My first 45 was Manfred Mann’s Earth Band/Blinded by the Light. Still the most lyrically misunderstood song ever. I was 9 and I can still remember what it felt like to take the record from the sleeve. I put on my father’s massive JVC headphones and sat against the wall. For the next 5 years I split my $5 between Barbie dolls and 45’s. When I was 10, I bought Blondie/The Tide is High and that was it. I found new wave.
I started collecting vinyl when I made enough money to buy a full album. My first record was “The Head on the Door.” I bought it at a record store called Peaches in Toledo, Ohio. I completely wore it out. I used to buy an album, come straight home, open it in the middle of my bedroom, and start reading lyrics and looking at the front and back cover. It was my record buying ritual. Vinyl records were art and nothing was more exciting than the double album. My first double album was the soundtrack to the documentary Imagine/John Lennon. It opened like a book and inside were pictures of John and Yoko. I even used the front cover to create silk screen t- shirts in my high school photo class. I laid down in the middle of bedroom floor and listened to Jealous Guy against a backdrop of crackles and pops. I was 17 and it felt legendary. Like the only thing that mattered in this world was music and love. But then one day in 1990 I walked into Media Play and saw every vinyl album reduced to $1. I stood in the aisle holding the Pretenders with tears in my eyes. I knew times were a changin’. I resisted buying cds for as long as possible, but like everyone else I gave into evolution.
My father bought me my first car when I was 18. It only had a radio. So, I put a boombox in the passenger seat. I didn’t give a damn what it looked like. I had gas, cash, and music. Every weekend I drove to High Street on Ohio State campus and hit the record stores. These were the college radio record stores. Not the mall record stores. I could get the rare stuff. They had imports, and t-shirts, and bumper stickers. Before this, I only had the Record Hive in Springfield, Ohio. (which I have to admit, was the best fucking secret ever). They had the ultra rare stuff. But I knew it wouldn’t last. Location would kill it and it did. But I bought everything I could before I watched it go. Every Cramps album and Siouxsie import I own, I bought at the Hive.
I never saw downloads coming. But then again, I thought the laserdisc player would catch on. Suddenly, you could get anything you wanted. No more buying an entire cd for that one song. But this is one evolutionary step that I skipped. I’ve never paid for a download. I want an experience. I want to get in my car and listen to a cd while I drive to a record store to get some vinyl and maybe a t-shirt. I want to smell wax and old cardboard. I want to have conversations with strangers about music. I want to rifle through that box of old albums and find something that I forgot about. I want to feel something. Downloads can’t give you that. Just like a Kindle will never feel like a real book and the radio will never feel like going to a live show, downloads will never feel like the real thing. I love the internet. Don’t get me wrong. But my records will always sit on a shelf not in a file.