“Then we danced to songs of passion and
The singer's velvet tones
On the gramaphone
While the record played
She rocks me to the bone…”
Ray Davies wrote and sang about it; Thomas Edison invented it, and we’ve placed coins on the arm to give weight to the needle. The gramophone is still alive after all these years. It has carved its grooves in history, and has secured a spot in the future as well, according to music lovers of all ages. Our teens of today are saving money each month to be transported into the future by way of the past and purchasing real vinyl recordings. They can’t wait to watch the needle slide into the groove and listen to their favourite music spin magic, romance and even nostalgia the way it was meant to be heard—with rich and superior sounding quality. No, they are not being influenced by their parents, who grew up with massive record collections, but they are discovering true recordings on their own.
From England’s Piccadilly, Flashback and Resident to Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music in Nashville, the industry celebrates the independent record store with an annual Record Store Day. The decrease in record sales in America, which also includes CDs, is a result of the diminishing number of mom and pop stores, but those who have survived are flourishing and one of the main reasons for this is vinyl.
Music City is the home of Jack White’s Third Man Records, with colourful vinyl releases on artists from Wanda Jackson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Jones to Pujol and the Raconteurs. The highlight of Record Store Day at Third Man was Jack‘s limited edition $100 vinyl LP release, filled with liquid to swirl around as it plays. A few weeks earlier, a thousand blue helium balloons were released carrying his flexi disc of “Freedom at 21” to places unknown to be found and tracked.
The vinyl brainchildren are busily at work creating original ways to present records to the rabid fans and keep the surprises coming. There are no more than a handful of pressing plants in operation, creating these musical works of art. The largest, most historic and impressively thriving antique factory where the records are born also calls Nashville home.
Since 1949, United Record Pressing has been ‘vinylising’ music, including the pressing of the Beatles’ first 7-inch singles in America, prior to their signing with Capitol Records. Upstairs in the modest and still original location is the Motown Suite where execs would stay to watch over the pressing of their history changing r&b music. In a simple panelled room, countless release parties were hosted for icons from Wayne Newton to a 16-year-old Hank Williams, Jr. Masters, actually mothers and fathers, of a large percentage of the greatest popular and country music ever recorded are lined up on simple wooden shelves, just in case of re-issue, which happens regularly.
Across town, the Nashville Film Festival was celebrating Record Store Day, as well with the showing of Brick and Mortar Love; a documentary about the rise and fall of a much-loved Louisville, Kentucky record outlet. The film also ran at the world-famous Basement, just below Grimey’s—the Rolling Stone-recognised record shop, during the festivities.
Record fans watched from the jammed lot and the tri-level porches at Grimey’s to catch a glimpse of the day long, non-stop free concerts by internationally acclaimed bands including, Jeff the Brotherhood, while hundreds searched through as many boxes of LPs for new old treasures, clutching their stacks of finds. Slowly but surely, the line that went around the block since dawn brought the enthusiasts closer to the new vinyl releases being offered in limited quantities, while the shop itself—two flights up—was making even more music, ringing up sales.
Yes, it’s a good season for records—traditional black, multi-coloured, liquid-filled or glow-in-the-dark. It’s time to plug in the turntable and hear what real music sounds like, complete with scratches and analogue bleed. The excitement of holding an authentic record, touching the grooves, reading the normal-sized credits, opening a full-size centrefold poster, and waiting for the first few silent grooves to spin before the music begins, can never be replaced. Discovering ‘Her Majesty’ hidden in the ending grooves of Abbey Road is a treasured moment to remember forever. Oh yes, CDs are okay too and are as much a part of Record Store Day as vinyl, but only until you get your turntable. S. Parks