Saturday, April 16, 2011

This Time, In Praise of Records

Maybe because everything is so fast moving and disposable in our modern age, many people are looking to the classics for comfort. Typewriters to defy our upgrading-obsessed world. Letters to record our thoughts in ink that cannot be erased by "delete." Vintage clothes that have lasted decades, while many cheaply made clothes of today fade after a few washes.

There's something about spending an evening at home listening to vinyl records that is so inviting. Unlike with an iPod which you can take anywhere, a vinyl forces you to be in the moment. Savor it while you can. Sit, lie, or dance to the music. You can be transported back in time. In a Golden Girls episode, Dorothy asks Blanche if she's donated to charity and Blanche says, yes, she bought a copy of the We Are the World album in 1985. Who didn't? I try not to romanticize any era too much (each time has its positives and negatives), but wouldn't it be nice to be in more innocent times? Before words like "sexting" was in teens' regular dialogue? When sweethearts grabbed for each other's hands and not a gadget on a date? No matter how fast and convenient a download can be, it cannot compete with flipping through the liner notes on a record and admiring the art.

Today, April 16, is National Record Store Day. I stopped in at my favorite shop, Music Merchant in Westwood, New Jersey, which I've been patronizing since I was a teenager. Do you patronize any record shops, or have in the past and miss doing so? As of late, I've be browsing thrift shops as well for steals on records.

These timeless albums, Carpenters and The Sound of Music, were part of two crates of records found disposed of by the curbside many months ago. Countless gems were in the collection, from the Gigi soundtrack to Elvis Presley.
Aren't we forgetting about and throwing away so much that is great about American culture? When it was less about gimmicks and shock value (ahem, Lady GaGa). When it was just about the music, and an entire album was worth listening to, not just a download? When we didn't hear "tweets" from our favorite singers except their actual singing, and didn't take out our music to drown out other sounds of technology (like people's distracting cell phone conversations)?

I also love the community feel of record shops, book stores, the library and the like, with their more personal, human connection which we all need, over the online alternatives (Amazon, Netflix, etc.) The shop owners and librarians know me by name. That cannot be said of a computer.

The song was so right, the times they are a-changing. Change is constant. But we can tailor the times to a world we want for ourselves. I'm so glad records are part of mine.

Now, a night with Simon & Garfunkel awaits.


  1. Love Simon & Garfunkel! There's rarely an occasion where listening to some Simon & Garfunkel won't make me feel better.

    We don't have a record player (though we did borrow Jason's dad's recently), but we used to love strolling through our local music store. They carried an unbelievable amount of CDs and records, ranging from the mainstream to the obscure. We often left much poorer than when we went in, but we always enjoyed the experience. I'm writing this in past tense because over the years this particular music store has begun carrying more Justin Bieber, random t-shirts, and gag gifts than music. Sigh. It's so sad to me that stores feel like they need to sell out to be successful, when there are people (like me!) who are willing to pay a premium for quality products. Like our fabulous local bookstore, which sells almost exclusively good literature and thoughtful books.

    Okay, I kind of went on a tangent there. :-)

  2. Hi Cate. Tangents, thoughts, musings…all welcome here from one and all!

    Quite embarrassingly, I only recently saw The Graduate and have become obsessed with their music. I feel like comedian Jim Gaffigan who said he sees films so much later and will go around saying, "I saw Heat last night" and people say, "I saw that over 10 years ago!" to which he replies, "But I want to talk about it NOW!!!"

    I'm very lucky to have these great indie record and book shops in suburban New Jersey, still thriving despite the mall competition. "Experience" is exactly right. I think art is worth supporting. And like great meals eaten and books read, music becomes part of the soul. Isn't the library great too for music exploration?

    Justin Bieber, I'm too old to get it. I'll be writing about teen idols soon.