Everything old is new again
Hariklia Heristanidis writes on why it will always be vinyl.
I have about a shelf and a half of records. It’s not a huge collection, say, in comparison to the sort of guys (and they are usually guys) who have custom built shelves that line the walls of their houses, but I am loyal, like an addict who knows what they need. In the mid-80s when a lot of my friends got rid of their records, or at least put them into storage and embraced the CD, I held firmly on to my collection. And for all the years since, I have had my records and turntable out.
For me the 12-inch LP (or single) sleeve is an extension of the band, a way for them to express themselves visually. Take The Smiths for example. Their record sleeves have a unity of design that highlights Morrissey’s interest in 60s British popular culture, and American and French cult film stars. All their covers feature a limited colour palette and a cover ‘star’. There’s Terence Stamp, James Dean, Jean Marais and Joe Dallesandro to name a few. Each record cover is unmistakably The Smiths.
One of my prize possessions – you know, the sort that you would save if your house was on fire – is my copy of The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, autographed by Morrissey on the outside and Johnny Marr on the inside – priceless. The Smiths are one of my all-time favourite bands, and the cover star is Alain Delon, the most handsome man in the world. Even without the autographs, I would love it. The 12-inch cover also makes for the perfect presence. Propped up like a backdrop or display, it’s something to stare at as the music plays. CD covers are just too small – less than a quarter of the size of an LP. If one were to shrink the Mona Lisa as much it could easily be mistaken for a photograph of someone’s Italian aunt.
I’m also not mad on the hard, brittle plastic of CD covers. They have none of the warmth of cardboard and even less of the flexibility. And lest you find me overly superficial, let me say I also prefer the sound of vinyl – the warmth of analogue, versus the clinical or cold sound of digital. I like the popping, the crackle and even the scratches. It’s gritty and real. I know it’s my record when a particular song skips on a particular line. I’ve heard it that way for so long that when I hear the same song elsewhere and it doesn’t skip or scratch, it sounds strange.
Lately I keep hearing the adage ‘Everything old is new again’. This certainly came to mind recently when I noticed that Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is in the charts again. That record (for me it will always be a record) takes me back to my final year of high school. I see myself as I was then, young and slim (though at the time I thought myself fat) dancing frantically in my room to ‘The Chain’. I am wearing a cheesecloth top and a long batik skirt. Then, almost overnight, I bought Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, switched to black pants and stripped T-shirts, and became a punk. It reminds me that my life is reflected in my record collection, and although I did switch to CDs eventually, in the last few years I’m pleased to say, the tide has drawn back. Everything old is new again.
Hariklia is a writer, blogger and graphic designer. Her novella and short story collection, All Windows Open was published in 2012 and has recently been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. She is currently at work on her first novel. She lives in suburban Melbourne with her husband and daughter and dreams of travel and adventure.