The Things We Pass Along

This is Day 22 in my 30-day blogging journey.

The “why” can be found on Day 1.

I remember walking into retail stores when I was a kid just to buy the 7 inch (45rpm) of a single that had been playing on the radio. 

Both of my parents loved music. 

Dad loved everything from Eric Clapton and The Beatles to Dan Fogelberg and Poco. 

Mom didn’t bother too much with the folk rock of the 70s but she loved anything she could dance to. Through her, there would be Bee Gees, Raspberries or David Bowie.

I was born in the 70s, raised in the 80s and I saw the decline of vinyl records as the popularity changed to cassettes. This would carry my fascination through most of the decade. 

My first cassette purchases were Guns N Roses, Dokken and Warlock (none of whom I still actively listen to…). 

Being the collector that I am, I was of an age where cassettes were more interesting to me than comic books or trading cards (both of which I tried to collect but music won out.) 

Then of course, compact discs came around. There was better sound, new hardware to purchase and a different medium to hold.

CDs were larger than cassettes yet smaller than records.

But something else changed as well, the way that artists recorded albums.

Listening to records was such an experience that many artists treated the double sided format as a way to present two separate experiences. Track listings were separated based on something of a concept: that Side A would start and end in a conscious sequence. Flip the record over and Side B would start and end as a different experience.

It begged the listener to stick around for the experience.

Of course, cassettes offered the same ability. Side A versus Side B, the journey continues.

However, compact discs where a different story. Now, you have one disc, no sides to flip, no concept except the first track to the last.

Then, of course, came mp3s.

Now, you had convenience and portability and the luxury of having singles without any fluff in between. Who needs an album when you can just take your favorite songs from an album or an artist to create a playlist?

Now, you’ve removed yourself from any intended artistic merit of listening to an album from front to back.

So, singles took over.

In the meantime, cassette sales took a backseat as did vinyl. So much so on the latter, that many vinyl pressing plants went belly up or sold their equipment overseas where the Europe and the UK could continue to press records and meet the demand.

Compact discs would gradually fade too.

None of these mediums left completely, they just became harder to find and less in demand.

But vinyl made a strange resurgence over the last several years.

It happened around the same time that streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and Pandora started to make names for themselves. On one hand you have the convenience of digital media but on the other, you lose the tactile experience of actually “holding” music and art in your hands.

Vinyl has become so big again in the US that the existing pressing plants have had difficulty over the last few years keeping up with releases.

There’s even the Record Store Day event which comes twice a year and not only helps artists by allowing first time prints of releases but also sought after reissues.

Not to mention, it’s a huge day for any mom-and-pop record store who participates.

My wife bought me a refurbished turntable several years ago and I started collecting records all over again.

It’s not convenient, it’s not cheap and it’s not practical.

But it’s fun.

And, it’s fun to be able to revisit my actions of 40 years ago, when I can grab a record, throw it on the turntable for Marissa, Jackson or Sebastian and enjoy the experience with them.

It “feels” different than streaming.

You actually have to engage with the experience. The records won’t play themselves. They won’t remain in the background like some curated streaming playlist.

And now, I get the experience of watching both of my sons enjoy something that I’ve been able to.

Sebastian has been adding to his collection, bit by bit and now Jackson is coming into the experience as well.

As parents, we pass a lot of things on to our children, some of which is intentional, some perhaps less so.

This experience is special for me.

To see my boys set the needle to a record, to stand back and hear that audible landing of the needle and to hear music come from those grooves…it’s a priceless thing to see.

Some trends you never expect to come back with the same vengeance that vinyl has.

But I’m not complaining.

Shout out to all the mom-and-pop record stores out there thriving and enjoying the resurgence. If you’re in the Akron area, make sure you show some love to Hollow Bone Records, Square Records and Time Traveler.