You don’t have to pay too much attention to the music industry to tell that vinyl records have made a comeback.
Everyone from Granger Smith to Bruno Mars is releasing limited edition vinyl pressings of their recent releases. Why? Because the market for records has seen a revitalization in recent years thanks in large part to our generation. Just as fashion cycles back, so too does preferred music platforms.
I could sit here and hash out plenty of theories as to why this is, but instead I’ve decided to share what I love about the vinyl experience.
1. The hunt
One of my favorite things about searching for vinyl is the hunt. Some people anxiously await deer hunting season to go out and bag themselves a buck. I anxiously await flipping through boxes and crates full of dusty records — and open season is everyday. My favorite “fishing holes” for vinyl are those that are either boxes of random unlabeled records or, at most, those separated by genre and then alphabet. For example, “Rock-A.”
Most of the newer stores I’ve perused, especially in bigger cities, are way too organized. Every artist has a slot, even if they only have one record. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find The Easybeats’ “Falling Off the Edge of the World” in a bin labeled ‘random shit’ or The Eagles “One of These Nights” in a plain cardboard box in the back of a storage building on Record Store Day.
Each time there was a sense of pure luck and accomplishment that, out of all the crates, I looked in the specific one with the record I’d been searching forever for. Sure, there is still a little rush when you calmly walk up to the tab labeled “Led Zeppelin,” and an original copy of “Led Zeppelin IV” is nestled in a record sleeve, but imagine if you found it right when you were about to give up. After endlessly flipping through stacks and boxes, bending low and reaching until you finally held your reward in your hands. Personally, I find that a whole lot more rewarding.
2. Vinyl album art goes beyond simply cover art
I have to mention the amazing world of album cover art. Why we ever decided to switch to CDs and their limited art potential, I have no idea. Show me a CD with the vision and subtlety of Neil Young’s “On the Beach” with the same floral pattern on the inside of the cardboard sleeve that is peeking out of the underside of the beach umbrella on the front. I don’t think an equal exists in the realm of CDs.
One of my favorite vinyl covers I own is “Some Girls” by The Rolling Stones. This album has a double layered cardboard sleeve. The first has old hairstyle ads in a row with the faces cut out, and the inner sleeve has various pictures of the bandmates with lipstick and eyeshadow that periodically fits into the cut outs. The track list on the back of the album is displayed as vintage bra ads. The amount of creative thought and marketing that went into the art for one vinyl album is the same as hundreds of CDs, in my opinion.
3. Vinyl records tell a story beyond the music
Vinyls are very tangible objects. They are 13 x 13 squares holding large black plastic that magically contains music. One of the reasons for the original move away from vinyl was its vulnerability. Fingerprints, water, a bump while you are playing it or even playing it too much can all conspire to introduce skips, pops and catches.
What you get with these skips, however, is a story about how it got there. Was your first child taking their first steps while Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright” was playing, and you accidentally hit the needle in disbelief? It’s now a memory you’ll think of fondly every time you play the record after that. Absolutely addicted to “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”? The warp of the record will remember.
Records are physical objects. Years down the road when your grandchildren ride up on their hover-bike and start looking through your stacks of dusty cardboard, you can tell them the story behind each. I can’t guarantee all of your iTunes playlists will still be accessible in the distant future, but your records won’t be.
Vinyl records are more than just old plastic circles. They hold memories of music and life. From the hunt, to marveling at the album artwork and endlessly playing my favorite tracks, these are only a few reasons why I will forever and always love vinyl. If you aren’t into the vinyl craze yet, perhaps give it a try. You may be surprised by what you find.