Something Old, Something New
Posted by Leigh
Time for another break from the house-renovation talk; this time to talk about something else from a previous era that’s being revived. Today was the 4th Annual Record Store Day, something that has been on my calendar since last November. Record Store Day celebrates over 700 independently-owned record stores, including 18 in the Twin Cities. In appreciation of these retail relics, many recording artists put out special promotional singles or albums specifically to be sold on this day. And every year, it seems that more and more people come out–I read that the Electric Fetus (a popular record shop in Minneapolis) implemented a ticket system this year, not dissimilar to how Best Buy handles crowds on Black Friday. A few promotions caught my eye, so early this morning we headed up to Minneapolis to get some new vinyl ear-candy.
As this post has the History category tag, let’s get a little history. Gramophone records were invented in 1888 and were the main medium for music from the 1920s to the 1980s. Even with the invention of the reel-to-reel, 8-track and cassette tape, vinyl was the was the most produced type of music recording until the invention of the the compact disc. CDs overtook vinyl records in 1988 in terms of popularity, and between 1989 and 1991, the availability of vinyl rapidly declined. However, a small number of hardcore vinyl fans kept the medium alive, and in the early 2000s, LP sales started to increase. In the US, vinyl record sales increased 85% between 2006 and 2007, and 89% between 2007 and 2008. In 2010, 2.8 million vinyl albums were sold in the US, the most since 1991.
Personally, I acquired my first record player in 2008 as Winter Solstice present from Paul. Because I was born in 1986, my preferred music medium had been cassettes and CDs growing up–although I do have early memories of listening to my parents’ record player (more specifically, a recording of the 1972 cult classic Free to Be…You and Me, which probably explains a lot). The first thing I noticed was that friends and family from earlier generations tended to get quite excited when I told them that I now owned a record player, often enthusiastically offering to unload some of their old LPs onto me (which I graciously accepted, of course!). A couple of favorite albums on vinyl turned into quite the collection, ranging from big band swing to indie rock to electronica. Needless to say, I’m hooked.
I’d like to think that there could be some parallels between the story of the the vinyl record and the story of our little farmhouse. A small number of passionate people bringing that which has languished into a renaissance–sounds familiar I hope? Perhaps the best similarity is the improvements that bring the past into the future: recording companies have recently started including free iTunes codes with their LPs so people who buy an album in vinyl can still listen to its music portably–solving a problem that is widely believed to have been the downfall of the record medium in the 90s. Meanwhile, Paul and I are replacing single-pane, solid wood windows with double-pane, energy efficient windows with a vinyl exterior to solve the problems of high heating costs and wood-rotting. Perhaps it’s a slightly ridiculous analogy, but I find it perhaps a little inspirational as we work to meet deadlines and budgets. Either that or spending my morning in the record stores (which almost all double as head shops) has affected my thinking.
This was the third time I’ve attended Record Store Day promotions, this time hitting up Know Name Records in Richfield and Cheapo Records on Lake Street in Minneapolis. What’s great about going to record shops is the history you experience. Most of them were established in the 1970s, and many are still run by the people who opened them. You must understand, growing up in the age of the big box store, that fact is somewhat mind-blowing to me. If you can cut through condescension you’ll probably experience, the people behind the counter of these shops have an immense knowledge of many musical genres and be able to give you great recommendations. Today I just stuck to the Record Store Day promotions and netted the following:
Tomorrow it’s completely back to business, with my father coming up to the house to tear out the second orphaned chimney (in the kitchen) and prepare for electrical installation that will be commencing on Monday.
[Historical facts from the gramophone record Wikipedia page]