Love on Vinyl

This Easter weekend, the hubby and I headed over to Cheshire to visit the in-laws. It was a very exciting visit, for three reasons: firstly, it was the furthest I’ve ventured from Derby since October; secondly, I saw the first swallows of the season, swooping over the river Weaver; and finally, we got to ferret through my father-in-law’s long-neglected record collection and swipe a few to take home and spin on our turntable at 33rpm. Yes, I’m a vinyl lover, a confession which once earned me the response ‘The LPs? Is that this band you’re playing at the moment?’ Over the past couple of years, I’ve invested quite large sums of money in expensive equipment to play these audio artifacts, and of course buying ‘new’ ones. Recent purchases have included Carole King’s Tapestry, Led Zeppelin IV,and more Deep Purple albums than most people would regard as strictly necessary. But this weekend represented a chance to pretty much double the collection, filling our shelf with classic records from the 60s and 70s.


After my husband dragged in the plastic crate from the garage, he wanted to sort through the records in a careful, systematic way. My approach, however, was to riffle rapidly and squeal with delight whenever I caught sight of something particularly exciting: a denim-clad crotch with Sticky Fingers rubber-stamped on top (’Don’t you have that on CD already?’ ‘Yes, but the LP has a zip!’); four blokes on a pedestrian crossing in St John’s Wood; or, peeking out from behind Leonard Cohen’s lugubrious face, the thinnest imaginable stripe of luminous orangey-pink, betraying to my eager eyes the presence of the psychedelic eyegasm that is the cover of Disraeli Gears. We got a brilliant haul, including nearly all Bob Dylan’s mid-sixties classics. Sure, the condition of most of them isn’t great, but I love ‘em anyway, the discs scratched and warped, the covers scuffed and torn. Shows they’ve been played and enjoyed.


A selection of the new vinyl acquisitions: there are 15 classic albums in this image. If you can name all of them without recourse to Google, I’ll be very impressed.


And now they will be again, after decades stored away in a dusty box, forgotten. My father-in-law, however, was reluctant to part with some of them: In the Court of the Crimson King and Atom Heart Mother were given up only grudgingly, while he refused outright to let go of The Dark Side of the Moon and Ummagumma, allowing me only the briefest chance to admire the flawless beauty of the young David Gilmour album artwork. He felt, he confessed, rather as if we were picking through his youth and taking bits of it away. I suppose in a sense, we were, but we’re also now going to bring it all back to glorious, crackly life.


But why on earth do I want to do this? Vinyl records are heavy, inconvenient, and easily damaged. You can’t listen to them whilst out jogging, or in the car. At home, the stereo dedicated to them on takes up an entire sideboard, and you have to keep getting up to flip the damn things over. Set against the weightlessness and convenience of MP3s, they’re a right pain. But I love them anyway. A lot of it is simple nostalgia – memories of dropping the needle on my Dad’s Hendrix LPs, reliving times before I was even born. Many audiophiles claim that vinyl offers superior sound quality, although I think that’s only true when they’re not scratched to buggery, which most of mine are. But mainly, I think, it’s the joy of their physicality: the cardboard sleeves, big enough to show off the artwork (especially if it’s a double-vinyl gatefold LP – squee!), the careful procedure to play them: sliding out the glossy black 12-inch disc, putting it on the turntable, wiping off the dust, setting it spinning at the right speed, placing the stylus in the lead-in groove. And then that wonderful sound of the needle drop, and the slight crackle, the shiver of anticipation, the home version of the orchestra tuning-up. I might have a lot of music stored on my hard drive, but I never feel like I really, truly, own it, unless I have it on vinyl.


Which means, oddly, that I feel I own a bunch of stuff I’ve just jointly acquired on extended loan from my father-in-law more than things I downloaded years ago. Hey, nobody ever said love was supposed to be rational, and if it makes me happy, I’m happy. Now, I just need to upgrade my turntable so I’ll be able to play my stash of 78s…

A Roundup of Randomness

It’s been quite a tiring couple of weeks. After almost 5 months of severe back pain, my activities largely restricted to walking round the park, drinking cups of tea, and watching old music videos and Game of Thrones teasers on YouTube, last Monday I finally went back to work. The pain hasn’t gone, but it’s sufficiently under control to start a phased return to the office, trying to remember what on earth I’m supposed to be doing (something to do with overhaul of jet engines, I think). I’ve been doing just two hours a day so far, but it’s astonishing how drained I feel afterwards. Still, this week was much better than last week, so it’s progress, and I was genuinely touched by how happy all my colleagues are to see me back. So, in the absence of more significant inspiration, I figure it’s time for a quick roundup of my latest thoughts and deeds.

1) Game of Thrones season 4 has started. This is, quite literally, the most exciting thing to happen to me in the last six months. My favourite bit – apart from Arya and The Hound, obvs – is the opening credits: although I have to confess that my heart sank just a little bit when Meereen showed up, I do love the way they’ve made The Dreadfort look like meat tenderisers. The Dreadfort, for those who don’t have the same encyclopaedic knowledge of Westeros as me, is the seat of Roose Bolton, who isn’t a terribly nice guy, even by GoT’s bloodthirsty standards. Incidentally, he looks just like Vladimir Putin.

2) I’ve been listening to a lot of Team Rock Radio lately, a station which promises no adverts, although it does spend a lot of time telling you all about what’s in the latest issue of Classic Rock Magazine. Clearly an underhand marketing tactic which won’t work on me. So in the latest issue, I’ve been reading all about KISS. God, they’re rubbish. But I salute their stroke of genius in adopting that crazy face-paint look back in the 70s, thus ensuring that: a) nobody would find out how ugly they all were; b) nobody would recognise them off-stage; c) they could replace band members without anyone noticing; and d) in forty years’ time, when their pretty-boy rivals’ faces had all melted, they would still look exactly the same.

3) Last Christmas I decided that my 2013 reading challenge would be ‘In Search of Lost Time’. I managed about half of it, so I’ve decided it’s actually a 2013 and 2014 reading challenge, and I’m currently working my way – slowly – through volume 4, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’. I’ve also baked some madeleines, which I think counts as further progress.

4) On Monday evening I jointly led a session at my writing group, Derby Scribes, on the topic of submissions to agencies, magazines, and anthologies. At one point the discussion turned to font choices, and it struck me that you can always tell a true writer by how impassioned they are on the topic of serifs vs sans, Courier vs Times New Roman, or Verdana vs Calibri. We even had a couple of people sticking up for that most reviled of all fonts, Comic Sans. FWIW, my personal font of choice is Palatino Linotype.

5) My friend Tamsin has roped me into doing a 10k walk, starting at 10pm, to raise money for Treetops Hospice. It’s called the Moonlight Walk, but it’s actually scheduled for the night of the new moon, so clearly we need all the help we can get. Our team is called The Tea Ladies, and if we make our donations target, I’ll do the walk wearing my English breakfast tea cosy on my head.


I will wear this on my head if you donate enough money to our cause