Vinyl Update

The day before New Year’s Eve, I wrote about a promise I’d made to my son a year earlier and hadn’t kept, a promise to buy a turntable so that he could explore the 200 or so vinyl records I had stored in our basement, records that hadn’t been touched in 15 years.

Finally, I have news:

  • Bought used direct drive turntable at Goodwill for $20
  • Via the interwebs, bought new stylus from some small company in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, just 30 miles east of where I grew up
  • Bought used stereo receiver/amp and two speakers from a guy on Craigslist
  • Installed the new stylus when it arrived
  • Julian took out the vintage copy of The Who’s Quadrophenia that he received for his birthday back in October
  • He pulled the first album of the two-album set out of its sleeve, carefully handling the record by its edges as I’d shown him, placed it down on the platter, lifted the tone arm, lowered the stylus slowly into the vinyl grooves and…

…it sounded REALLY, REALLY good!

Julian’s fascination with all this lies mostly in the overt mechanical nature of the technology. After having been raised with CDs and DVDs that spin out of sight and iPods that don’t spin at all, there is something magical about how that tiny needle can produce sound by traveling in those tiny grooves in a piece of black plastic.

But for me, it sounded REALLY, REALLY good because there is a distinctly different sonic quality between vinyl and digital, vinyl having a quality that I immediately recognized, a quality with another kind of magic, a powerful magic that made my mind drift quickly back in time, to my bedroom in our house 30 miles west of that small company in Monmouth Beach, where I played that very same record for the first time, a record that made me feel less alone in my coming of age struggles.

As The Who rocked the new turntable, I sat by Julian as he flipped through the three milk crates full of albums, taking in the cover art, asking me if I think he’d like this or that, and I found, surprisingly, that I didn’t want to say much, didn’t want to nudge him in any direction other than that of his own fancy.

And, a little while later, as I sat reading in an adjacent room, Quadrophenia came to an end, I waited to hear what Julian, left to decide for himself, would choose as a follow up, and a huge smile came over my face as I listened to the opening crunchy guitar of Know Your Rights from The Clash’s Combat Rock.

The boy has good taste. 🙂

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