OH, let’s get into an old groove. Let’s spin away whatever stupid, mendacious and fallacious thing Donald Trump just said or is about to say. Let’s glance away just for now from the Westminster sex scandal, a fungus that hasn’t yet stopped growing.
Let’s forget all that and slip on a record, a proper record, big and black and made of lovely vinyl. Twenty years ago, around the time we got our first CD player, it looked like vinyl was doomed. It was an endangered species that would soon belong in the music museum.
Yet vinyl has been making a comeback in the past few years. Sony is returning to making vinyl 30 years after it abandoned the friendly old format. And this week, Sainsbury’s announced that it will be relaunching its own-label records.
Dedicated vinyl huggers never abandoned the big and shiny discs. They stayed in the groove while everyone else embraced new formats: first CDs and then iPods and then streaming. Ownership of albums or CDs looked like an eccentric habit in an age when music could be plucked from the cloud or wherever it is that streamed music comes from.
Vinyl charts returned a couple of years ago, a sign that this done-for old way of listening to music was undergoing a revival. Not all of this can be down to men in late middle-age trying to find their lost youth inside a record sleeve.
So, yes, this week I joined the revolution; or the revolutions; or re-joined the revolution. I bought a record deck for the first time in 20 years or so. I do have a transportable one my wife bought me a couple of years ago, a lovely-looking retro thing with the speaker in the lid, a new take on the old Dansette record player. Not at all bad, but not exactly hi-fi – and how comforting to dust off that old word again.
The last record deck I bought was made by Bang & Olufsen, or at least I think it was. I certainly had one of those, back in the days when I occasionally spent big, probably bought around the same time I had a sports car. Life has not allowed me to climb back into a sports car, so it had to be another later-life purchase: a record deck (made by Pro-ject, for those who like that sort of information).
It has only been connected for a few days but I have listened to an old Joe Jackson album (Night and Day, from 1982) and the first album by the sax player Andy Sheppard, with its infectious opening track, Java Jive.
Sheppard was 19 when he first heard a jazz record by John Coltrane. He sold his worldly goods, bought a second-hand sax and has been playing ever since.
I’ve always listened to his music, but had forgotten that first album, and it was a thrill to hear the first notes sway in after the introductory crackle and hiss of the stylus getting to know the vinyl.
The third album was the main reason for the deck. The middle boy bought me the double album soundtrack to the film Baby Driver, a fantastically retro production with a sleeve that opens like a big book and two discs. The songs are listed on the back, sides A to D. Great music, too – The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Beach Boys, Kashmere State Band, Dave Brubeck, T.Rex, Barry White, Simon & Garfunkel and more.
Listening is a different experience, in that you need to turn the volume up on the amp as vinyl isn’t as loud. I Googled that, wandered into various hi-fi bore websites, but made my excuses and hurried away.
I am looking forward to rediscovering all those old albums. It’s pot luck for now as they are not in order, but hidden in a cupboard and an old metal trunk – put there for sanctuary after the bloody cat scratched all the sleeve ends.
I am going to enjoy this vinyl voyage, while also still listening to some of the few hundred CDs, and listening too to music on my iPad and the Bose speaker. Oh, and the headphones. That’s my ears busy for a while now.
For now, though, it’s the record deck: warmer somehow that CDs, unless I’ve just fallen for the retro spiel. And if I have, I don’t care.