At the end of last week’s post (Vinyl is back. No really!) I was trying to figure out why New York teens and young adults were embracing vinyl again after all these years. Just to recap; vinyl sales started bubbling under a few years ago and then made a significant leap in 2010. Thanks in large part to young New Yorker’s.
I was in Urban Outfitters the other day, (there’s nowhere else to buy jeans on the UWS anymore OK? And no, I wasn’t the oldest person in there.) and they have a table, the front table, the important table, the eye-catching, ‘right when you walk in’ table and it’s just loaded with retro ‘stuff’. Bulky retro cameras, maybe a Lava Lamp and some Trolls, I’m not really sure, but they do have portable turntables! And if you pitch your eyes left they have vinyl too! Freewheelin, Thriller etc. I guess I’d known this and had forgotten, but now it’s right there upfront and they’re like $23.00! Twenty three dollars for an album! And literally a stones throw (although, maybe not a Rolling Stones throw) from our Record Store. To be fair, these albums are brand new and nice heavy pressings to boot. But still, clearly the kids aren’t buying new vinyl because it’s cheap. So why are they buying it?
The clue’s in the retro table; kids love records because they’re fun, tactile fun. They’re fun to play with, they’re fun to use, fun to browse through, fun to scrutinise with your buddy. Remember all those great discoveries? Must Be Played At Maximum Volume. A New Phase Beatles Album, Some V.U, White Light Returned With Thanks and who the hell is Small Z? Find the Beatles upside down on the John Wesley Harding cover. Take blury on blury Dylan, walk him ten feet over there and shake him, Dylan comes clear! Yes, Fun! Fun to have and keep or trade with your friends. Fun to fling around and scribble on. Fun to buy!
Sure, as the audiophiles never get tired of telling us, with a good system and a good cartridge, vinyl just sounds better than anything else available. That wide, rich, infinite, analog sound. As (long time, now deseased record store manager) Raymond Donnell put it; that wonderful “Bloom & Resonance.” No self-respecting opera buff would enjoy Tosca on anything but the good old phonograph. But these beautiful young people don’t know that, they’ve been listening to muffled music on their i-pods since they were little kids. The i-pod is a solitary thing anyway it’s not a social thing and once you’ve lost your library a few times, many just say, ‘to hell with this!’
The bottom line, is that kids want to hang out, have fun and talk about music and having and sharing an LP collection is still the best way to do that. The young people in New York figured this out first because hey, this is New York and there’s still a lot of vinyl out there somewhere, you just have to dig.