Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Oh yeah.  Vinyl.  Good ol' grooves.

What you are seeing on that turntable is... JOHNNY CASH AT SAN QUENTIN.

On the back of the album sleeve is my Auntie's maiden name, and the date: January 1970.  
That makes this record older than me by about 11 months.  I wasn't even an idea yet.

It's been years since we've had this record player working.  On the weekend, Jethro and Bucky finally tracked down a store, luckily not too far from home, that sells this obscure item known as a stylus.  They had to buy the entire cartridge, the whole black thing at the end of the arm.  Jethro didn't mind, even though it was kind of pricey (we'd already turned down an opportunity to go see RDJ at the movies because we didn't think we could shell out over $60...) because it's a good piece of gear.  Might even be worth more than the whole record player.  haha.  

We've got this nice record collection, made up of a combination of the following:

My record buying years:
-Duran Duran
-Tears For Fears
-The Clash
-Led Zeppelin

Jethro's record buying years:
-Ozzy Osbourne
-Black Sabbath
-Led Zeppelin
-Yngwie Malmsteen (I'm not even kidding)

My parent's record buying years:
-Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
-Baja Marimba Band (that is a seriously great record)
-Marty Robbins
-a few obscure gospel bands/ cousins and other relatives who sang hymns and got some vinyl pressed

My sister's record buying years:
-Bryan Adams

My mom's sister's record buying years:
-Johnny Cash
-Gordon Lightfoot
-Joni Mitchell

What an amazing collection!

We've got a Bill Cosby comedy album next to Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual.

Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet and Simon & Garfunkel, The Sounds Of Silence.

(I am going to name a critter Garfunkel some day.)

Van Halen, 1984 beside XTC, English Settlement (another great record, obscure in my neck of the woods)

Forgotten Rebels and The Cure.

INXS, Listen Like Thieves and ABBA...pick one, I had a serious ABBA phase between ages 9 and 11!

We've got a Molly Hatchett record.

We've got the Iron Butterfly sleeve but Jethro turned Innagaddadavida into a frisbee about 30 years ago.

We've got two copies of Zenyatta Mondatta by the Police.

People, we've got a Sigue Sigue Sputnik record.  I'm not kidding.


It's been so long since we could play records.  We've been in this house for over two years and only recently got our stereo system set up.  This is a temporary home... we weren't even planning on being here this long.  But we missed our music.  Now we can watch TV, watch a movie on DVD, I don't think we can play our Wallace & Gromit VHS ("everybody knows the moon's made of cheese...") and I don't think we can play cassettes (yes we still have those too, how do you think we listen to all the Van Halen?) but I do think we can play CDs... there are four remotes and I'm still not sure how to turn the TV on --seriously, four remotes and I'm still getting off my butt to hit the channel button? We've got an iPod dock hooked up so we can drop an iGadget in there and listen to a playlist.


Last night Bucky discovered Blizzard Of Ozz.

We'd given him the disc last year and were shocked to hear how different it sounded.  Apparently somebody thought it would be a good idea to re-record the bass and drums.  We thought it was a terrible idea and decided to ostracize that CD, promising Bucky we'd get the ol' record player fired up.

So I gave Bucky the tutorial on Dropping The Needle.

There's the hissing and crackling, and there's Randy Rhoads, and we grinned.  The record skipped.  I giggled.  "It's the real thing, kids!  There's nothing else like it!"

Jethro later said, "I played the crap outta that record.  I bought it used, and then I played the crap out of it."

Well kids, it's not perfect.  The turntable has a nasty ground hum that can be heard between tracks.  There will be noises coming out of those vinyl grooves that aren't music.

But the music is there.

It isn't compressed, it isn't crushed down into MP3 files.  It doesn't have any of that ProTooled sandpaper-on-the-ears bullcrap.  It wasn't mastered so loud it hurts.  Music shouldn't hurt.  You should be able to turn it up and enjoy it without suffering hearing damage.  Jethro has been devoting his career to making good-sounding music and making a stand against music that just sounds like a wall of fuzz.  A lot of teenagers have grown up on recordings that have been processed to death.  And they listen to slammed files with no dynamics and way too much noise.  They listen to it loud, in earbuds.  They don't really know how recorded music is meant to sound.  Half the time they've only got one earbud in, which makes Jethro tear his hair out, because he spends 16 hours a day mixing in stereo -- as in, each side has something different going on -- and these guys are only listening to one side.  They're missing half of it.

Let's face it: the entire music industry is a broken rusted shadow of its former self.  We know this first hand.  We live it.

And Bucky and Annyong go to school, stand on their little soapboxes and proclaim all of this to their misguided peers.... and are met with uncomprehending stares.

Ours aren't allowed to have a million small files of music on their iPods.  They are allowed to have like, a couple hundred, that are in big files and sound good.

So we listened to Ozzy last night.  Wine is fine, but liquor is quicker.  Tonight we'll listen to the story of Mr Crowley.  Tomorrow night we'll listen to side 2 of Johnny Cash cussing his way through a set of songs to the appreciative howls of a bunch of prisoners.


It is far from perfect, vinyl, but I don't think we've reached a perfect method of recording music yet in the first hundred years of the art and science.  Records are better than wax cylinders.  Besides, wax cylinder players are even harder to find than record player needles.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine... I keep my eyes wide open all the time...


mugwump said...

I am a symphony geek.We sit in the cheap seats in the balcony because of the way the sound comes up and cups me in it's hands.

Did you ever tape a penny to the arm of your stereo to eek out the last bit of music?

Jethro might remember, you are too much a child.

Heidi the Hick said...

Haha! He's about to turn 43 and I guess in many ways he's a child!

My "big brother", a family friend who was a bit of a hero to me, did the penny on the needle trick. He said it kept the needle from skittering across the record.

I didn't grow up with any classical music at all, but jethro did. Sometimes his parents give us tickets if they can't make it to the symphony, and lately we've been picking up student tickets for the kids too. Teenagers who like the symphony. Out kids are so weird!!!

jules said...

We have the wax cylinders AND the player! You think YOUR vinyl has cracks and hisses? HAHAHA You should hear some of these cylinders. We've got an entire box of them, maybe two. Me thinks we need to break out the player and spin us some wax!

jules said...
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mugwump said...

OK fine...you're both babies! At least you have good taste in music. Yay for the symphony geek kids!

Auntie said...

Heidi, I must lend you a documentary of the recording of the live San Quentin concert if you still have a functional VHS player. It will make your hair stand on end. In fact, I think that I will watch it again myself.

In the meantime, enjoy the old records. I'm so happy to see that they have been reactivated!

Heidi the Hick said...

Auntie, I would love to see that! (good excuse to get together?)

Jules- seriously, wax cylinders?! COOL!!!

Heidi the Hick said...
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Heidi the Hick said...

Recent records played:


Man that is a freaking cool record! It happened when John Taylor and Andy Taylor had some time to kill between Duran Duran photo shoots. Jethro justified my teenage music taste by saying "that guy is a mo$&$&@ fu$$)&& of a bass player!". Which is a big compliment coming from him.

Sigh. John Taylor. Tall, gorgeous, movie star jaw AND talented. I'm 14 again.


Also the first concert we saw together.


"Human Race" still gives me goosebumps.

Heidi Willis said...

Soooo fun!! I have BOXES of records in my parents' house. One of these days I'm going to get a stereo that works.

I noticed this Christmas they are starting to pop up again... the record players. Of course, they are bundled with CD players and i-docks, but still... I should go digging out my albums.

I imagine your take on all this goes was beyond nostalgia. It's fun to learn a little from your side of the aisle.