The Lost Etiquette of Music..
I was on my most recent excursion on the hunt for old vinyl on a very limited, broke hipster kind of way. And maybe it took a couple of Coronas to come to the serious conclusion that the way we have chosen to listen to music over the generation has directly affected/and continues to affect, our behavior-personality if you will.
When I was a kid, going shopping for records with my father at Sam The Record Man in what was, Bayers Rd Shopping Center in the late 70’s/early 80’s was an event. I would save up my allowances for these particular excursions coming home excitedly with the new Duran Duran or Michael Jackson. We’d carefully transport them home in the backseat of the car while I randomly checked to ensure their safety. Once we got home, my father and I would retire to our own separate music spaces. His being a floor model record player/8track and am radio located in the living room. You know the ones. Some of you anyway, some of you may only remember them as this big bulky atrocious looking piece of furniture in your parent’s basement that they may have cracked once or twice while getting in to the Christmas Nog or after a landmark birthday when they were questioning their life’s decisions. lol. Mine being a little plastic Sears model in my bedroom that I got as a present for Easter when I was 6. It was a ritual. Turning your stereo on- mine had to warm up – you’d hear that electric low grade buzz that let you know, you were indeed in business. You’d gently slice the plastic sleeve revealing the smooth cover beneath. After tracing the cover feeling for any time of indents or embellishments for the purpose of art. Then you would pull that sweet vinyl- (mostly a plastic combination however by the 80’s), out of the paper sleeve. Sometimes, if you were lucky, the sleeve would contain the lyrics to all the songs, if you were a nerd like myself and enjoyed singing along but preferred the correct lyrics, thank you very much. Sometimes however, it’d be covered in artwork or photos of the band you were listening to. It was almost like a little picture book to accompany your music listening experience. You would listen to each track, no point in skipping because, you risked scratching the vinyl. In addition to that, each side only contained five or six songs- sometimes fewer so why rush it?
In addition to the whole ritual of listening to vinyl, we were also respectful of the vinyl. You carefully handled it, particularly if it belonged to your Dad who would be pissed to see a scratch on his Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival albums. You always remembered at what place in the stack you removed the record from so you could gently place it back once you were done. No harm no foul. The time of vinyl, allowed one to pin point each individual instrument in a clarity that has not been duplicated in the cassette, cd or mp3 if you ask many of us. Vinyl injected a certain level of respect to our music listening experience. You respected the artists, you respected the physicality of the record AND you respected the property of others. I remember excitedly hurrying home in the fifth grade when my friend lent me her copy of Duran Duran Rio. I carefully embraced it on the bumpy ride home and immersed myself in pure British pop bliss over the course of the weekend making sure it was returned as clean and scratch free as it was when I borrowed it..
The recordable cassette deck turned us all in to our own personal deejays. It was a triumph for the poor, suddenly, we had the ability to not only record songs off the radio, making our own best compilations, but then came, the dual cassette, piracy was born and the respect started to slip away from our culture. You’d clumsily record a tune on your cassette deck rather than opting to purchase the actual cassette from our since closed, Sam The Record Man. You played a tape too much, it stretched and dragged. You’d routinely wind it with a Bic pen in hopes it would fix it. But it would then inevitable get consumed by our tape decks. It became a surgery as well as a curse to try to unwind it from the rotors with a nail file. Once the tape broke free it would simply stream out from your player in feet upon feet of your once favorite mix in one disappointing ribbon. Into the trash it went unnoticed, uncared for. It was just as easy to rip open another pack of “Memorex” tapes and make a new one. Music started to become not only disposable but also fairly easy for anyone to attain which was a blessing and a curse for the music industry. But boy, did we have fun recording our own radio shows?? You know you did it too!
Then came the compact disc. The “cd” sounded remarkably clearer than its precursor the cassette. Suddenly, people became purchasing music again in record droves. Although trying to cut open that blasted plastic the cd came in often caused rather ugly and non efficient cracks in the cases which was a nuisance because it left a physical flaw on your music collection. The cds were durable, but with the popularity of the now “home pc” came the recordable cds and suddenly, once again, we slipped back in to disrespect as we copied music, downloaded from Napster, guiltless and endlessly, becoming our own deejays once again with the added benefits of no stretched out ribbon tape that ultimately found its way to trashcans and roadsides all over the planet I am sure.
The lawsuits are endless when it comes to downloaded music. It’s become a crime in fact in many countries. So in effect, digital music has in essence, not only caused a lapse in respect for others but has also turned us in to petty criminals. Let’s face it, we load our “Ipods” and Mp4 players with music- skip through it frequently because it’s super easy, with a tiny click of a button you’ve moved on to the next, partial track you’ll listen to. We skip through our “IPod” lists just like we skip through life. Not really listening, not following through and giving up easy when you can just click and delete a song and replace it with another. Another remixed, sampled, piece of shit that someone through together in their basement while eating hot pockets and playing video games. I challenge you, listen to the White Album by the Beatles or classic Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Jim Croche, Springsteen- even Duran Duran or early Madonna. You can hear, the practice that’s gone in to the album, the passion, the creativity then the work of producing and printing and distributing the albums. It was an experience and despite its recent resurgence in Hipster culture, remains to be a dying art. We should preserve the vinyl and respect it as we have with other great contributions of art in our culture. Books, paintings, and vinyl.
Yes, you can still buy turntables, AND yes, artists still put out Vinyl.. Rekindle your love with music today.. Pick up a record!
Live Humbly, Live Graciously, Be Charitable.