I love vinyl records

As Paul McCartney once said, “There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store.” So, I guess that Paul loves vinyl records.

But here’s what I think. Hint: I love vinyl records too 😉

They are pieces of art

U2 The Unforgettable Fire album sleeve front

I remember buying U2’s The Unforgettable Fire. It represented a large outlay at the time – I was going on fifteen and earning my spending money by delivering newspapers. I had struck a deal with my mate who had introduced me to the band by lending me their previous album War.

I was going to return the favour with The Unforgettable Fire.

War had been a hard-hitting rock album and The Unforgettable Fire represented a drastic change in direction… Anyway, enough about why I bought it, enough about the discography of U2…

What does it look like?

Well, it is simply done. The front side consists of a sepia-toned image of Bono and The Edge standing in front of Moydrum Castle and is bounded by dark crimson bars, top and bottom. The album’s title is presented in gold as if painted with a Japanese fude brush.

The back consists of a group photo, again in sepia, set above the lyrics to A Sort of Homecoming and the track listing in gold font on the same dark crimson as the front. Somehow, my name and the date I bought it have managed to find their way into the design.

U2 The Unforgettable Fire outer sleeve back

The inner sleeve has its front adorned by a blurry image of the band in front of Moydrum castle whilst its back consists of a list of credits, including Mrs Christine Kerr, and another track listing.

Created by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, the artwork, “copyright” issues aside, lends what is essentially a piece of pop culture an air of fine art on a canvas measuring twelve inches by twelve. It doesn’t have the same effect when reproduced for a CD cover.

And this isn’t even the most impressive album artwork ever made. There are countless examples of even more creative pieces of work.

They are fun to browse through

Browsing through a stack of CDs was never much fun. They always had a tinny, yet plasticky feel. Plus, they would break far too easily. And never mind any of that, they were just too darn small.

As for ‘browsing’ on Spotify or Amazon Music, uh-oh, oh-no. That’s a no from me.

Give me a pile of LPs to wade through, or a stack of 45s. You are much more physically involved in the process. Plus, you can actually see them better. Always a consideration as you get older.

Better sound

Stands to reason, doesn’t it? Leaving potential weak links apart, like your turntable, amp and speakers, the actual sound stored on your vinyl record is totally uncompressed. There may be pops, crackles and hisses but the sound you hear has nothing pared away to make it fit.

But let’s compare the relative capacities of LPs and CDs. An LP has twenty-two minutes of music on each side, making forty-four in total as opposed to the seventy-eight minutes for a CD. This would indicate that for a given album produced for vinyl, the sound quality on the CD would be better.

By the same token, an album recorded for CD, coming in at more than forty-four minutes in length, would have to be split over more than one LP. But then I’m not particularly technologically literate, so who knows?

Perhaps the discussion as to whether records sound better is not actually a technical one. It’s more of an emotional one or, more likely, nostalgic.

Maybe it’s because the accompanying clicks, pops, crackles and hisses on a vinyl rendering of your favourite album or single force you to listen more closely for the music than you need to with the clean, sharp CD version. Perhaps it’s true, the CD’s clean and sharp together equal harsh as opposed to mellow, man.

You can raid your parent’s collection… well, maybe

My mum’s record collection wasn’t tremendously huge. But one record that she did have was the Beatles’ first UK release, Please, Please Me. Dad’s tastes though were more Tennessee focussed; hence not to my taste.

I played Please, Please Me over and over. I knew the songs inside and out. I had the artwork to look at and information about the band to pore over. In the detailed notes on the back cover, there is a particular anecdote about a Radio Luxembourg show during which the presenter, Muriel Young, introduces the band by first names only and even then only gets as far as “John… Paul…” before being drowned out by the screaming from the audience.

More fun in searching

A visit to a charity or thrift shop can throw up some real vinyl treasures. Car boot or garage sales will almost certainly turn up some great finds, usually for pennies.

More hassle but more fun to make copies

I used to love making a mix tape of other people’s records. I have an as yet unfulfilled ambition to write a book detailing songs which go together – sisters if you will – for no other reasons than I once placed them together on a mix tape.

With nothing more than a record player or turntable and a tape machine it was great fun. The skill, if carrying out the operation on your own was to manage to place the needle far enough before the start of the track you wanted to record to enable yourself to get in position to press record on the tape machine. (Quite complex, but nothing on the shenanigans we went through to record from the radio!)

A forty-five-minute side of a tape could take a couple of hours, especially if, like me, you picked your tracks as you were going along. And of course, I would generally lose a chunk of the last track on each size as the tape ran out.

