By Greg Schwem
Finally, and I do mean FINALLY, I have solid evidence that some things were actually better in “the old days.”
No longer do I have to stare at my kids’ skeptical, sometimes horrified, facial expressions while I wax poetically about the merits of a television that could only pick up five channels (OK, six if you knew how to manipulate a TV antenna); a phone mounted to a wall; or a high school romance that began with spoken words as opposed to written texts and TikTok videos.
Perhaps I was too hasty when I threw away my AM/FM clock radio, my Pong game and my three-piece polyester suits. At the very least, I should have kept my turntable, a major component of my hi-fi system and my youth.
The reason? Vinyl is back, baby!
Recently released data from the Recording Industry Association of America showed that, for the first time in more than 30 years, vinyl albums (Google that phrase, kids) outsold CDs. True, services like Spotify and Apple Music are still the preferred way to obtain tunes; but for those of us who like to hold our albums as opposed to streaming them, the reemergence of the black, long play record album, and the hisses and scratches that come with it, is a victory of sorts for middle-aged music aficionados like myself.
My vinyl collection is long gone, as I succumbed to the superior sound and portability of CDs in the 1980s, but the memories endure. Growing up in suburban Chicago, I was a fixture at Polk Brothers, a home appliance and electronics retail outlet. While customers in one aisle shopped for refrigerators, I was in the adjoining aisle, flipping through recently arrived albums in search of the latest Elton John release. My Christmas wish list always included half a dozen albums, some of which my mother probably purchased in horror.
“They’re called Kiss, Mom. Just look for the album cover featuring a guy wearing white makeup with blood dripping from his mouth.”
Ah, yes, the album cover! And the back cover featuring the song list! My closest encounter to a broken bone occurred when I was pedaling home with my latest purchase and neglected to see a rut in the road, so fixated was I on the song titles. If I arrived home in one piece, I promptly retreated to my bedroom, dropped the stylus on the album and read the lyrics to each song, often laughing when I realized what I had been singing up until that moment.
“Oh, so it’s ‘Rocket Man, burning out his fuse up here alone.’ I thought it was, ‘Rocket Man, burning out his shoes, the pair I loaned.’ ”
I memorized the names of every musician who played on every track, eventually realizing a select group of drummers and horn players were in high demand when it came time for my favorite rock stars to cut new albums. I was playing guitar at the time and took heart knowing that, if I never found a band to play in, I could make a great living as a studio musician.
When I became a disc jockey at my high school radio station, I learned the art of “cueing” a vinyl song by dropping the stylus on a particular groove and then spinning the album backward so, when I pressed “play” on the turntable, the song started immediately. I knew that skill didn’t improve my status with girls, but I was sure they would have been impressed were outsiders allowed in the studio. They weren’t.
I learned wooden crates from grocery stores were the perfect width to hold my album collection. I never resorted to alphabetizing my LPs, but they were sorted by genres; and the “Greatest Hits” albums occupied the front spaces, with the Eagles getting top status. And why not? In 2018 the band’s greatest hits collection surpassed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as top selling album of all time.
So, Gen Z and Internet Generation members who brag about the 10,000 songs you carry on your phones, along with the 20,000 photos, take a deep breath. Find Drake’s best seller “One Dance” on vinyl, seek out a turntable and enjoy the experience.
And read the lyrics. It’s “I had to bust up the silence,” not “I had to bust up the sirens.”
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.)
You’ve enjoyed reading, and laughing at, Greg Schwem’s monthly humor columns in Senior Living News. But did you know Greg is also a nationally touring stand-up comedian? And he loves to make audiences laugh about the joys, and frustrations, of growing older. Watch the clip and, if you’d like Greg to perform at your senior center or senior event, contact him through his website at www.gregschwem.com)