Notes on record players and progressively moving backwards

This just in: it’s beautiful, it tells a story, and it makes your ‘wanna-be-hipster’ even more convincing. Wait for it … it’s a record player. And it is hip hopping its way back into style. The timeless machine (the phonograph) that Thomas Edison first invented in 1877 has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Many adjustments were made to the 19th century machine to create what we now call ‘the record player’, but the accreditation for the first device to reproduce recorded sound respectively goes to Edison.

After the phonograph, Columbia Records came out with LP (long-playing) albums, which is what we listen to today. Shortly afterwards, Phillips created cassette tapes (throwback to elementary school). The last two big music-players to be released were the legendary Walkman and the Apple iPod. 

The music industry seems to have gone full-circle. Vinyl is gradually becoming one of the preferred ways of listening to music. With all due respect to Apple products, the listening experience with a vinyl player trumps all new-age music technology. Record players allow the listener to have an unbelievably raw and organic connection with the music. It’s a challenge to ‘feel’ and be enraptured while listening to artists like Joe Cocker, Carole King, Santana, and the Doobie Brothers with a pair of ear buds or headphones. Vinyl brings us back to the roots, or as Joni Mitchell would say “back to the garden,” of what music used to be.

The connection between the listener and the artist is also magnified by the design, or art, of the album cover. “They are visually appealing,” says Thomas Holmes, Wheaton’s radio station manager. Holmes said that some artists even dye their vinyl different colors—now, there’s a deluxe-edition album for you! Most album covers also serve as a means for the artist or band to promulgate the personal intent of the album. 

Some may say that people listen to record players to hear ‘the old stuff,’ but this isn’t the case anymore. Many contemporary artists are also using the vinyl format. Artists like Daft Punk, The Black Keys, and even Beyoncé have tailored their albums to ‘vinyl necessities’. These necessities are vital for an album to be a successful and great one. You cannot skip a song or go back to listen to the chorus of another. “You are in it for the long run,” says Holmes.

Usually best albums are those that are recorded in a studio as true albums, versus an album that is complied of singles or ‘greatest hits.’ More often than not, the feel or mood of an album changes as it progresses. In this way, recording on vinyl helps artists tell a story, simple or profound, through the progression from one song to the next. It is then your job to just sit back and listen. 

The music industry is greatly benefitting from the growth in popularity of record players, both by giving artists another way of presenting their music and by stimulating resurgence in the actual creation of vinyl for recording music. With this said, Apple products and other innovative technological advances will probably always be ‘in the lead’ of the music industry. But change is in the air and I guess it is safe to say, then, that the tables are turning.