Saturday, August 10, 2019

You Spin Me Right Round

You know he has a bong inside that jacket.
Buying a new phone finally lit a fire under my rear end to start converting my vinyl records to mp3s. Ultimately it is so much easier to store them in iTunes on my phone than burning CDs, but it turned into much more of a project than anticipated. If you think my vintage clothing collection knows no bounds...well, the records ain't much better. Oven the years I've whittled it down a bit, keeping only the very loved or difficult to find. That's still an awful lot.

Some of those records haven't been played in over 40 years. Some longer. Not really knowing the condition of the vinyl, it made sense to play them volume up so I can catch any skips as they transfer. I wasn't prepared for just how emotionally draining it would be! I also wasn't prepared for just how downright strange my musical tastes have been over the years. I'm spared a good chunk of the 80s and beyond as I switched to buying tapes and CDs to play in the car, but I'm sure those were equally bizarre. I know they say you can judge a person by their books and record collection but please...don't?
There's young Jen with her very own phonograph. I was so happy to get that little player as it meant I wouldn't have to use the hi-fi in the basement/family room that was the territory of our territorial cat, Snoopy (yeah, they named a cat after a cartoon dog. You need more evidence for why I'm such a fucked-up mess?). That cat hated me. To be fair, Snoopy hated everyone except for the old man and that was only because he could be counted on as a steady source of human food he wasn't supposed to have. That cat lived on salami sandwiches. But then I got the Mickey Mouse phonograph, and life was good.
Here's a picture of one I grabbed off the internet. The sound quality was reasonably OK for such a cheap thing.

Privacy in the household I grew up in was rare-you couldn't even expect to go to the toilet uninterrupted. I did find that they tended to leave me the hell alone when I was in my room playing records. Whether this was due to my taste in music being so offensive they kept a distance, or because they were able to know exactly where I was, and what I was doing, isn't clear, but unless someone needed something, I was generally left to enjoy music alone. The incentive to buy records was strong. If I was needed they'd just scream up the stairs loudly enough to be heard over the music. Eventually our neighbours got sick of that, and encouraged us to get a second telephone line so I could be screamed at over the phone. I suppose it was a little better.
"Kids, go upstairs so I can yell at you over the line"
Danny's been my technical support figuring out how to do all this transferring, an undertaking I wouldn't attempt without a teenager to offer helpful observations like, "Click the square box, the universal symbol for stop",  accompanied by a hard roll of his eyes. He's also been on hand to offer commentary like, "That's the WORST thing I've ever heard in my life" followed shortly after by, "I take it back, THIS is the worst thing I've ever heard", followed by, "This is the soundtrack for storming Area 51". He likes opera. I gave him my old man's,  Maria Callas Sings Famous Puccini Heroines record. He snorted at that too. Kids.

How I wish it were possible to go back in time and tell my younger self to take better care of her vinyl. Hardly alone in that, I suppose but had I known 40+ years on I'd be transferring recordings, I might have, at the very least kept them in the sleeves rather than scattered across the pink shag carpet of my room. Occasionally I'd change the needle on the phonograph, but I doubt I ever properly cleaned anything. Younger self, you have a lot to answer for.

More than the records themselves, what excites me going through the boxes is finding receipts and price tags from now defunct record stores. Wax Trax!, 2nd Hand Tunes, Hep Cat Records- all the places my youth (and money) were spent. The best record store I  can no longer remember the name of, was down the street from my elementary school. Honestly, it was more a head shop that sold records than a proper record store, but they had great stuff you just couldn't get otherwise.

When I was about I dunno, 11 or so, I was asked what I wanted for my birthday. I probably just wanted to be left alone, or at least not be trapped in conversation with the adult child that called herself my parent, so I told her I wanted a Frank Zappa record. I don't know why. I certainly didn't care for anything he'd done up to that point (Help, I'm a Rock?!) but that's what I told her, and after unsuccessfully trying to buy a Frank Zappa record at Montgomery Wards, she ended up at the head shop down the street from my school. In hindsight, it is kind of funny that there was a head shop down the street from an elementary school but eh, it was the 70s.

The way she liked to tell the story, the hippies working in the place were amused by a 40 year old woman buying a Frank Zappa record. 'I told them it was for my daughter, and they asked how old she was. They all gave me funny looks when I told them."  Yeah, no wonder. I guess she didn't look at the track titles on the back of the record or she might not have brought home something called, "Give Me Your Dirty Love." Oh well, I still have the record and now it is a family heirloom of sorts. I offered it to Danny, but he rolled his eyes. Hard.

Since I'd already splashed out on the phone, I went ahead and bought some decent Bluetooth headphones. I loathe ear buds, and the ones that came with the phone were downright painful. In some ways it is like hearing these old records for the first time. I used to laugh when friends would insist some recordings were better with headphones, but perhaps they were right. I'm sure by the end of the year what's left of my hearing will be destroyed😀 but it will totally be worth it. I still don't want to listen to Dark Side of the Moon though. Sorry.

So many of these records evoke time and place in my life in a similar way to perfume. I thought it might be interesting to combine the two and see if I can come up with some interesting writing freed from the constraints of a review. Maybe not, but I trust readers will let me know if I've miscalculated the comic value of child abuse my youth mixed with the music and fragrances I loved.
Alright kids, let's rock and roll. I'll see you on the flip side.




















10 comments:

Bibi Maizoon said...

