My oldest boy soon returns to college as an RA in his dorm. He has to have his hall doors decorated with thematic name tags before the students return. He had the clever idea to go to a Goodwill store and buy twenty old vinyl albums and put the kids’ names on them. I said, “Heck, just go downstairs. You’ll find four linear feet of albums your dad and I have schlepped around, unplayed, for decades. Take whatever you want.” So he did, but he cleared his selections with us first. And that was the strange part. Even though I know that I will likely never play these albums again, some were impossible to give up.
In the “Take– it–No– Problem” category: Boston, Bruce Springsteen, Flashdance soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Elton John, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Bee Gees, Steely Dan, Linda Ronstadt, Boz Scaggs, Billy Joel, Bread, and the Eagles. In the “Can’t Part With it Just Yet” category: Bonnie Raitt, Ella, Sippie Wallace, Jackson Brown, Hall and Oates, Earth, Wind, and Fire (he’d know better than to ask for those), Al Jarreau, Loggins and Messina, Silvertones (a tiny Ann Arbor band), the Monkees. As far as I could tell, with the strange exception of the Monkees, the split-second decision “keepers” were the very same albums my college roommate Claudia and I played to pump ourselves up before going out, or to accompany our lovesick mooning about, when we were pining after some cute guy. Those mostly happy memories were too indelibly linked to the music for me to leave them behind.
It was funny to hear my son’s surprise when I ditched The Boss like yesterday’s old fish. Or Boston (“Mom–that’s a classic!”). “Hotel California? Really–you’d get rid of that?” (Just bought it on CD–I did find myself missing it recently). And “Bread? Who is Bread anyway ?” (Oh Noah across the hall played it so many times when his high school sweetheart dumped him…that’s all I can think of when I hear it. Please take it.)
Plenty of soliloquys have been written about the superior physical and auditory experience of vinyl. Who sits around lovingly staring at a CD jewel case? When playing a 33 and 1/3 you had to be engaged at least every twenty-five minutes, if only to flip it over. It never totally became background music; listening to an album felt more like the main activity. And buying albums on iTunes–even though I sometimes do it–still feels like a mere shadow of the former process of buying an album. My son will never understand that kind of deliberate, tangible, take-a-trip experience of acquiring music, or the feel of a cardboard record cover as it got gently abraded and powder soft after being shifted in and out of a stack of albums countless times.
That’s OK. But I wish I could give Noah that Bread album…he’d appreciate it more than some random kid getting it on his dorm door.