We have the good people at Parade magazine to thank for telling readers that April 18 is National Record Store Day. Those seeking to make money from the music business have designated this day to bring attention to the resurgence of vinyl records. Many popular music artists are releasing special songs on vinyl . Once thought lost forever with the advent of compact discs and eventually digital music delivery, vinyl is enjoying sort of a comeback among those who prefer their music played with a needle and a turntable.
I made the move to compact discs about ten years after that format started back in the 1980s. But I’ve always held on to a few vinyl records because they bring back memories of my younger years when it was the best way to listen to music on your own terms.
The very first record I owned was this one from the Monkees. There was a time when I could tell you the exact order of songs on that album. I actually got both the first and second Monkees albums on the same day (my birthday), but I opened and played this one first. I would eventually acquire every record the group released in their short career, which lasted two years (the length of their television series) with several reunions over the past few decades.
While the Monkees represent the first music I would actually own, it was Elvis Presley who would instill my appreciation for popular music. I watched his NBC television special in late 1968 and became a fan instantly. I bought it from the closest thing we had to a music store in my hometown: a rack of records at a dry goods store. The soundtrack album propelled him into the third and final phase of his performing career, eventually clearing the way for his iconic jumpsuits and the hard living lifestyle that many suggest ended his life way too early at the age of forty-two in 1977. It begins with the song Trouble (“you lookin for trouble, you came to the right place…”) that he first popularized in the movie Kid Galahad. It ends with the inspiring If I Can Dream. I just found out this spring that If I Can Dream is my daughter Colleen’s favorite Elvis song. Good choice. The song has been covered over the years by such artists as Barry Manilow and Della Reese, but Elvis made it his own.
I experience most of the holiday seasons through the lens of Christmas music. The Goodyear Tire company, through an arrangement with Columbia Records, released a compilation album of holiday music annually in the 1960s and 1970s. My mom bought this one from the local Goodyear dealer in hometown (Sylvester Burkhart’s Garage on Main Street in Port Leyden). This particular album has the distinction of being the first album my mother purchased when our family bought a record player in the early 1960s. I connect right back to the family living room in my hometown when I play this album.
These are three of the long playing albums that helped define my life in vinyl. We always had records playing in the house. My fascination with recorded music fed a desire to work as a disc jockey for a few years while I was in college. To this day, I occasionally put on an old vinyl record and listen to it with all the scratches that come from playing them over and over when I was much younger.
Long playing albums from my era generally had about ten to twelve songs, split between the two sides. Some record players allowed you to stack up to six so that the music could continue for well over an hour.
I can’t forget the singles: the forty-five RPM (revolutions per minute) discs that so many of us from that generation had. I still have mine, but I don’t play them as much as the LPs (long-playing) albums that spun at thirty-three-and-a-third RPM. My friends and I would play them in the jukebox at the Leyden Elm diner (better known as Hazel’s) in my hometown.
But this one forty-five has special meaning to me. It’s Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. It was recorded in 1980 and remained Sinatra’s signature show stopper in the remaining years of his public performances. It was also the last brand new single I ever bought from a music store. It would take a few more years before I’d consider myself a Sinatra fan, but there’s no doubt this single was the starting point.
And if that’s not enough to drive home how significant this record is to me, I can add that it was released in the same year I got married. A husband better not forget the year he got married. I have this single to remind me.
Records have a way of doing that for me. They bring back a memory of when I first received a particular album or single, they connect me to my hometown, and they help me remember important times in my life.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced
For more on Record Store Day, go to www.recordstoreday.com