It’s been an exciting week at Classic Rock Household with the arrival of the first new stereo system in more than a decade. What’s really cool about my $299 all-in-one contraption ordered online from Target is that I can finally have all of my various music media emanating from one place: Records, CDs, cassettes, AM/FM radio, satellite radio, and iPods.
But it’s the ability to play my collection of vinyl again that really has me stoked. I am of a vintage – 43 years old – where I absorbed all of my formative years of music in record and cassette formats, and I’m enjoying spinning 33s and 45s that in some cases haven’t been touched in close to 30 years.
Now, I’m not one of those vinyl-is-God music nerds, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t actually sound better – even on a cheap system – than CDs. While I appreciate the clarity of sound and ability to skip tracks that CDs offer, there is something to be said for the deeper, richer, warmer sound that vinyl has.
Steve Perry really does wail higher on “Open Arms” and the Chi-Lites hearts are broken harder on “Have You Seen Her?” in their wax product.
Two of the first LPs I pulled out to play were Simon and Garfunkel‘s Greatest Hits and the Beatles‘ Love Songs – both out of print or never issued on CD. It was only later that I realized how both records had a connection to my past in a way I didn’t grasp when I put them on the turntable.
You see, my earliest musical influences had to be my parents, Classic Rock Bob Sr. and Classic Rock Donna. Our house (which was a very, very fine house…with two dogs in the yard…) was always filled with classic rock and the more pop music of the early ’60s.
Many a Sunday morning Dad would crank up the stereo – with its freakishly tall speakers by today’s comparison – to play his favorites: The Allman Brothers Band’s Live at Fillmore East; Boz Scaggs‘ Silk Degrees; Dave Mason’s Let It Flow; Steely Dan’s Aja; Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s CSN; and the Steve Miller Band’s Book of Dreams among them. Then, Mom would take over with her Billy Joel discs – though I thought then, as I do now, that the cover to Piano Man is pretty fucking creepy.
They also influenced the musical tastes of my brother and future musician, Classic Rock Jamie, tremendously. Even though we once had an argument about whose legacy would last longer: The Beatles or Def Leppard. I think I safely won that one.
The fact that I’ve gotten to interview, meet, and in some cases actually work with many of those artists in my career as a music journalist was icing on the cake. And one of the last great memories I had of my father was taking him to see Boz Scaggs – third row seats! (though a backstage snafu kept us from meeting him as pre-arranged).
But back to those records I chose. In August 1983, I was scheduled to attend my first ever concert, a Simon and Garfunkel reunion show at Houston’s Astrodome (never mind the incongruity of healing those delicate vocal harmonies in a closed roofed, cavernous sports stadium with wretched sound).
As my family and a friend piled into the van and drove down to the Dome, we saw that the long line of cars leading to the gate was being turned around. My heart leapt – something was wrong. It turns out that the show had been cancelled due to the threat of Hurricane Alicia. As we turned around to return home, I was crestfallen.
But the next day after I returned home from school, I found a copy of Greatest Hits on my bed. Mom had gone to a record store during the day and picked it up. “I know it’s not the same as going to a show,” she told me, “but I hope it makes you feel better.”
It sure did. And so did that copy of the double LP Love Songs she got me as a Valentine’s Day present a couple of years earlier when she heard me bemoaning that I didn’t have a girlfriend…in junior high. Ah, the tragedy of youth..
So I’ll be spending a lot more time revisiting my vinyl friends – some from my parents’ collection, some that I played over and over again in that bedroom on Summergate Dr. – and hearing them just like I used to.
And thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping to mold my musical growth…among everything else. I’ll remember you both when the needle drops. You rock!