You can see, therefore, why piracy is a much bigger deal now. The music industry (both the RIAA and the British BPI) complained bitterly about home taping. The BPI went as far as to say that “Home taping is killing music.” Utter garbage of course.

However, even compared to pirate cassette tapes, it literally was a drop in the ocean, never mind when compared to the scale of modern digital piracy.

They make you slow down

Search through your collection. Slip the disc out of its sleeve. Place it on the turntable. Set it spinning. Lift up the tone arm. Carefully slot the stylus in the groove. Sit back and enjoy. It’s not a process to be gone through quickly, is it?

Compare the rigmarole to clicking on Spotify or your chosen streaming service to find an album or playlist. It’s much more accessible. But not quite as satisfying. Not so relaxing.

The memories

Tripping into a record store. Searching through the racks for the latest release or even something more risky. Teenage years spent idling, listening to new music played over the store’s speakers.

Buying something unexpected that you had heard there. Taking it home and doing the same in my bedroom.

The mechanics of playing vinyl

Simon le Bon said, about vinyl, “There’s no question that a vinyl record is a lot nicer than a CD. It’s nicer to hold in your hands, you can do more with it.”

When is it going to start? You can’t see easily on a CD and it’s virtually impossible on a streaming service. Records are real. You can see the grooves appear to widen at the end of a track on an LP then close again as the next one starts. Then there’s the needle bobbing gently up and down as it follows the groove, traversing from the outside edge to the middle of the disc.

The Concept Album

An album as a concept, telling a story rather than a disparate group of tracks. With modern playlists you can literally put any combination of songs together, but why not trust the originators of a concept album that they know how things best fit together?

Kate Bush explained, describing the almost comforting constrictions of vinyl, “The great thing about vinyl is that if you wanted to get a decent-sounding cut, you could really only have 20 minutes max on each side. So, you had a strict boundary, and that was something I’d grown up with as well. Also, you were able to have different moods on each side, which was nice.”

Listen to how they have managed to work within the constraints of 2 x 22 minutes as Woody Guthrie did with Dust Bowl Ballads, or Pink Floyd with The Wall or the Who with Tommy or the Beatles with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

If British Punk Rock was the first great DIY explosion in the music scene, perhaps they would have loved the idea of picking and choosing which songs and whose songs you put together. After all, Johnny Rotten hated the Beatles.

They are the height of cool

Oh, you have a record player? How cool. How romantic…

There is a thrill about playing records. I used the word rigmarole earlier and whilst I suppose it is a bit of a chore, there is something intrinsically cool about the process.

But it’s more than that. Harking back to U2’s The Unforgettable Fire I remember bringing it into school to fulfil my obligation to my mate to borrow it so he could tape it. You can’t hide an object which measures 12 inches by 12 inches, and it was obvious that it was a record, so people would ask “What have you got there?” And then I could tell them…

In conclusion

The headings I have used for this article have been borrowed from Robert Paterson’s blog. His last paragraph is an interesting one, giving many reasons why vinyl could ebb away again. But this was fifteen years ago, almost to the day and in that time, vinyl has overtaken CDs again as the dominant physical medium for music.

I’m sure that streaming is here to stay and won’t be overtaken by vinyl anytime soon. However, the nostalgia, the memories that vinyl holds for a great number of people and the thrill of those discovering it for the first time mean it has a bright future.

Anyway, here’s Robert’s last paragraph,

“I do not suppose that an analog renaissance will last long. The digital age is too convenient, and as much as I love to slow down and smell the vinyl, I love having a hundred albums on-hand when I am traveling even more. Even so, I am so glad my parents and in-laws have their collections, waiting for us to enjoy when we visit.”

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2 thoughts on “I love vinyl records”

  1. I absolutely share your passion for vinyl records! There’s something truly special about the warm, authentic sound they offer. Do you have a favorite genre or specific album that you believe truly shines on vinyl? For me, it’s jazz classics; they seem to come alive in a way that digital formats just can’t replicate.

    Your tips on maintenance and cleaning are spot on. It’s remarkable how a little care can preserve the quality of our records over time. Have you ever come across a particularly rare or cherished record in your collection? I’d love to hear the story behind it. Thanks for celebrating the magic of vinyl in such an engaging post!

    • Hi, and thanks for your comment. I am a big fan of the bass sound, so albums with good bass lines work well for me. Thin Lizzy’s Black Rose: A Rock Legend is great in this regard. Waiting for an Alibi has a great bass intro and you can hear it throbbing away all the way through.

      With regard to anything particularly rare or cherished in my collection, I would have to nominate a cherished record, which would be a copy of Blondie’s twelve-inch single of Denis. The cover, printed in monochrome, red and white, is stunning in its simplicity.


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