There was once a time where every town had a record store. A store where you could hide away in a dark corner sitting on a beanbag listening to a new vinyl you wanted to buy. The racks were bursting at the seams with wax and the turntables were spinning around the clock. It was a place where everyone and anyone were welcome and there was no pressure to buy anything if you didn’t want to, just come along for the scene.
You’d probably argue that these places still exist; they now sell CD’s and DVD’s, rarely a record. You can’t stay as long as you like hiding away with your friend and a new record, you can’t talk at length with the owner about what Led Zeppelin album was most influential, and you definitely can’t find them in every town. These days they are few and far between, they are they exception not the rule and their numbers are growing smaller as each year passes.
But are they really? I spoke with Nick Irwin, co-owner of Music Farmers records in Wollongong and he said that patronage was increasing in the past three years since his store has been open. Keith Owens, co-owner of Birdland records in George St Sydney, told me in an interview that not only in the last 5 years has vinyl appeared to be making a come back in popularity but also “it’s actually more like the last 10 years.”
A fellow young record enthusiast Lily Martyn, spoke with me and said that there is nothing that can compare to the tactile emotions we have when we hold our favourite vinyls, the artwork, the lyric sleeve, the record itself can be a sculpture that comes to life when it spins at 33 and a third.
It may be true that you can’t find a record store on every street, and that you need a detailed treasure map in order to find the back alley shop front hidden around two garbage dumpsters covered in graffiti, but that’s what makes the hunt for your favourite records so special. You can pick up the record with your friend and tell them the story of how you searched and searched and finally came across it in a two for one sale bin, how you snagged a bargain from the unsuspecting owner.
If I could tell any young music lover that needed something special to listen to music on I would tell them about vinyl, about how the warm crackle is in no way comparable to digitally compressed sound and that the ritualistic nature of putting on your first record is an experience you’ll never forget.