Never Mind Stella, I Want *MY* Groove Back

A smattering of what’s left of my once-large record collection. Patiently waiting for components to be purchased…

I recently stepped into the home of a man who owns an incredibly impressive audio system sitting front and center in his living room. He had the largest set of speakers I have ever seen outside of a commercial establishment. Overkill? Perhaps, but they were a thing of beauty, encased in custom-made teak cabinets which in turn matched the modern Scandinavian decor of his home furnishings.

Those speakers dwarfed everything else in the room, making it clear that the enjoyment of music is the most important thing to this man. If he owned a TV it was placed elsewhere. This particular room was all about the music.

What was missing for me, however, were the components into which his speakers were connected. I saw nothing to adjust the volume, pop in a CD, etc. It was just those amazing looking speakers and nothing else.

I didn’t actually know this man. I was only in his home because I was with a friend who was dropping off some paperwork. But as the two of them completed their business, I had a chance to ask him where the rest of his stereo components were. He absolutely delighted in answering me. He pulled out his phone, brought up some kind of an app, and punched in a few keystrokes. Within seconds Sarah Vaughn’s exquisite “Lover Man” filled the air. It sounded beautiful and the room’s acoustics were terrific.

The man explained that all of his music is digital and loaded on some kind of software similar to iTunes but apparently much more advanced. He showed me how he can create playlists on the fly by artist, genre, year recorded, etc. From an automation standpoint it was impressive. But for an old-fashioned audiophile like me? It was disappointing. Still, I was a guest in his home, and so I lavished praise on his system and congratulated him. The speakers were to die for after all.

But no dials, knobs or buttons? No big headphone jack in the bottom corner? And most important, no turntable playing that warm analog sound? I looked at this man who obviously spent a fortune on this system, and all I could do was pity him.

This, from someone whose only current sound system is two tabletop radios (albeit one is satellite) and a Sears Silvertone transistor clock radio, circa 1966. Talk about reverse snobbery.

My faithful clock radio.

It wasn’t always this way, though. I once had a beautiful stereo system with a Mcintosh preamp¹, Marantz receiver, Garrard turntable, Teac reel-to-reel, and standalone Advent floor speakers. The speakers were Advent /1‘s, which perhaps would make the above man pity me with his own reverse snobbery. I remember how they took all summer to pay for on “the drip” at the Gramophone, a former high-end stereo store in Birmingham, Michigan. I absolutely loved their sound.

Eventually that stereo was sold along with so many other possessions prior to a big west coast move to California about 15 years ago. The theory was that I would buy a newer, more modern system which would integrate with the TV and other video devices. In practice what happened is that we bought a flat screened TV and a DVR that was added by the cable company. CD’s were played using a Wave radio or in the car. There was no integration.

I’ve been without a full-fledged stereo ever since.

But that’s only one part of the tragedy. The real calamity is the near death of my record collection.

Sometime around 1986 or so, I began making the transition to compact discs. To make matters worse, I started to replace everything I had once owned on vinyl and buying it on CD instead. Vinyl records by the carton and box were taken to used record stores and sold for nickels on the dollar. Except for a few sentimental favorites or rarities which I fortunately did keep, the lion share of my records are gone. What I have now is a pittance compared to the original collection.

What was I thinking?! doesn’t even begin to come close to the remorse I feel for that misguided decision. I spent many happy hours staring at Roger Dean’s artwork on all the Yes albums, the famous Sgt. Pepper cover created by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, and that cool poster tucked inside the White Album. Album covers have it all over the CD case for sheer beauty and trivia.

Later when I attended college, I learned how useful having a double-album was for cleaning… oh, never mind. That was a long time ago.

My poor dad never really quite understood precisely what I actually did at college. Each fall we would pack up my possessions in the car to return to campus, and a good 70% of the trunk and back seat space was taken up by stereo components and milk crates full of albums. I think I maybe had two small suitcases of clothes, one box of study supplies, and perhaps a razor and some tooth paste.

My priorities were clear and it sure as hell wasn’t the academic curriculum. Or apparently how I looked.

Source: Trish Thornton Flickr

Fast forward to today, more than anything else what I miss about vinyl is that glorious sound. There’s a warm richness in those analog recordings, which for me anyway, beats the digital format. Yes, I enjoy the convenience of playing CD’s in my car, having music on my phone, and joining the six other people in the country who also still use an iPod. Small and light is good.

But I now realize just how much more wonderful that earlier sound was. Yeah, sure, there were “snap, crackle, and pop” hisses in those record grooves. And indeed, we did all celebrate the supposed end of that format when CD’s were introduced. I just think in hindsight that those blemishes are now more of a comfort than a hindrance.² 

Recently, to my delight and utter surprise because it happened so fast, Gorgeous and I put in on a successful offer for a new home (more on this in a later post). We are now facing lots of paperwork for the mortgage, arranging for home and termite inspections, and transferring funds from this account to that account. While she is thinking all about furniture, rugs, kitchen cabinets, light fixtures, etc., all I can think about is the later purchase of that vintage stereo system, and where in this new place I’ll be putting it.

Oh, and also the purging lots of lots of CD’s to be replaced with vinyl versions. I’ll forgo the milk crates this time, if I know what’s good for me anyway. I suspect they probably won’t pass the feng shui test.

Source: Pinterest

In honor of the upcoming Record Store Day, I want to highlight two of my favorite bloggers who each devote nearly all of their posts to the beauty of vinyl. They are worth your taking the time to drop by their blogs and checking them out.

Bruce Jenkins at Vinyl Connections lives in Australia and has a huge and varied interest of pretty much every musical genre. Just when I think I know everything about an artist or group, he’ll offer an entire facet about which I was completely unaware. He also occasionally gets off-topic and writes about his earlier life with tales of school, early jobs, etc. He’s fun to read.

