The Only Warm Sound I Care About Is That Of Her Voice

Ever since I got a compact disc player back in '88, I haven't dug the vinyl format that much. You know why?

     1) Take album sleeve out of album jacket. 2) Take
     album out of album sleeve. 3) Place album on
     turntable. 4) Pour drops on discwasher. 5) Spin
     album and clean it. 6) Place drop on stylus cleaner.
     7) Clean stylus. 8) Play album. 

Twenty minutes later you gotta go through steps 3 through 8 all over again with Side Two, and then twenty minutes after that you start with step 1 with another album.

I guess I'd care about the alleged "warmer" sound of vinyl if I wasn't convinced that "warmer" is a euphemism for snaps, crackles, pops, and skipping. Or maybe vinyl does sound warmer if you have high-end equipment. I'm sure I could convince you that vinyl is warmer if I had a $3,000 turntable and a $500 cartridge. Because I damn sure would have convinced myself before writing that $3,500 check.

I love CDs. I love that you can jump around your living room while they're playing. I love that you can instantly skip around from song to song and moment to moment. I love taking my portable player to the Y and blowing metal through my brains to get me through a workout. I love my five-disc player and hitting "Random All Discs." I love the little plastic cases. I love that they're small. I absolutely love them.

But vinyl came back into my life because of Jason and the Scorchers. You may remember them. They came out in the mid-eighties with this country-punk sound that (yes) scorched. Their first EP Fervor (which has an awesome cover of Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie") and first LP Lost and Found (which I bought on the same day as Run-DMC's King of Rock!) were from that same gutsy guitar rock 'n' roll school that the 'Mats attended: "Pass the beer, lay down the licks, and get the hell out of the studio before we get caught." Inevitably, the Recording Industry got a hold of them, gave them a Cheap Trick producer, and they got a little slicker. Next thing you know they're like the Del Fuegos - you got to hear them some occasionally on some AOR stations, but eventually no more no more. Still, on their cowpunk merits alone, I fully expect to see the Scorchers sometime soon on the cover of No Depression. Maybe I'll have to write their story myself.

So I wanted to hear Fervor and Lost and Found bad and they weren't available on CD anywhere. And I didn't want to go out and surf the used-disc racks for them. (Who'd give up a Jason and the Scorchers album anyway?) But I had them on vinyl and I could listen to 'em if only my turntable wasn't busted. It would almost always spin the albums fast. It appeared to be 78 speed, though it didn't have a setting for that. I kept the turntable out because not only does it make a nice place to lay your current-rotation compact disc cases on, but it also looks good. I know jack about interior design, but the Stereo Area just doesn't look complete without a turntable as the crown jewel of your system. I'm old school.

So I had to have a new turntable. I began asking around to my music-geek friends about how much a new one would cost. I was still hoping it was 1986 and I could go to LaBelle's and get one for a hundred-and-twenty bucks. I didn't ask long. Turns out I knew someone who knew someone and said person (the second one) scored me a free turntable. Sorry, I have to be a little sketchy on the details of the acquisition. The turntable isn't hot, though I like to pretend that it is. It's a Technics SL-23 and looks brand-new. I got it on a Friday afternoon, hooked it up that night, and stayed up 'til four a.m. listening to Jason and the Scorchers' first two releases and a couple of the mid-seventies Who albums.

This new turntable sounds far superior to my old one, which I had to run through a preamp which muddied the sound. As I write this, I've got a couple of small stacks of LPs in my living room. I'm no vinyl junkie, but I did break down and go to Cheapo and got me one of those discwasher systems. I faithfully clean my sides and stylus before spinning.

You won't find me waxing nostalgic (pun intended) about vinyl, but I like digging up all the sides that I listened to in high school and college. My living-room walk-in closet is now an archive of my vinyl and comic books. An Archive Run has become a full ritual: Walk to the closet, open the door, pull the string that lights the overhead bulb, and crouch in the closet and see what I come up with. It's a nice break from channel and net surfing.

And the way I see it, I re-fortified my music collection. Lots of those albums sitting in the Archive Closet are new all over again. Do I want Agents of Fortune on CD? No! Will I listen to it on vinyl tonight? Damn straight! I finally realized that it doesn't matter how the music gets played, I just want to listen to it.

[Back to Exiled #31] [Back to Exiled on Main Street] [Other Writing] [Poetry] [Contact Bill Tuomala]