We called those round things records when I was growing up. For Christmas, I was the lucky recipient of a TEAC CD Recorder with Turntable/Cassette Player. A nice machine. I thought it would be fun to make my own discs of select LPs and cassette tapes that have been mothballed ever since the family went the route of CDs and then digital music file downloads. I weeded out the album collection several years ago, but held on to about 75 that I wasn’t ready to part with; the cassette tapes number at least as many. The tapes had a longer life because of car music systems, but those got shelved also.
I pulled out the storage crate with the albums, and put on a 1974 James Taylor (“Walking Man”), which sounded just great on the new machine. I’m no audiophile, but the vinyl record made better music than the CD player with iPod dock in the kitchen. Maybe I wanted it to sound better for old times’ sake. In the crate were the first albums I owned, including “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles, whose sleeve is worn at the edges from handling, and a Dino, Desi, and Billy album called “Our Time’s Coming.” My mother special-ordered “Our Time’s Coming” from Record Lane on Central Street because I had to have it after seeing the group on TV. They were kids my age.
I won what was left of my parents’ records after they passed away, really my mother’s music because I don’t remember my father buying a record. He liked music, Sinatra and Al Martino and the Big Bands from the 1940s, and he would sit with her and listen to Barbra Streisand and Louis Armstrong (“Hello Dolly”) and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. These were played on a combination record player and radio mounted in a large wooden cabinet with speakers that filled a prominent space in our living room. The radio tuning dials and red selection needle were huge. The maker was Philco maybe? The record player was made for 78 rpm discs, of which we had several dozen. I remember listening to “Goodnight Irene” on one of the thick 78s. I think my brother David must have converted the turntable to one that played at 33 and 45 rpms because that was the same piece of furniture that had a turntable for the first rock and roll records I played in the early 1960s. David had worked a summer at Symphonics at the Boott Mills and learned how to assemble record players. Later, I had a small portable record player, a hi-fi system from a bargain department store, and then a real stereo music player.
Looking at the albums this afternoon was a time-machine experience. Each record maintains a place from its past and my past and comes with a string of stories. I had a general idea of what was in the crate, but there were suprises in there. What was not surprising is that my taste in music hasn’t changed a lot in 50 years. The stack of CDs in the CD tower is much more eclectic, but I like what’s in the old albums as much as anything I’ve heard since. I haven’t bought a vinyl record in about 20 years, I guess. I played a Michelle Shocked album from 1988 this afternoon and wrote about it on Facebook, adding a YouTube link to her song “Anchorage,” from the album. The record played beautifully on the new machine. I hope we have a couple of snowstorms this winter, so I can fire up the TEAC player and make discs from the albums and cassettes. I know most if not all of the material is out there on the web, but I like the idea of recycling from my own collection.