By Samir Shukla
The loss of musical fidelity while listening to digitally delivered music is palpable. Unless you are listening to uncompressed files on a recording studio stereo system, there’s a level of warmth and subtlety missing in the sound that CDs and streaming music deliver. It’s an old complaint of long-time music listeners. The transportability of digital music, the vast storage capacity and multi-media aspect of digital devices trump records, to be sure. But the richness of sound is where the old-school records still matter. The presentation of artwork on large format record covers and gatefold covers are mini posters of the musician or band’s artistic vision.
Most people have written off records. They wear out, get scratchy, or warp in the heat. I owned an independent record store for a dozen years from 1987-1999. It was the era of vinyl with CDs slowly elbowing their way into the mix. By the time I sold the store, CDs had overtaken vinyl, and especially cassettes, as the prime mode of musical delivery. But sound enthusiasts never gave up on vinyl. It was kept alive in specialty stores and at collector record shows.
Well, there’s good news for vinyl lovers as they’ve been making a comeback of sorts for the past several years. Records have reentered the discourse of recorded music. Of course, records never went away. There are millions and millions of old records still floating around. Since the advent of CDs and streaming music, they’ve been relegated to specialty markets.
The astonishing thing is that youngsters, the digital generation, are rediscovering one of the oldest modes of recorded music. Most record labels are now releasing limited amounts of new vinyl, including new recordings as well as reissues of old favorites, to feed the resurgent appetite for vinyl.
Stroll into a nearby independent record store one of these days. There aren’t too many left, but, yes, they still exist. Spend some time listening to vinyl that they’re probably cranking on the store’s stereo system. You’ll hear the difference. It’s no snobbish love here. Records have warmth of sound, even if a bit scratchy, over the sound of CDs, MP3s or streaming music.
So now there’s a day to celebrate vinyl. A new holiday, if you will. It’s called Record Store Day. This year Record Store Day is set for April 18.
It’s a celebration of music, the culture of independent records stores, and most importantly records. Those fine vinyl slabs still impress musical enlightenment.
According to the organizers’ website, “Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding independently owned record stores in the United States and many similar brethren around the world. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.” It has been held on the third Saturday in April since 2008.
“This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008.”
There’s even a Record Store Day Ambassador. This year it is the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.
Here’s Grohl pontificating on the Record Store Day website. “I found my calling in the back bin of a dark, dusty record store. 1975’s K-Tel’s Blockbuster 20 Original Hits by the original Stars featuring Alice Cooper, War, Kool and the Gang, Average White Band and many more, bought at a small record shop in my suburban Virginia neighborhood, it was this record that changed my life and made me want to become a musician. The second that I heard Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” kick in, I was hooked. My life had been changed forever. This was the first day of the rest of my life. More recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rediscover this sense of excitement, that magical feeling of finding something all one’s own, by watching my kids go through it. Watching them realize how crucial and intertwined every part of this experience is, I relive the magic of my earliest experiences with vinyl singles and albums, their artwork, liners notes etc. all over again and again. I believe that the power of the record store to inspire is still alive and well, and that their importance to our next generation of musicians is crucial.”
Find the full statement from Grohl, along with his special Record Store Day video, participating record stores and more at www.recordstoreday.com.