In 1988, CD’s outsold vinyl for the first time. At first, the idea storing 100 CD’s in a little stand on top of the stereo cabinet seemed like a no-brainer, but what we lost was great indeed. Album cover art, posters, enclosed booklets and lyrics shrunk from 12 inches square to a miniscule 12 centimeters square.
I’ll just go ahead and state the obvious. Size matters.
For some, vinyl record covers contain art, for others, vinyl is art.
Sure CD’s had a certain portability and resistance to direct light that vinyl could never afford, but we lost two great pastimes in the process. Hanging in the record shoppe was one. Perusing the latest albums, checking out the poster bin and examining the occasional decadence offered therein lost that je ne sais quoi when the shift to CD’s emerged.
And let’s not forget shoplifting. Let’s face it, stealing a vinyl record is a lot tougher than hoisting a CD.
Record stores learned this lesson quickly and addressed the problem by covering the then tiny album replicas with locking plastic anti-theft guards that reduced that winsome, imaginative quality records have to a clunky, adult-proof wannabe version with the cover’s artwork obscured. The change succeeded in locking us out of an intriguing, artistic medium.
Another lost past-time caused by the shift away from vinyl was sitting with friends or even—Gasp! alone to listen, to be captured, entranced, taken away in our imaginary worlds, sucked in by the beat, the melody, the artwork, the lyrics and the voices.
Okay, so maybe there were black light posters or strobe lights for some people, and we’d be in denial of epic proportions to fail to acknowledge the accompanying psychedelic drug or alcohol induced experiences that were integral to many for at least two obvious decades. *
Playing a record differs from listening to digital music because you tend to sit to listen to a record, seldom skipping tracks, even if at first you want to.
Remote operation existed only for those slovenly slugs seated in their La-Z-Boy chair with a homemade version of the PikStik Pro Aluminum Reacher, stupidly unafraid of scratching the record when lifting the needle arm from a distance, only to precariously plop it on the platter ever closer to its center.
The lack of remote control forced you to listen and good music, (even if it’s not your cup of tea) drew you in. Opinion writer Indigo Trigg-Hauger of dailyuw.com writes, “You notice things you wouldn’t have otherwise, and you start to love songs you might not have taken the time to listen to before.”
New and resurgent artists continue to emerge with vinyl versions of their music. Everyone from Train to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, The Black Keys, The Beatles and Radiohead.
As vinyl makes a comeback, I find myself wondering, “Where are the platter geeks?” I don’t see coffee houses outfitted with record players pushing to bring full-on listening back in vogue. I wonder if we’ll ever get back those pastimes. I’d be up for a place to gather and listen. I’ll even bring my own.
*Choose appropriate decades at your own risk.