Saturday, 6 October 2012

The vinyl bug – once bitten, forever smitten

In which G.M. Norton sets the record straight as he leads you along the path of musical righteousness.

 

Incredible as it may seem, there are people growing up who don’t have the foggiest idea what a vinyl record is. Luckily, my formative years were spent listening to my parents’ vinyl records with the sound of The Beatles filling the family home.

Not to be confused with the Spinning Jenny

For roughly 100 years, vinyl records were the musical format of choice for any self-respecting fellow, until CDs and these new fangled MP3s reared their ugly heads. Downloading music is enough to send a shiver down the spine of any thoroughbred chap.

Before evolving into the gentleman that I am today, I amassed hundreds of CDs and could regularly be found purveying the aisles in forgotten establishments such as Andy’s Records and Our Price. As music downloads started to replace the CD format, I began to lose faith with the soulless concept being bandied about and longed for a return to those happy memories of flipping through huge piles of old records and discovering ‘new’ music for my ever-eager ears. So I made the decision to turn to vinyl. 

The Rolls Royce of record players - not too shabby looking for 45 years old
Getting the records wasn’t a problem with the great number of charity shops up and down Britain’s high street and those curious shopping experiences where people sell things out of their motorcars. What I was in desperate need of was a playing device.

In my earnest search for a suitable record playing contraption, I was naturally drawn to the traditional wind-up gramophone with the protruding brass horn. Baulking at the cost, I mentally crossed that off my list and explored other options, taking me from a turntable with separate amplifier and speakers to the iconic 1960s Dansette. 

It was during this search that I discovered what would become my most treasured possession – a 1968 Bush SRP51. Described by more knowledgeable fellows than me as the ‘Rolls Royce of record players’, it was love at first sight. For a machine that is nearly 45 years old, it still looks and sounds fiendishly good. Made during the height of the space age between 1968 to 1970, it’s a smashing example of the design and style from this period. As a 60s obsessive, it makes me tickled pink to own something from this era.

Bush SRP51 operating instructions - a first edition, surely
I’ll never forget the first song I played on it – The Animals’ haunting version of The House of the Rising Sun. A song that I had heard countless times seemed richer and deeper than I had ever heard before. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time. 

Listening to what is essentially a slab of black plastic is like borrowing a piece of nostalgia from a more simple, pre-internet age. Putting on a record allows me to escape the modern world before returning to my life as your favourite protagonist.

There is a ceremony and delicious expectation that comes from simply dropping the needle on a record. Conjuring the illicit reverence of a pagan ritual, you can’t help but appreciate the sacrament of handing the record, poring over the huge album cover artwork and reading the liner notes and lyrics. You could say that vinyl makes the world stop spinning. Jolly more rewarding that the click of a mouse or the flick of a finger on a screen.

One doesn't get this visual plethora with new fangled MP3s

As I welcome Otis Redding into my home again this evening, I will raise a glass to Thomas Edison in gratitude for his most life-changing invention. If only I could light a gas lamp too. Blasted light bulbs. 

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’

8 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog!

    I have my Dad's Dansette 'Thames' from the 60's which I adore. I love the way the sound gradually crackles as it creeps from the speaker whilst it warms up, unfortunately it does have a rather nasty habit of shaving the vinyl as it plays, so I have resorted to a modern albeit 'old styled' one to play my ever increasing collection.

    There is something wonderful about listening to songs the way they were originally heard, the sound quality is so much richer and the act of putting the record on, knowing that it will only last a precious few minutes, makes it feel so much more of an experience than shuffling on your Ipod for an endless stream of tracks. I think its safe to say I am a fan!

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    1. A lady after my own heart! Welcome to 'Norton of Morton'. It’s wonderful that you’re in possession of your father’s record player. Unfortunately, fixing things isn’t my forte so I am unable to make an accurate diagnosis to prevent your records meeting a grisly end.

      Dansettes are magnificent beasts – I am particularly taken with the Bermuda model with the screw-on legs. As far as the more modern players go, the Crosley is a real beauty, available at Urban Outfitters.

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  2. I have to confess... I don't own a record player! But own records. I should address that really.

    Thanks for finding my blog, and I'm pleased to have found yours!

    Porcelina xx

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  3. Greetings, Porcelina! Thanks for stopping by. I trust you found 'Norton of Morton' agreeable. Should you wish, your record player predicament could easily be rectified. Messrs E&Bay sell a whole array of them for your viewing pleasure. One could be snapped up for peanuts if you are ready to pounce at a moment's notice.

    If you decide to take the plunge, I'd be only to happy to assist you in your search. Vinyl records - it's the past, present and future! T.T.F.N.

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  4. I also have an SRP51 but no manual and wonder whether you would be happy to scan a copy for me? many thanks

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  5. I can relate to you. Vinyl records are getting outdated nowadays because let's face it, the new digital format is just like so easy. However, the good thing about it is that the coming of digital age indirectly preserves the value of analog technology. So owning vinyl records is just like having treasure.

    Ruby Badcoe

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    1. Very true, dear lady! A sizeable record collection may well be a wiser investment than any savings account.

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  6. i own several record player one or two i have had from new .i have to say the Crosley so called record player should be avoided like the plague these are primitive contraptions made in the back of beyond with inferior components and they sound terrible play a record on one of these and its ruined forever .They also sound terrible when compared to a REAL record player such as the Bush discribed above .If you want a recordplayer spend your cash on a vintage model and have it serviced

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