I was born in 1981. That makes me 31 years old. I was born in a time when the only way you could hear music was to turn on the radio, and sit by that radio for hours hoping that the song you were hoping to listen to would be played. It was a time when you would watch your favorite music channel on TV and hope that the song you wanted to hear would make it to the top 20 of the week, or if not, that it would be played somehow. That’s how it was back that. Not that long ago… I’m talking about the 90’s.
It was a time when I decided on a rule: if an album was released by an artist, I would wait until at least three singles were released from that album; if they were good, then I would buy that album. That’s how it used to be.
That’s how I first fell in love with Aerosmith. It was 1997. I had always known their music, but until Nine Lives was released, I never really paid that much attention to them. Once Pink was released, and after I had fallen in love with Hole in my Soul and Falling In Love I Hard on the Knees , it was decided: I had to buy this album. And by album, I mean the CD.
Enter: Columbia House. Remember them? You would get their pamphlet in the mail; buy 11 CD’s for a dollar, then you were bound to buy another 10 at regular price over the course of two years, or something like that?
I was on a slippery slope: the CD. That expensive, compact, convenient music format that we all bought into. I remember the first CD player I bought cost me almost 150 bucks. It was a slick, thin little Sony CD player. It was that thing you had to buy if you wanted to listen to your music outside of the house.
The exact moment in time when my love of vinyl blossomed is unclear to me. All I remember is that at some point, I wanted to buy the original vinyl records of the very expensive and hard to find CD versions of the Aerosmith album collection I had begun to amass.
So I picked up the phone book (yes, a phonebook) and I called a few places (yes, I used a telephone) and started going around town to the few places (at the time) that still carried vinyl records. The first place I called said that yes, they had a few Aerosmith albums. The person on the other end, after having asked him how much they were, said “They cost 3, 7, and 4.” At first I thought $30, $40, and $70. I knew nothing about records then. To me they were collectibles, relics, prized items. I expected the price to be high… It turned out he meant 3, 4 and 7.. dollars. EACH. Suddenly I was introduced to an affordable and much more fun alternative to CD’s: VINYL RECORDS.
Back then the availability of vinyl records in this city was scarce. If you were lucky, HMV would carry a couple dozen vinyl records, but they were always mixed in with the CD’s. You see, vinyl records never died off in the United Kingdom, but in the rest of the world they had, so the bulk of my collection had to be flown in from overseas. Amazon also carried vinyl records, so they were (and still are) a great source for vinyl. I can’t tell you how many records I bought at $9.99 while their CD counterparts sold for $25. Many of these records sell for $100+ on eBay today since these first issue pressings have now become collectibles. What about those $25 CD’s? You’re lucky if you can get 25 cents for them.
Things are much different today. Entire walls or even rooms in music stores are now devoted to the supply of vinyl records. In a strange twist of fate, the mp3 has made the CD obsolete, yet created a place for the vinyl record to once again take center stage. Hipsters seem to love the stuff, and even clothing chops like Urban Outfitters carry an impressive collection of vinyl. You can even find record players being sold everywhere, many of them that now connect to computers via USB. This is a sign that the vinyl record is back and here to stay. I couldn’t be happier!
My current quest is to obtain vinyl copies of all the albums I’ve fallen in love with over the years. Thanks to the vinyl renaissance, we are living a period of vinyl reissues. Many artists recognize the importance of the vinyl record, most notably Eddie Vedder and Billy Corgan. I don’t know what’s going on with the Pearl Jam reissues but they are not happening anymore it seems and that makes me very sad, but The Smashing Pumpkins back-catalog is seeing the light of day, and what’s being produced is impressive. Last year alone, along with a new Album, Oceania, we saw the re-issuance of Pisces Iscariot and …. and…. at long last, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness; The best vinyl reissue in my opinion to date. Housed in a beautiful box, spread out onto four discs and including two full-page color booklets, it had re-affirmed not only my love of vinyl but the importance of the physical musical medium: an album was meant to be heard being played on a turntable, while sprawled out on the floor or couch or bed reading the lyrics as the record plays. Not as an mp3 on your way to work on a noisy bus, and not though a fan made YouTube video. This is not how music was meant to experienced. Music is something that you should be able to pick up, tear the shrink wrap off of, place on a turn table, and devour. Bon appetit! -This Is Orson Welles.