Remember bringing home a brand new record album, dropping the needle on the vinyl disc and poring over the jacket as the tracks unfolded in the sequence chosen by the artist?
Often, those songs have a special resonance, an association that brings back memories whenever you hear the music. And hearing them on vinyl, rather than in the digital format more common today, just adds to that experience.
Vinyl, once the top format in the music industry, is making a comeback, and aficionados of the LP will have an opportunity share their experiences with fellow travelers in several upcoming events.
Next Wednesday, Feb. 19, Guapo's Tortilla Shack on Route 6A in Orleans will host a Bring Your Own Vinyl (BYOV) night from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Folks are invited to bring two or three vinyl tracks with special meaning to them, give a brief introduction and spin the discs on a professional DJ turntable. A self-proclaimed “Viceroys of Vinyl” panel will be on hand to help facilitate, offer professional record cleaning services and appraise collectible albums.
Tony Raine, a Chatham resident and director of production at the Cape Cod Melody Tent and South Shore Music Circus, said he attended a similar event recently in Ireland and found after some research that it's become “a thing,” drawing vinyl enthusiasts and a mix of ages and music.
“I thought it might be worth a shot” and could be something different to do on a Cape Cod winter evening, he said.
Raine is one of the “Viceroys of Vinyl” who will be in attendance to facilitate participants who want to tell stories about specific vinyl tracks. Also doing hosting duties will be music author Dafydd Rees and Spinnaker's Records manager Randy Wickersham.
Rees' job will be to put the songs in context and provide trivia about the music and artists. As the author of many books on rock and roll, including biographies of Michael Jackson and John Lennon, Rees has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge on which to draw.
“I've always been the kind of guy, even in my teenager years, to buy records based on the sleeve notes, who was playing, who were the engineers and stuff like that,” he said. “They're the ones who make the records.”
No CDs, digital MP3 files or tapes will be allowed, offered Wickersham. “It's 100 percent vinyl.”
When asked what makes vinyl different, all three replied that it has to do with having a large plastic disc to hold, a carefully designed jacket and sleeve and the ritual of putting an album on a turntable, lifting the needle onto it and listening to the tracks one after another.
“It's a tactile thing,” said Raine. “Everybody says the same thing: It doesn't feel right when you have a CD, the sleeve notes and packaging doesn't feel like an album.”
“People can now get music without having anything in their hands at all,” Rees said. “People like something tactile that they can actually hang on to.” Having a 12-inch jacket listing musicians, producers, engineers and other creators makes it easier to learn about the artists and find other music by them. “With downloads you just can't do that.”
Along with a robust market for vintage LPs, there's been a resurgence in the popularity of new vinyl records. Fueled by popular bands releasing albums in the format—as well as on CD and digitally—as well as re-releases of classic LPs by The Beatles, Green Day and others, sales have escalated considerably in recent years. According to Statista.com, 18.84 million were sold in the U.S. in 2019, up 14.5 percent from the previous year. That's a significant increase over 1993, when only 300,000 vinyl LPs were sold. It's still a far cry from the two decades earlier, before CDs, when the vinyl LP vastly outsold cassettes and eight-tracks, the only other commercial formats. In 1973, more than 600 million vinyl albums were sold, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
A decade or so ago vinyl began to gain traction with young people, Wickersham said. “It took off and became a kind of hipster thing,” he said. More recently, the customer base has expanded to include people from 7 to 70, he said. “I've sold Radiohead records to 10-year-old kids, I've had whole families come in and each pick out a record. They go home and play the tracks for each other.”
Rees, who grew up in England and now lives in Barnstable Village, remembers the first records he bought: 45 rpm singles including Sam Cook's “Twisting the Night Away” and Elvis Presley's "Rock-A-Hula Baby.”
“I think my first album was 'Please Please Me' by The Beatles,” he said. He's become an authority on The Beatles and is currently working on a book following the band through every day of 1963. They began the year playing to a handful of people in Scotland and ended it in November playing the Royal Command Performance in front of Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. The book is scheduled for publication in spring 2021.
Another BYOV event will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 29 at the Wee Pub at the Cape Cod Irish Village in Yarmouth. The same venue will host a Vinyl Fair on March 21 and 22, which will include a BYOV event as well as a dozen record dealers and stereo equipment companies.
“There hasn't been a record convention on the Cape in a while,” Raine said. “I'm really curious to see how much interest there is.” Another Vinyl Fair is tentatively scheduled for April.