It’s a funny old world, barely a day goes by without another (often unwelcome) software upgrade or a new version of your six month old phone being released, and yet why are more and more of us listening to our music on vinyl records, a technology which was created by men in sheds over 100 years ago? Three million vinyl records were sold in the UK last year, an increase of over 50% on the previous year – we just can’t get enough of the black stuff.
There are many interesting things about listening to a vinyl record – it feels more emotive; it seems to demand the full attention of your ears; you become physically involved in the process, the gentle removal of that large black disc from the paper and card sleeves, a gentle blow to remove any dust, carefully held on the edges as you slowly lower and locate the turntable spindle through the centre hole, select the relevant speed, lift the tone arm from its cradle and with a Swiss watchmakers attention to detail, place the needle in the groove. And then slowly walking backwards, as if retreating from the alter of a higher power, you reverse park into your favourite armchair (vinyl sounds better in an armchair), and then the magic begins. Lyrics which have always been there on the digital version throw off their binary shackles and become pure poetry, the songwriters intended articulation of the soul becomes the arrow which hits the mark every time. All of a sudden it means something – bringing a thought to your mind, a tear to your eye, a smile to your lips, it’s a story in lyrical form which you never knew was there.
And then there’s the art of the sleeve, beautiful images in the size and scale which the artist intended, not some micro version reduced to fit a CD booklet or even worse, a thumbnail to be pressed on a screen. The record sleeve in its full LP size only adds to the enjoyment, you can see the detail in the design, again, seeing things you never knew were there, the musicians adding to their story with the dedications and thank-yous, text that’s always there in the CD, but never seemed to mean as much.
And I suppose that’s what it’s all about – if you’re going to spend your hard-earned free time listening to music, then you want, and deserve, to get the very best out of that experience – and that means jumping in all the way up to your ears.