was something to be proud of, to boast about at school, to be displayed and played for visitors. You can’t really do those things with an MP3 file on your iPod, now can you?
I mean, do you even own that record, or song or whatever it’s called, after you download it? And what’s on the B-side of Lady GaGA’s latest release? I rest my case.
Something has been lost, and I don’t just mean B-sides and record shops. Maybe it’s just me, but the magic is gone out of buying music. Sure, I buy CD’s and occasionally I even download songs. But there is something special about browsing in a record store, in a shop with like minded people, with music playing loudly on the speakers, knowing that most of the records in front of you are unattainable, but yet gaining immense pleasure in finding the one you want and bringing it home.
I hear vinyl is making something of a comeback lately. Maybe this is just a fad, another fashion to be followed by the X-Factor generation. But maybe, just maybe, people are rediscovering the magic and uniqueness of vinyl, the substantial feel of it and the lovely warm rich sound it gives.
Or maybe after all it is just me, a kid who never grew up.