Vinyl's resurrection has musical tech heads in spin

Martin Stevenson
Martin Stevenson

LUDDITES manifest themselves in various forms.

Indeed, an entire political party, the Greens, is dedicated to halting progress and the onward march of industry and commerce.

Yet despite this columnist being critical of non-progressive forces, we admit a secret yearning for the way things used to be in at least one respect and of which the treehuggers' party may very well wish to take note.

The way music is recorded and played and the aesthetic quality of vinyl records.

Memories came flooding back of how times were, and how even educated people are often unaware of the simple mechanics of playing vinyl recordings, during a recent social gathering of "a cross section of the community" hosted by yours etc.

The crossest section of the foregathered was your vinyl- obsessed host as he observed a partygoer setting down a needle on the turntable without benefit of that little lever on the side of the apparatus.

It is always a pleasure to finger- wag a techno-freak boffin (for that is what he is), on the error of his ways.

And especially when the person concerned spends his working hours employing the latest interactive technology, rather than sensible "chalk and talk" to make his academic points.

It became necessary to not only admonish this potential wrecker of records ("gently lower the needle using the lever into the little gaps between the wavy lines") but also point out that he, indeed everyone, had better get used to treating such recorded music respectfully as these shiny black plastic circles are on their way back.

That's according to Australian Recording Industry Association chief executive Dan Rosen, quoted in the Australian, who said vinyl album sales in Australia have rocketed by nearly 75 per cent in a year.

CD purchases have slumped 7 per cent.

OK, that's because (a) vinyl is coming off a low base, and (b) CD buys are bottoming as everyone is downloading everything they want, good gracious, even stuff by Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond.

No honestly.

True, the "low base" claim is sound with 77,934 vinyls sold compared with 44,876 albums in the previous annum while more than 19 million CDs were slid across a counter or flown across an ocean.

Yet as the Australian Music Retailers' Association's Sara Hood put it whimsically enough in the Sydney Morning Herald: "Customers have begun to do strange things such as buying music again."

We'll also go along with Brisbane's Egg Records owner Ric Trevaskes who reckons the vinyl fightback is due to "the warm, rather than clinically perfect, sound delivered by vinyl."

That would include the surface noise, clicks and whirls from this correspondent's ancient Dave Brubeck Quartet discs sounding as if they were recorded in a studio with a roaring log fire.

The weird part here is that tech heads automatically assume that record collectors are only interested in augmenting their collections with heaps of daggy 1960s discs of has-beens with ducks'-arse hair-dos who warble Doo-wop.

Not so, as cool jazz, the classics, and good rock, are the go in our cellar of sound and which sound better on a turntable connected to an electric wireless rather than some tinny five-inch wide piece of glistening plastic, a CD.

So is there perhaps not a hint for the aforementioned Greens and their formulation of policy with a March state election?

Come on Greens' leader, Nick McKim, copy that semi-brilliant feds' Labor concept when aged punters were handed a set top box for their ancient Kriesler tele - pledge a turntable to those who assist the nature lovers' party back into power.

Chuck in a few old records too.

We may have to draw the line at Pentangle or Steeleye Span.

Supertramp, the Bee Gees and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are fine, of course.


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