April 14, 2010

Girl, Put your Records on....

As I was looking through the flyers that come with the Sunday paper, I happened across one for ShopKo (think Target, but for the Midwest only).  They were having a huge sale and one of the items that was greatly reduced was a record player.

Now, I know that record players have made a comeback in recent years, but it's still so weird seeing them available!  Fifteen years ago, it was nearly impossible to find one.  Ten years before that they were around, but dying out.  Ten years before THAT (circa 1975, if you're playing along), they were ubiquitous.  Looks like we've come full circle - or at least, 270 degrees. 

When I was four or five, I got a Close n' Play Phonograph.  I LOVED that thing!  I remember playing my "Seasons in the Sun" and "Heartbeat - it's a Lovebeat" 45s.  I'm sure the sound quality was horrific, but what did it matter?  It was MINE, and I didn't have to wait through my mom and dad's Steve & Edie records to hear my songs. But one day, as I was dancing in my room, I stepped on it and ruined it and broke the "Seasons in the Sun" 45 as well.  I'm sure Mom was mad, but I don't remember being punished.  I'm sure she thought my disappointment was enough.

I was born in 1968, which was one of those in-between years.  When I was born, it was all Hi-Fi, all the time.  When I was about six, 8-Tracks were coming into vogue (and left just about as quickly, thank god).  I think I got my first "compact cassette" in 1983 (if I recall, it was the Police's "Synchronicity").  Only five years later, I got my first CD and player.  And from 1988-2004, that's all there was - CDs.  But there was a lot of overlap.  Here in Wisconsin we are very lucky to have a chain of stores called The Exclusive Company, which for years was THE place to buy your music (and are still around - for now).  I, on the other hand, worked at Musicland, which was the overpriced mall store (and now non-existent).  Even with my discount as Musicland, the music was cheaper at "Exclu".

And who out there, that's around my age, didn't make "mixed tapes"?  I still have all mine but alas, no cassette player.  I remember spending literally HOURS perfecting these things, making them for my sister and all my friends (or new boyfriends, if it was 'serious').  The tapes were amalgamations of all of my 45s, tapes and CDs, which made for some interesting variations in sound quality and volume.  But that only added to their charm.  I still have all of my 45s as well, along with a few choice LPs (one of which is my Uncle Louie's original Sgt. Pepper's album, which has been played so many times the grooves are wearing out).  I also have quite the collection of cassette singles, of which Musicland had a very nice selection.  What's amazing to me now is that those babies went for $3.35 apiece - in 1989!!  Isn't that crazy?  I love that I can own the same song now for $.99 (or if it's really obscure, $.69!).

Flash forward to the fabulous age of the iPod, or MP3 player.  Brian embraced this technology from the beginning.  Me?  Well, if you haven't figured it out already, I kick it old school.  But once he brought the iPod home, we never looked back.  In fact, we sold all of our CDs two years ago at a rummage sale for a buck apiece and made some nice folding money.  I don't regret that decision for a second.  I think we already take them for granted but if you think about it, MP3s are amazing!  I only wonder what the next big music thing will be.  Hopefully we can just enjoy our iPod for a couple of years before we have to change everything AGAIN!

Of course with new technology comes folks rediscovering the old ways - which brings us right round, like the proverbial record, baby.  I can understand the allure of vinyl - the pops, hisses, and warmth of that sound; it's almost more "real" than its digital counterpart.  Purists are the main demographic of vinyl enthusiasts, to be sure.  And there is something so comforting about hearing old jazz on an LP.  But will I go out and spend money for new vinyl?  Probably not.  We don't have the room.  :D

*(High Fidelity pendant picured above made by me and available in my Etsy shop)

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