Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dropping the needle on some good memories

I did something the other day I had not done in many years: I dropped the needle.
That's right, I dropped a needle onto a record player for the first time since I can't remember when.
The trek back in time to the nostalgic era of my youth happened on Christmas Day.
For several months, my wife had been talking about getting a turntable so when I found one on sale, I grabbed it, wrapped it and couldn't wait for her to open it.
She was surprised and excited to have a record player of her very own – again.
In the far corner of a little-used storage room in the basement sat a box covered in dust.
Inside was a stack of vinyl history. Records from the '80s from when we were young and records were the No. 1 way of listening to tunes, sat waiting to be rediscovered like King Tuts tomb of rock and roll.
The funny thing is, with ever-advancing technology providing music online, on phones and pretty much anywhere else you could think of, records are making a comeback.
I was talked to a university student recently who said all of her friends were into vinyl.
There is just something about the sound,” she said. “It is much richer, fuller, not as perfect as a CD or digital.”
And she is right. When we played the first record in many years, it did have a distinct sound that was really captivating, and not just because that is the sound I grew up with.
I am sure that is part of it, but the sound of a small needle dragging its way along a grooved piece of plastic does have a unique vibe to it.
Of course, the records we had were 30-plus years old and some were damaged, causing the needle to jump, but that is just all part of the experience.
When a CD skips it is enough to cause me to have a seizure as it repeats the same fraction of a second over and over and over...
A record can be similar, bit not as harsh as a CD.
Digital songs don't skip at all, unless there is a glitch which causes them to stop and start and stop and start and cause that seizure I was talking about.
When a record skipped, you would oh so gently move the needle past the damaged part so you would not miss too much of the song.
Even without playing them, those old 33s brought back many memories.
I pulled out the first record I ever bought – Loverboy - and of course my second copy of Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell (the first copy got stepped on and it was, and is, a must-have for my music collection.)
Supertramp, Styx, AC/DC of course and a whole pile of classic tunage is now available for my on-demand listening pleasure.
But as I flipped through the stack of classics, I stopped cold at a beat up, scratched, liquid-damaged copy of Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage.
Instantly I was thinking of my good friend who was claimed by the scourge of cancer more than three years ago.
We used to listen to that album all the time and even seeing the album cover brought pangs of missing my good buddy, my brother since I was four years old.
My jubilant trip down memory had hit a speed bump. Memories of a lifelong friendship raced through my mind. The trouble we got into and the fun we had while doing it. Discussions about cars, music, girls and the deep thoughts of life all raced through my conciousness right up to the day of his passing, stopping the memories in their tracks.
I sat, silent and still thinking about his loss, before pushing those thoughts aside and rejoicing in the friendship I had, rather than dwell on the cruelty of it being taken away far too soon.
I know eventually, I will drop the needle of Joe's Garage and be reunited with my buddy through the magical time travel that only music can offer.

Copyright 2014 Darren Handschuh

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