Thom Hickey is the blogger at The Immortal Jukebox. Thom doesn’t just write about how much he likes artists, he actually researches their life, where they lived, and the influences and cultural heritages that shaped their music. The reader ends up not just learning about the legacy of a musician, but also the human(s) behind their songs. Thom lives in England, but probably knows more about Detroit, Memphis, New York, New Orleans, and so many other American musical capitals than some of the actual residents of those cities. His posts are always a treat.

So move over Stella, and get yer ya-ya’s out. It’s time to boogie.

Source: Rollingstones.com

Until next time…

 

¹ Technically the preamp was completely unnecessary since by this time (circa 1979), receivers were more than capable of providing the necessary amplification and power needed for most audio components. So why did I have it? It was cool looking.

² If you need a more technical commentary on the differences between CD’s and vinyl, you can find it here

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28 thoughts on “Never Mind Stella, I Want *MY* Groove Back

  1. When we married my husband had speakers that were huge. I referred to them as phallic speakers because of their shape. I wasn’t wild about them. They took up a lot of room but we had gotten rid of all his furniture, I couldn’t make him get rid of them. Karma came through. Our family room has too much glass. There was no good placement for the speakers so he had to come up with a plan B…a much smaller plan B. His daughter has the phallic speakers and she loves them. We still have vinyl and some equipment. He was trying to put the rare albums on CDs and buying less rare stuff already on CDs. There was some discussion on purchasing a new turntable but I hopefully squashed that one. He will need to add on if he wants an audio room or move it to the basement! He would have loved to see those speakers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The collecting of albums to come will be the biggest challenge. The guest room will be my “office” and place where the albums will reside. Gorgeous has agreed that the stereo will get a prominent place in the living room, but storing those albums will be my biggest challenge. At least Beloved Husband’s daughter has the speakers and not some second hand store.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I gave my husband the link to Thom’s blog. My husband is a regular on the Gretsch site often exchanging comments with the likes of Dwayne Eddy and others. Looking forward to hear about the new home and how you came to choose the location. You are my idol! I’d love to get my husband to relocate someplace warmer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You had me at ‘Sarah Vaughn’! I LOVE her….especially ‘Lover Man’. It would have sounded amazing on those speakers!
    Congratulations to you and Gorgeous on your recent home purchase. I can’t wait to read more about that!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ooooh! Can I have that radio? I’ll be your best friend!
    I still have my LPs and a little box of 45s. I had a really nice turntable but I let Loser have it and I forget to ask for it back. 😦
    Damnit! I hope it breaks. LOLOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it cool?? Gorgeous bought it for me about three years ago. It’s the same one that got passed down to me from my nearest sister (who had it passed to her by the next oldest sister). Ask for that turntable back!

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      1. I don’t speak to him anymore. Yuk! Besides, that tramp probably made him get rid of it because it was “ours.”
        I have an old radio that my daddy used when he was tinkering out in the garage….well, I think I still have it. Young son may have absconded with it. 😦

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  4. There is nothing like vinyl… except a live performance. I just saw both Brenda Lee and Wanda Jackson (both getting way up in years) and they were amazing – if not in voice, certainly in historical gravitas. It’s hard to imagine that someone with such a great speaker system finds digital sound adequate. Good luck in setting up your dream room in your new home!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to see Wanda Jackson. I remember she sang “Fancy Satin Pillows,” which is a great song. She must be getting up there, though. My God, she was recording in the fifties!

      I think for this man with the speakers, it was really all about the conveniences. He loves being able to choose everything on his cell phone apparently. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was enjoying this post very much, Marty. Nodding and U-huh-ing along with your observations about stereos and vinyl. It had me thinking about (what I call) my “Vinyl Buy-back Program” or VBBP. This is the very expensive penance exacted from stupid record lovers (that’s you and me, mate) who discarded, sold or otherwise parted company with their records, and now spend endless time and substantial wads of cash re-acqiring them. I think we should form a club, the VBBPA where the A stands for Anonymous. “I’m Bruce and I have a two LP a week habit”.

    Anyway, what I was going to say, was, here I was thinking “great post”. And then I found meself shout-outed (is that a word?). What a cherry on top! Thank you very much. Your regular reads and comments at Vinyl Connection are much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome, Bruce. You have a great blog and cover artists that need to be remembered. The VBBPA is also needed! I will be a charter member, stat. I could just kick myself sometimes for what I did, but there’s no point in crying over it. As you put it, just start putting out those wads of cash again.

      Write on!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Vy! In many ways I think CD’s are harder even though they take up less room. The challenge is to “hide” in an open place so they’re still accessible but not unsightly. Or at least that’s I think how my wife sees it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We have the remains of a then-fabulous stereo system in our basement. Some of it is in boxes still– and we moved in here almost 18 years ago. I got rid of anything vinyl before that move so that now the milk carton crates are being used in the garage as a stand for our township-required recycling tub. I admire your desire to hang onto things from your past that give you pleasure, but when it comes to music I’m all about digital– and small– and portable.

    [I found you via Donna, btw.]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very nostalgic. I had a job whilst I was at university, riding trackwork in the mornings before lectures began. It was solely to keep me in vinyl. I bought two every week with my wages (and the odd beer!) Still have mine (stored in beer crates) as I haven’t hooked my turntable up since I moved some years ago. Need to get that sorted! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes. I bet the money spent on all those albums was substantial if I put it into some online historical calculator (which I won’t!). I can still hear the vocal admonitions from two parents, the college girlfriend, and the post-college girlfriend about my spending habits. The nerve of them! 😉 Thanks for reading, but do get cracking now on sorting out those beer crates of yours!

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