Vinyl

An album from the 1960s, Songs for Swinging Sellers by Peters Sellers, playing on a brand new turntable.

There's an old joke about a hipster being asked what they like most about vinyl records: "Two things: The expense and the inconvenience". Despite the truth in this quip, I've just bought a turntable, and played my first LP in 30 years.

For the last 18 years, my music collection has been digital - I couldn't be faffed with all the delicate setup and ongoing maintenance of vinyl, or space-hogging CDs. I use Spotify as a convenient music discovery/social playlist platform, but maintain my own collection, buying digital albums on Bandcamp, and store them on a Synology NAS running PLEX. Buying music this way helps support the artists, but not my local record store. Many useful local independent shops have closed in recent years, and Witney is fortunate to still have the brilliant Rapture with its upstairs 'Vinyl Emporium'. I love that a shop like that even exists in our small market town, and I want to support them more. I've waited in line with my vinyl-collecting daughter on several Record Store Days, and couldn't help feeling that I "wanted in on all this".

Racks of vinyl LPs, the way it always used to be
The vinyl section upstairs at Rapture

As Rapture stocks a good range of turntables as well, I sought their advice and bought a Rega Planar 1 Plus, along with my first LP purchase in a long time - my album of the year, The Besnard Lakes are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings. The last LP I bought was actually Radiohead's 'In Rainbows' box set in 2007 (and obviously have never played it until now), but before that it was 1991!

There's something deeply engaging about holding a beautifully designed sleeve, this large physical representation of the music. Especially for a graphic designer. You could argue that a CD gives the same on a smaller scale without the added 'vinyl wanker tax', and you'd be right (and I collect those too). Occasionally CD's have interesting packaging but most are just plastic boxes with a tiny booklet. I want the special releases in blood splatter coloured vinyl with a gatefold sleeve and exclusive vinyl-only tracks. It's a bit like owning all the games consoles to avoid missing out on platform exclusives. I'm enjoying the fact that I'm not missing out on those now.

I've still got my meagre LP collection from youth (I was mostly a cassette person) but I've also inherited a couple of Peter Sellers records from my dad: 'Songs for Swingin' Sellers' and 'Peter and Sophia'. ('Ukulele Lady' made it on to Troika #9). These albums are an important connection to my late parents, and It's wonderful being able to play these again.

Going back to those two 'advantages', first of all - Expense. New vinyl costs on average £22 compared to £7.99 or so for the digital download. At least most releases now come with a digital download code as well, but it's a downside for sure. Then the Inconvenience. Listening to vinyl is specific to a location (the living room), but maybe that's the point? A way of sitting down, relaxing and really engaging with the music? (I'm conventionality ignoring the bands that split their albums up over two or more discs, requiring more 'maintenance').

Vinyl won't take over from my digital collection, but it will definitely augment it. As long as the bands and record stores win, I win.

I'm not going back to cassettes though.

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Hicks Design
Wenrisc House
Meadow Court
Witney, OX28 6ER
United Kingdom