A Record Year

This Christmas, I bought a record player. A record record record player. This summer, I made fun of a frontsman for a band over drinks for being "totally Portland" and listening to music on vinyl using his parents' record player. Sorry Peter.

I love my new musical medium, and it's amazing to turn on the player and have to do something to make the music start other than pushing a button. I'm understanding what a lot of people have mentioned to me for a long time: music is a ritual, the record player helps this along. Many of my favorite bands, including Over the Rhine and The Civil Wars, have released their new albums on vinyl. I wanted to regain that beauty of sitting around with a bottle of wine and some good conversation and listening to records. I hope for many wonderful nights of music appreciation with friends.

Although I love the romance of the record, and I'm not yet tired of watching the needle lift off the disc at the end of one side and go back to its place to the side of the turntable, the process has not been without a learning curve.

When we still had a family record player, I was using it to learn phonics. We had an entire phonics curriculum on records with books that went along with them. If only we still had them, I could play them now.

I was never allowed to touch the player or the records as a kid, so when the giant box with my turntable showed up at my doorstep, I called my mother to help me figure out how to play the one record I then owned. She showed me how to place the needle on the right place on the record without bumping it with my finger and causing a squeaking sound. This is harder than I thought. All of these explanations meant nothing, however, in the face of my new challenge, playing the new, fun-size record I found on ebay. It was small, it was put out by the Civil Wars and it came in the mail looking shiny and new. I put it on the turntable, started it up and placed the needle gently on the record before it hit the track. I waited with great anticipation for the music to start. It did, a little slower than I expected. The singer started singing. I wondered who was guest-performing with the Civil Wars. I had never heard this voice. The song was a Jackson Five cover, but I knew that they had sung the same song with a more bouncy tempo, it couldn't be the original. It sounded strange. My thought was that maybe they found some wonderful great performer, someone I'm too mainstream to know about, and recorded the song with him. He probably smoked a pack a day and was pretty drunk at the time of this recording. It was only available on this tiny piece of vinyl. The song was almost over and I was pretty disappointed. I had really been looking forward to hearing this track and it sounded so wrong, so unlike what I wanted out of my record player.

Then, I found the switch that turned the speed from 33 and 1/2 to 45.

You wouldn't believe the difference.