Vinyl Is Back! 8 Track Is Still Dead. . .

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in Missoula Montana. My room-mate Chuckles and I were bored so we hopped on our bikes to cruise the neighborhood for any good yard sales. We frequented yard sales. We were yard sale coneseurs, if you will. We’d lived together for four years and we had acquired quite a mass of junk from said sales. We liked to buy very cheap and very tacky items to put up around the house. My personal favorite was framed image of a squirrel sewn onto a piece of cardboard. Hey, we were in college, you understand.

Anyway, Missoula is a great place for both riding your bike and for yard sale-ing. It is a college town and college students are constantly moving in the summer, which of course is prime yard sale time. This moving process serves to create a healthy yard sale economy. Students moving in are always looking to buy and students moving out are always looking to sell. Non-college students eventually starting seeing potential for all the buyers and started chucking their old, unwanted junk out onto the lawn with price tags attached. This is exactly what Chuckles and I were counting on when we set off. We had nothing specific in mind for purchasing, but that day would end up being a day that changed my life for the better and forever.

It was our third or fourth yard sale of the day and we were feeling pretty burned out on the whole thing so it was probably going to be our last stop. I was off looking at someone’s old pogs and slammers when I heard the most beautiful thing. It was Creedence Clearwater. The yard sale proprietor quickly turned the volume down but Chuckles and I were already hovering over the source of the sound. It was magnificent! It was a record console with a vinyl player, 8-track player and AM/FM radio abilities. Chuckles asked the lady how much she wanted for it and she said $30. We were blown away. After asking why it was so cheap, she admitted that the only the AM/FM radio worked. The sound quality was great and we were sure he could get it fixed but we had no idea how much that would cost. Chuckles thought it over for a minute and said he’d give her $20 for it. She agreed but Chuckles realised he had no cash on him. This was my opportunity to sneak in and grab it. I am not one to miss great opportunities like this, even if it means stabbing the heart of a close friend. I reached in my pocket and handed her $20 while simultaneously apologizing to my friend. “But, hey,” I said, “We’re roomies! You can listen to it whenever you want!” Still feeling pretty bad about the whole thing, Chuckles and I went back to our house, got my truck and returned for it immediately.

This is not the console we found that day. Of course, mine is much more beautiful than this, but I am on the other side of the planet from my console at the moment so I had to resort to Google searching for the closest resemblance I could find. Remember, mine is much more beautiful than this.

It cost me $60 to get the record player fixed and I didn’t bother with the 8-track. Vinyl came back but I think the 8-track is dead for good. The radio can pick up stations in Colorado from Montana! That’s a long ways away. And I was even able to figure out how to plug my iPod into the thing.

It’s amazing. In my opinion, vinyl is so much better than digital. Digital makes the music sound more produced while vinyl creates a sound like actual instruments do. You feel like the band is there with you. You can hear the crackling and the imperfections, reminding you of the humans that made the music. Some people think that flipping the record is a hassle. I disagree. I think it is great to make the listener put a little effort into the listening experience. If you are not enjoying album enough to flip it, then the experience is over. But if you say, “Okay, it’s time for round two”, then you know the record’s a keeper. Sure the storage of a vinyl is considerably more space-consuming than the memory space required for a digital. And of course you can’t take a vinyl to the gym or into the car with you. But how can you argue with the smell of it coming out of the case? And the thrill as you load it onto the deck and hear the console kick on moments before the needle hits the record and the record actually starts? And, of course, the superior sound quality!

Purchasing the record player also led to a broadening of my musical horizons. There are a couple of record shops in Missoula that I used to go to that allowed you to sample the used records. If I had a free day, often times I would ask the store owners for a recommendation and sample artists or albums I’d never heard before. Plus, a lot of current heavy weight bands (like Radiohead, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket and Wilco, just to name a few) are releasing their albums on vinyl. How about that?!  And as soon as I hear of a band that is releasing on vinyl, I immediately earn respect for that band.

I still fell pretty bad about sneaking in and taking the player out from under Chuckles. But in my mind, Chuckles takes such bad care of his things that I’m sure he would have neglected it to the point of destruction by now. So, in my mind, I saved the record player from him.

One of my friends went out and bought a console quickly after seeing and hearing mine. If you have room in your house, I would strongly recommend purchasing a record player and preferably a console. But beware: album collections can be highly addictive!

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