I only seriously re-embarked on collecting records the recent five or so years. I was buying albums I really loved on wax back in the 90s, and I’ve always bought Pearl Jam records (which I’m now extremely grateful for given the prices a lot of them are fetching these days). But the real journey is only recent.
I listened to my records occasionally in my bedroom as a kid (i.e. mid-late nineties). Then I got married and moved to Sydney in 2002, and with that the turntable went into storage.
One thing that I recently realised happened during the past decade or so is that music had become disposable. I’d always bought and listened to CDs, but as MP3s became more mainstream (and things like Kazaa and then BitTorrent made acquiring them easier), it became the done thing to amass a HUGE music library – you could put everything on your iPod and have it anywhere. It became far too easy to have everyone’s entire discography. It had gotten to the point where I had so much music, yet never knew what to listen to.
Sure I had ripped all my CDs and dumped them in iTunes, yet they were buried in an ocean of ill-acquired other stuff. Music had kind of become overwhelming, bland and boring.
Then a few days before Christmas in 2012, I saw my turntable covered in dust high up on a shelf in the garage. Feeling nostalgic I hooked it up to some pretty ordinary Behringer monitors that i’d scabbed from the junk pile at work — then dropped the needle on Radiohead’s Kid A. Gosh it felt like a relief. I could actually feel my music again. Rather than flicking some random album from my iPhone to the back room speakers via AirPlay, I had to browse through the spines on the record jackets and be forced to make a decision on what to listen to, from a limited supply of wonderful albums. I showed my (then 6yo) daughter (who’s only grown up with digital music) and she was amazed at these big mysterious black musicy disc things, I showed her how to gently place the record on the platter, then line up the tonearm. Now it feels exciting and ritualistic to be the person that gets to choose which record to listen to over dinner.
I still have a pretty modest library of records, but every time I’m lucky enough to acquire a new LP, there is so much excitement in cracking the seal, sliding out that big disc of wax and dropping the needless… then listening intently whilst flipping through that giant artwork. That sensation never wanes.
I feel like this is how I’m supposed to be experiencing music. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. And I can’t get enough.