The ghosts of vinyl past and digital presents

In the old days I would frequent record shops and select albums by their covers. This worked out more often then you would think. I judged them by the cover, front and back.

Things I miss about albums are their smell and their design elements. The smell of new records as well as, and more importantly, the smell of old. Just like books, records have an attractive smell, and the old ones smell the best. Like books you are smelling the slow decomposition of the paper and cardboard, which I am assured has a chemical relationship to vanilla. And, in the case of records, petroleum, I am sure.

Do you know why they call them albums? Because in even earlier days records were thick slabs which played at 78 RPM. The records were nearly as large as later LPs (standing for “long playing” compared to 78s) but each side played only about 3 minutes. These records were often sold in an “album” collection of records, like a photo album; a book of records, a book of sounds. I have seen these things in an antique store with my own eyes.

With later LPs came not just longer plays but better packaging. Inserts, liner notes, creative packaging. The Canadian band The Guess Who released an album in 1973, their tenth, Artificial Paradise. The packaging resembled a sweepstakes mailer, with inserts. The San Francisco punk band Flipper released an album in 1984 (Gone Fishin’) which could be cut apart to make a tour van, and a double live album in 1986 (Public Flipper Limited) which spread out to make a board game.

But the sad truth is I hate flipping over records. And I like the superior search ability and space saving of digital books and records.

So, here are my suggestions from bandcamp, the digital equivalent of ordering records and demos by mail-order from the pages of MaximumRock’n’Roll. Except you can listen to them before sending money. 

Primitive Hearts, a Ramones type rock with male/female vocal harmony.

 

Seattle’s Tacocat, a tour tape and album:

The Fabulous Downey Brothers, a modern 80s style synth band:

 

Portland’s Lunch:

 

Two that previously appeared on these pages:

Minty Rosa

 

Scott Steven Erickson

 

 

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