I got rid of my vinyl collection when I left the US. Still have a few CDs around here but not sure why as I do not have a CD player of any sort. I had a phonograph similar to yours as a child but mine had some random mid-century clown theme painted all over it - loved it and my collection of 45's. I miss record shops too, we had some amazing little indie places in the SF Bay Area like Rather Ripped Records and the iconic Tower Records. The employees & the customers were always interesting if not fun. I shall be hurtling into the 21st century shortly as I am planning on buying and iPad and going paperless!

Beth Waltz said...

Synchronicity, that's what it is. I, too, am the technically challenged owner of a new MP3. The vinyl is long gone, alas. I'm attempting to [legally] acquire certain tunes to enhance targeted workouts. (See YouTube, "Sand Dance 1934"

Which segues into your second theme of this post, music as a territorial boundary. You used it to repel family and feline invaders, but did you know Lawrence Welk tapes were used to clear malls of loitering teens, and that the last act on a Vaudeville bill was deliberately awful to clear the theatre? Clever kid, you; you figured it out on your own!

And that jacket is really groovy!

Propagatrix said...

We have a large number of vinyl records and VHS tapes. We still play them. There are a few ground rules: my husband is not allowed to listen to Bob Dylan in my presence, and I have to wait until my husband leaves the house to play the Smiths or watch XANADU.

If Danny does not yet appreciate Callas, who does he like? Please don’t say Renee Fleming.

Polyester Princess said...

It saddens me that I no longer have most of my vinyl collection. I didn't even get rid of it myself. It was the boyfriend I was living with in the early 80s who, in a fit of jealousy, but them all outside the house for the bin men. I'm getting emotional even typing this, and it was over 30 years ago. I still have some of my albums, and in the late 90s and early 00s, I managed to replace some of those I lost by trawling flea markets. Listening to albums I haven't heard in years can be an emotional rollercoaster indeed. You were so lucky to have your Mickey Mouse phonograph. Up until my punk years (1977-78ish) I had to listen to my albums on my parents' phonograph. I think the Sex Pistols prompted my parents to finally get me my own ;-) Oh, and I took home several plastic bags and receipts from the record shops I used to frequent, when I found them at the parental home last year! xxx

bahnwärterin said...

first - i want that jacket!!
and then - fabulous post! love your writing - anyway its about fragances or music records....
*the adult child that was my parent* ...sigh.... how i do know this. who in hell has gave them the permission to have children?!
the record market in the GDR was very poor - east block bands where a no go for a cool kid and western music a rare treat on vinly - we spend the nights in front of the radio to catch some tunes from radio luxembourg on tape recorders.
xxxxx

Emily from Etsy said...

The fringed jacket is awesome!

If anyone ever storms Area 51, I imagine it would be appropriate to use the music from "Star Wars" or "Independence Day" or other movies about outer space. Pray tell, what song were you listening to when Danny made that comment?

It's interesting how humans create bubbles of space for themselves in a densely populated home. A blast of Aliage in one room can mark one territory, and a wall of music in another room can mark someone else's territory.

My parents were not very big on reading, so whenever I sat quietly with a book, I was usually left alone for long periods of time. It was blissful for me to have that kind of solitude.

Mim said...

I love Danny's reaction to your music - the universal cry of the teenager!

It is funny how some music brings back overwhelming memories, and I guess having the physical disc in your hands makes it all the more real. We got rid of all our tapes, but I think the vinyl is in the attic somewhere. Not as much as you've got, though! My vinyl-collecting workmates would probably love your collection.

Vix said...

One day I'll find a fabulous jacket like yours that fits me!

Jon and I still have every piece of vinyl we've ever bought, there's some absolute horrors in the collection - he claims they're mine but I deny all responsibility. xxx

Goody said...

@Bibi
The Tower Records in Boston was THE gathering place of the strange, at least in the 90s when I lived there. I dunno, maybe it was part of their brand? I thought I'd hate the Apple products but have to admit, the iphone is pretty great. Hopefully you'll like the pad.

@Beth
Ah one, a two ah...I always liked that show, so it wouldn't have run me off as a teen ;)
I can't wait to do the school run wearing that jacket! I wonder if that's why Danny wants to be dropped off and picked up several blocks from school?

@Propagatrix
I don't know who he likes, to be honest. I think he enjoys the whole theatre aspect of opera rather than individual singers. The next season looks ok, but I guess my only way of assessing opera is by how many hours of sleep I can get during the performance.
My husband isn't allowed to play Half Japanese in the house.

@Ann
Oh hon, I am so, so sorry he did that to you. What an absolutely horrible thing to do-thank goodness you didn't stay with him.
I think the Sex Pistols would have been too much for most parents in the 70s!

@Beate
I wonder how many of those Eastern bloc bands records would be collectible today? I know in the US we would have been eager to get hold of them. I guess teenagers want what they cant have!

@Emily
Star Wars would be good too! Danny's sarcasm was provoked by, Have you Seen the Saucers? Which to be fair, is a little like x-files fan fiction even if it predates the x files by a good 20 years ;)
You were left alone to read?! Now that's something I envy!!!

@Mim
Yeah, there would be something wrong with a kid that liked the music their parents listened to (or at least admitted it). He really hates metal. I mean, really, really, REALLY hates it, but hates psychedelia even more. So that's 90% of what I own ;)

@Vix
The horrible records are what makes a collection! If you don't cringe a bit flipping through them, what good is it?

Miss Magpie said...

I cut my huge vinyl collection right down when we moved house the time before last. I had left most of it in my parent's garage and eventually my Mum had enough and delivered the whole lot one day when she came over for a visit!?! I sold some and the rest got distributed round all the charity shops in town. I like to fondly think I have kept only the good stuff but then I listened to a couple of albums I fondly remembered not long ago and dear lord it was BAD!