Almost from left field, my 13-year-old son has leapt into the world of vinyl records. He used a collection of saved up gift vouchers, with a little assistance from his parents, and bought a turntable. He hooked this up to an old Nad amplifier that we had in storage in the garage (the poor thing was ditched in favour of a docking station!), and he now listens to music while parked on the couch, instead of being shut up in his bedroom.
Listening to music is not new behaviour for him. The difference is that everyone in the house can hear this music (i.e. there are no earphones involved), which turns it into something social. Yesterday, he came home with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which I first heard when I was about his age. In the intervening years, I’ve heard parts of the album several times, with the schoolboy chant “We don’t need no education” featuring most often. There was magic to that moment, as the tracks followed sequentially, rather than in some shuffled format.
His growing collection includes Hendrix, The Stones, The Beatles (Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, no less), and Queen, with The Doors waiting in the wings. The sources of these treasures are stores such as Mabu Vinyl, which featured in Searching for Sugarman. These establishments are staffed by passionate people, who take the time to chat to their customers (even if the customer is a 13-year-old newbie).
My own musical preferences certainly include Rock, with what I would call Indie as a sub-set. However, I’ve noticed that iTunes refers to this as Alternative, which I wouldn’t regard as being that helpful a descriptor.
Digital – whether it’s music, ebooks, the Internet, online shopping, mobile apps, or cloud storage – offers many benefits. However, that doesn’t mean that digital is always better than analog. In fact, there is something about analog music that not only supports a voyage of discovery, but is also refreshing to come back to. In many respects, this musical world is better.
It would be a sad day if the might and convenience of the likes of iTunes and Amazon drove small music or book shops out of business.
This year also happens to be the first (perhaps only) that he is buying Christmas gifts for a small group of friends. These gifts all happen to be vinyl records, which means that in houses all around Cape Town, parents are being pressured to dust off old turntables.
Far from being an ironic hipster move, this adoption of retro is being done with massive amounts of enthusiasm. I love it!