With all the optimism of a razor seller in Shoreditch, vinyl won’t go away. This is particularly true for charity shops selling overpriced Val Doonican albums involving jumpers on the cover better suited to office charitable fundraising. That they’re priced at all and not contributing to landfill says everything that’s needed to know about vinyl’s resurgence. Millennials even call them vinyls, presumably clarifying confusion in previously calling them records.
Even the Frozen soundtrack is on vinyl for under 5 audio purists who refuse to listen to digital because it strips away analogue warmth through too much compression. But ever since shellac replaced phonograph cylinders, audiophiles have argued over sound quality, often so loudly they can’t hear Let it go by Elsa, which has to be a good thing.
This resurgence has been occurring for years. I wrote a piece for Sabotage Times in 2014, and Record Store Day (celebrating its 10th year on 22nd April) has become a victim of its own success, at least by fans angered at the limited edition Jack White flexi-disc made from a crushed 1967 les Paul being sold while they remained in the queue. Detractors claim Record Store Day is promoting an obsolete format, and suggest Coin-Op Day or Clothes Mangle Day as equal contenders; that it’s Luddite sentimentality. This tells you much about misunderstandings around vinyl. Because it is on vinyl does not make it necessarily good. After all, Slip Knot and Limp Bizkit both release records, or rather vinyls.
Vinyl sales are higher than they have been for two decades. (See how Vinyls sales are higher – doesn’t work?) It’s the fastest growing format on the market. It’s still small, but 3.2 million records were sold in 2016, a rise of 53% on the previous year, Like drink mixers for spirits at parties, there’s more demand than supply, with pressing plants unable to keep up. To make things worse, bands feel obliged to press records on coloured vinyl, or stretch a single album over four sides creating a double album, which ruins listening experience previously spent sitting down for longer than two tracks at a time. It’s great for Iphone Health app stats, but breaks the musical spell.
Vinyl is the great comeback of our times. All it takes is for something to be taken seriously for it to happen. Look at Jeremy Corbyn. Vinyl even conquered CDs, despite them claiming to be better because you could spread jam on them, and certainly cassettes. Although aficionados are attempting to revive this defunct format, presumably by spooling tapes back together using pencils, before turning ironic attentions to 78 rpm shellac records and phonograph cylinders.
As predictable as Richmond residents wearing Italian puffy jackets and body warmers, the vinyl debate tremors into the digital age, but it’s the opportunity to hold music in your hand which gives it quite literally the edge. And unlike your smart phone, your record player won’t stop playing just because your work, friends or family are ringing you. Until it’s time to move house vinyl seems the best idea in the world, and is apparently here to stay. Roll on Record Store Day to see grown adults fighting over the 7″ of the Beatles double A-side Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever in its original picture sleeve, which will never get played.
My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance
A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’
and on ebook here –