An experience

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It was a shame not to share it with someone. The glee bubbled around inside me. I stood in the store and looked down racks of records. Actual Vinyl, and yes, it’s at the back of the store, but the back of this store is not a shame-ridden back corner, it’s a proudly displayed and demarked zone of unabashed vinyl delight.

See, when I grew up in Hemel Hempstead in the early 1980s, the real heyday of the record shop was already over, but I still remember the delight of wandering into the grotty Our Price that lurked underneath Star Burger (iirc, I can’t find a photo to verify that), but even then the poorly lit ranks of vinyl were already coming to be considered out of fashion.

Hemel in the 1970s

The cassette was supposedly king (although I never followed that fashion), and then CD came along and ate everyone else’s breakfast. My dad’s CD player was bought at great expense, and the first album I bought for myself was a CD, it was Talking Heads – Sand in the Vaseline. But still records soldiered on, often relegated to the dankest corner of the store. I had a CD player, and whilst I enjoyed vinyl, the convenience of the CD had won me over, at least for a while. And then I noticed that vinyl was cheaper – at least for a while – than CDs. And there was something about the way it sounded, and the way that it felt. That listening to it was an experience. That the tone-arm dragging it’s way across the pressed plastic made it feel very real and connected. The analogue nature of it… it’s just one of the few bits of modern life which is broadly unaffected by modern technology. If I still had my valve record deck I had as a child, I could play the records I’ve bought in the last few years on it, and it’d work just fine*.

The combination of poor student and vinyl’s many appeals caused me to drift towards vinyl again. And then I quietly became a bit of an afficionado. Aided by the opening of a much easier to access record shop in the shopping centre in Hemel. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was, in my memory, mostly white. And inside were ranks of both records and CDs. I remember buying an Ash album for an incredible £2.99…

So my love of vinyl grew, and grew, and then I vocally told people how awesome vinyl was, and then they looked at me like I was strange so eventually I shut up and quietly enjoyed my strange hobby. But eventually it all but disappeared from the physical stores. And Fopp got bought by HMV (although I still do love Fopp, and need to get down to the Fopp store in Bristol), and so I went back to just trawling charity shops for older music… which is fine, it fit with Dead Bug Jumping, but I missed that moment of wandering into the store with a desire for new music and having it gently assuaged by that hit of surrounding yourself in music.

Occasionally I’d weaken and buy an album online, like the two gorgeous editions of a couple of Ladytron’s albums who’s gatefold sleeves lurk within my eclectic record collection.

But mostly I’d get CDs. CD’s are cheap and cheerful and convenient. I can stick them in the Mac, rip them to FLAC and MP3 (simultaneously), sourcing digital versions to go onto my ipod isn’t a hassle… And they make me feel safe in that whole ‘I have something physical that it’s much harder to lose or destroy’ way**. But they don’t feel the same to me.

How they actually sound? Fuck knows. My brain does not just interpret sound based entirely on the waves coming into my ears. My interpretation of it is mixed in with memories, other senses, my mood… but I like vinyl, and I enjoy the act of putting the record on the deck and listening to it.

So I took great pleasure in performing several loops of the record store, before finding the record I’d actually gone in there with the intention of purchasing was on offer (damage sleeve, last copy in the store), which made me feel even better. And then I noticed they had Musicophilia which seemed deeply appropriate.

And so, I bought my music, and headed cheerfully back out and home to curl up on the sofa and listen to my newest bit of vinyl.

* Although the tone arm on that deck was fracking heavy, and it tended to slowly chew through records, so I wouldn’t recommend such a course of action. Also, my dad had repaired it several times, and the final time it died, we decided it had probably had it. It was replaced by a fine BSR deck. For varying levels of fine. In an awesome Waltham stereogram. I removed the original BSR deck from that on the basis that it was an unadulterated pile of shit and switched it for one from a better stereogram. They both came from jumblesales. As you can imagine my records were treated awesomely well.
** I had a whole bunch of music on my Archimedes A440 in University in the form of Tracker files. My hard disk crashed. I lost it all….


Kate's allegedly a human (although increasingly right-wing bigots would say otherwise). She's definitely not a vampire, despite what some other people claim. She's also mostly built out of spite and overcoming oppositional-sexism, racism, and other random bullshit. So she's either a human or a lizard in disguise sent to destroy all of humanity. Either way, she's here to reassure that it's all fine.