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The Magic Of Vinyl Records
To many people, especially people of my age group (baby boomers), there is something special, even magical about vinyl records. We grew up with them, played them in our rooms when we were kids on our portable record players, or maybe sometimes even on our parents' cabinet stereos. Everyone probably remembers the first record they bought, or one of the first.
I remember as a kid in the sixties rushing downtown every Saturday to check out the newest releases of 45's that I had heard on the radio. At that time, 45 rpm records cost 89 cents. Every week I'd come home with one or two new ones. I would listen to them over and over again until I knew the words and could sing along with them. By the time a was in my late teens I had quite a collection (which I lost years later in a fire).
Then, when I got a bit older I started buying lp's or albums as we called them. Usually, at first anyway, the only albums I bought were greatest hits collections so that I could have all a band's or singer's best songs on one record and play them all at once instead of having to change the record after every song. I remember having greatest hits albums by The Beach Boys, Elvis (who wasn't real popular in the sixties but I liked him), The Byrds, Paul Revere and The Raiders, and many others. Bands usually released an album every time they had a hit song, but there were usually only one or two good songs on it and the rest filler material so it was better to wait for the greatest hits lp to come out.
Then, towards the late sixties and into the early seventies things started to change. Bands started to make lp's that didn't have just one or two good songs, but a whole album of good songs. It started with the Beatles with albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver. Then, inspired by the Beatles, The Beach Boys put out Pet Sounds, another album of all good music. Then many other groups started doing the same thing. Not just groups , but singer songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and others. As a result, albums started becoming more popular than 45's.
When albums started to overtake 45's in popularity, another thing happened, people started listening to them on more sophisticated stereo equipment. It was one thing to hear Sgt. Pepper on a portable record player, but it was a whole other experience to listen to it on a good stereo system. Then as a result of people using better equipment to listen to their records, another thing happened. They started taking better care of their records. More sophisticated equipment would pick up any flaws in the record so people began to clean the records before they played them and when they put them away, would put them in their paper sleeve before putting them back in the cover. This is something almost no one did when they listened to records on portable record players. And stereos where records could be stacked on top of each other fell out of favour because this also damaged the records.
Playing a record became almost a ritual. You carefully take it out of the cover in its paper sleeve, remove it carefully from the sleeve by the edges, taking special care not to touch the grooves themselves, and place it gingerly on the turntable. Then, before playing it you would clean it with one of several different types of cleaners available at the time. The most popular type had a brush that you applied cleaning fluid to and then touched the brush to the record while it was spinning. This ritual made playing records much more of an experience than putting on a cd or turning on your iPod.
.Another special thing about albums or lp's, was the covers. Record covers were an art form in themselves. You could not only see a picture of your favorite group or singer on the front, but read something about them on the back. And bacause of the size of them, many times you could get extra things like photos or posters included inside the cover. This again, is something that is lacking with cd's and downloaded music.
Anyone who grew up listening to vinyl records knows there is something special about them. Many people still listen to them now, not just for nostalgia but because they enjoy the whole experience and also believe the sound quality is superior to modern technologies. It is also not only people who grew up with records that enjoy the whole experience of listening to them either, many young people have discovered the magic of records and prefer them over cd's and downloads. This is why records today are very popular and highly collectible. They have not lost their magic, and as younger generations discover them their popularity will only increase.