Monday, 1 September 2008

Vinyl Riches

Last Bank Holiday weekend I went to Birmingham to visit friends from those golden University years of mine. It was a great weekend and one which I sorely needed as we wined, dined, danced and pranced our way through the weekend. Unexpectedly, however, I found myself inspired by my former housemate's random vinyl collection.

If a weekend were to ever have a soundtrack then it was this one. The music in question? Just a pair of seven-inch singles - Hit me with your rhythm stick by Ian Dury and The Blockheads and I'm too sexy by Right Said Fred. I know what you're thinking: Hit me with your rhythm stick is a superb song, for sure, but I'm too sexy? I guess it was one of those You Really Had To Be There moments, all self-mockery and homo-eroticism...

Flicking through my friend's vinyls got me all excited. His collection was varied, random and silly and made me want to put an old turntable I had back home in my room, trawl through my parent's old LPs and start a similarly odd and eclectic collection of my own. My last day in Birmingham saw me and my friends mooch into the city centre, my intention being to find some cheap charity-shop vinyl. Unfortunately we didn't have the endurance to traipse around for such shops but we did go into Zavvi with the scrap of hope that they would have some records. Sure enough they did and I purchased an album by the 80s New Wave group Men Without Hats and also the superbly baffling Pavarotti's Greatest Hits, Volume Two (the album cover is quite something - Pavarotti in a clown suit posing with a massive drum).

Once I arrived back in Bath I set up our old turntable in my room, dug out my parent's old records and started syphoning out the one's I was interested in. I did exactly the same many years ago when we had a turntable in our front room. It was through this that I first heard The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the music which I consider to have changed the course of my life for the better. I can remember listening to The Beatles' Strawberry fields forever and thinking So this is what It sounds like.

The next day, after I had finished work, I popped into Bath city centre on the hunt for more vinyl. I went into one of the Oxfam shops and started sifting through their deceptively large selection of albums and singles. I could not believe my luck. One of the first records I came across was the twelve-inch single of The Right Stuff by New Kids On The Block. If ever a slice of boyband perfection existed then this surely was it. It screamed of the daftness, irreverence and the ridiculous so much so that I bought it along with the equally naff-yet-brilliant Straight Up by Paula Abdul. I also bought Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Pretentious, I know, but I had just re-read A Clockwork Orange and was desperate to hear it. It's actually quite good.

There is always that earnest debate as to whether vinyls sound better than CDs. I'm not entirely sure; I like to think that there are some artists who do sound better on vinyl than CD, one such artist being the inimitable Nat King Cole. I found the undoubtedly rushed-released best of, 20 Golden Greats, in my house and that takes some beating on the turntable, all candlelight and crackle.

Typical with other things in my life, I seem to be moving backwards. Instead of buying an iPod I put a turntable in my room. However, the unpredictable excitement of going into a charity shop, digging through their stale smelling records and buying something you've never heard of or haven't heard for a long, long time is far more thrilling than going into HMV and buying yet another CD or downloading music from the internet.
Vinyl has got me all excited. I think it's the start of a beautiful friendship.