THE RECORD PROFESSOR PART 1
WHO SAYS THAT VINYL IS ONLY FOR PEOPLE OVER 50?
As a college professor of media studies, I always love talking to students or potential students, and am always amazed at how higher tech they are becoming. So imagine my surprise when I advertised "records for sale" during my recent yard sale, and guess who lined up before the sale even started? That's right: Twenty-somethings, even younger, both male and female, all wanting to know more about that supposed out-dated subject of 45 rpm vinyl records.
I had plenty to sell. But I kept a lot, too. No way am I going to put out my Buddy Holly on the Decca label, or my Bill Haley and the Comets on Bill's home state of Texas Essex label. How about the Beatle album issued in the United States just before they became red hot: "Jolly What," a long-forgotten VJ label release of early Beatle material. The label, based in Chicago, had purchased only a few Beatle masters--including "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You"-- but the poor Chicago planners had no idea how to market the lads from Liverpool: The label didn't even have their pictures on the record cover--and just who was this Frank Ifield singer who occupied the other side of the LP? He was a VJ artist from England, too, so what the heck? Might as well put them both in one album (although Frank was really more like Robert Goulet) and see if anyone will buy this mishmash. Oh, and as far as the album cover goes, why not just put a drawing of some old English guy on the cover--not a Beatle, not even Frank himself. Just a primitive rendition of what the Brits were supposed to look like in 1963. This album in my collection is as mint as if it arrived in stores yesterday. No way was this going out in any yard sale.
But other records did go out. I didn't need another copy of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," so that was on the top of the stack, along with Jerry Lee Lewis' Sun Records version of a Chuck Berry classic, "Sweet Little Sixteen." (Jerry Lee really hadn't done that good a job on the session, it was and always has been Chuck's song, but I figured a yellow Sun Records label would get any would-be record collector's blood boiling.)
But guess what the students wanted to talk about? Not the latest machine being held by Steve Jobs, but about the great sound that comes, not from a CD version of a song, but from the original 45 issue itself. "It's what Paul Simon meant when he recorded 'Mrs. Robinson,'" one student enthused, so excited his words came out in a torrent. Actually, I think the engineer Roy Halee actually "recorded" that song, but who is going to argue? "The sound went directly from the microphone right to the vinyl acetate," the young man continued, "so what better way to hear the song just like it was in the studio?"
I always knew he was right. Play "Mrs. Robinson" on a Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits CD, and then play the original 45 on a record player. Guess what does NOT come out on the CD? The great drum line on the chorus ("And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more...") and the real soul of the driving sound on the record. While we're speaking about Simon and Garfunkel, go ahead and compare "The Boxer" on CD and then the record. When the drum "slap" hits during the chorus, it's like a wet noodle on CD, but a thunderclap on the record.
The kids and I spent the better part of an hour talking about the joys of record collecting, and how the superior nature of vinyl is finally being rediscovered by a whole new generation. Records are no longer for the junk heap--or a yard sale for that matter--but for the most discerning listener, the music consumers. And not to mention the artists themselves, like Kid Rock, who apparently prefer the vinyl approach to the digital.
I've been collecting records since 1960--remember "Let's Think About Livin'" by Bob Luman, "Cathy's Clown" by the Every Brothers, and "Lonely Teenager" by Dion (his first solo record since leaving the Belmonts)? They all came with picture sleeves (more about that in a later hub) and they were the first records I ever bought at a small store in Key West, Florida. Let's talk more about this beautiful subject in coming days and--oh, yeah--try to pass my quiz below. I am a college professor, after all.
WHO DID "THE TWIST" FIRST? CHOOSE ARTIST AND THE CORRECT LABEL
ATLANTIC (yellow label)