Ten years ago this past weekend was the first Vinyl Record Day observance at this blog. VRD was created by some foundation (one guy on the Internet, I suspect) to celebrate the vinyl medium on August 12, the date in 1877 on which Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. In 2007, I coordinated the efforts of several like-minded music bloggers around the world to mark the day. In 2008, I did something similar. It wasn’t long, however, before Vinyl Record Day was superseded by Record Store Day, and although the VRD website still exists, it hasn’t been updated in many years.
This post started out to be about my relationship to vinyl today, and I guess it ended up that way. But it ended up being about something bigger, too, as you’ll see on the flip.
As I have mentioned several times, I no longer have a turntable hooked up at my house. To many amongst the readership, that is unthinkable. I know all the arguments. Vinyl often sounds better than CDs, and much better than MP3s. There is a tactile pleasure in taking a record out of the jacket and the paper sleeve. I remember how it feels to wait out those couple seconds of anticipation after the needle is down, as the record spins before the music begins. I remember my delight in finding extras inside the album package, like a poster or a lyric booklet, and how fascinating liner notes and credits can be. I remember that vinyl has a particular smell, and I even remember that for separating the seeds from the stems, few things work better than a gatefold album jacket.
On a shelf in my office I have a collectible version of Heart’s album Magazine. I have a Dr. Hook album autographed by two members of the group after I did a radio interview with them. I have my original 1975 edition of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, one of the most elaborate and impressive album packages ever created. I have a limited, numbered edition of Dr. Demento’s Greatest Novelty Hits of All Time. All very cool to have, all stuff I treasured for a long time.
All unplayed for years. And now, all stuff I could part with tomorrow.
Today, I am not any less interested in music than I ever was. I’m not any less interested in reading than I ever was, but I don’t buy books anymore. I am more interested in beer today than at any time in my life, but I don’t buy pint glasses like I used to. Anything I buy that isn’t consumable is just one more goddamned thing we have to find a place to put, and we are out of places.
But the reason is more than practical.
One thing I have learned with age is that happiness, at least for me, no longer involves the possession of physical objects. If I have my laptop and the external drive with the music on it, a few of my clothes, my Billboard reference books, and my car, the rest of it—the photo albums, the memorabilia from high school, the shit that I’m saving for no reason I can remember anymore—can go to the thrift store, the landfill, or to hell. What good does it do to keep things if they’re boxed up tight in the basement, the garage, or a storage cubicle six miles from my house? If I don’t feel the need to look at, listen to, or hold them in my hands regularly, shouldn’t the memory of having enjoyed them be enough, just as the memories of lost friends and family, vacations, barroom nights, and other experiences are enough?
In my future, whether it’s another 30 years, 30 days, or 30 minutes, the things that will make me happy will not be things.
Why are you keeping the things you are keeping?