In this months Views Of Stu, Stuart Smith takes us on a rambling personal journey through his relationship with vinyl.View_MFA_Spons

Vinyl records are a weird thing, despite their crackles and pops and the need for meticulous care, it seems that people really have a deep rooted love of the format, despite all its foibles. I’m sure there are many readers who have saved and bought a record only to place it on the platter for the first time and realise it’s warped beyond playability, or have had a favourite record that they’ve ill advisably decided to play after a couple of sherbets only to find the morning after that there’s a great big scratch across their particularly beloved tune… I know I have. I wrote about how we become attached to vinyl particularly a while ago and in this instalment of Views I wanted to take you on a personal journey of my love (and hate) relationship with vinyl over the last thirty five years or more.

My story begins when I was around ten years old in 1976. Those of a certain age will remember that this was a particularly hot summer and there were hosepipe bans, roads melting and for me the abiding memory is one of unbridled joy and freedom. It was also the year that I bought my first album, a record called Disco Tex & His Sex-O-Lettes. It had come out the year earlier and I’d never heard it, but myself and a friend had got it into our heads that we were going to spend our pocket money on a record each and so we ventured into Barsnley town centre to a thrift shop called John Brittens (I think). Now this shop sold all manner of things, from shampoo to fly screens (an essential item in any home in 1976) but they also had a selection of vinyl records that had clearly proved unsalable in the proper record shops. I’d never heard the record if truth be known and I was more drawn to the front cover image I’m afraid. I got it on the little Dansette my parents owned and played it and hated it…but I was hooked. The same year my parents bought one of the new fangled music centres and I would play their collection of Abba records on it in the front room…I was a bit of a fan and went to see their movie a year later. My next vinyl purchase however was in 1977 when I bought The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen and Pretty Vacant singles which I played to death on the Dansette that I’d now inherited. So in the living room of the flat above my parents’ pub I would be listening to Abba, whilst in the sanctuary of my own room I’d be hammering my two Sex Pistols singles and leaping around like a nutjob.Views_Music_First

And that was the sum of my record collection for a while, until, whilst on a school trip to London in ‘79 (I will have been 12), I went into WH Smiths in Windsor and bought myself Squeeze’s Cool For Cats single on pink vinyl and I was hooked again. Blondie were the first band I really got heavily into, I can’t for the life on me understand why a young chap would find this band so attractive, and I saved up and bought Parallel Lines that had come out a year earlier in ’78, then Eat To The Beat…and then I got into The Jam and the Two Tone thing and my purchasing of vinyl soared. I was still playing all this music on the little Dansette until I pestered my folks to buy me, and it was the height of sophistication at the time from my perspective, an Amstrad TS 40 tower system.

Then metal came along! I was buying more and more vinyl, the only real format that was available to me other than pre-recorded tapes, but they just didn’t do it for me at all and I stuck firmly with the black stuff. I’d got myself quite a collection for a young teen and I’d spend hours upon hours in my room listening to records, reading the liner notes and loving every minute of it.

And so it continued until I left home and went to university. Armed with a new found freedom and a grant cheque to spend on what I liked I went out and bought myself a second hand LP12. I’d already by this time acquired a Technics SLDL1 but the old fruit box was what I’d been hankering after for a good few years and so it was duly bought…only thing is I could never afford an arm and cartridge so the Techy was my plaything for a while longer. I bought vinyl voraciously in the first year or so at uni; punk, rock, American hardcore… you name it, and the collection grew and grew until one day I found myself alone in a nightclub with a head full of magic and a wholly new kind of music beating its rhythm into me. House had arrived! It was late ’87 and I was hooked on this new genre. The rock, punk and whatever else took a back seat and “Jack Trax” was all that could be heard banging out from my dingy little flat. I still had the LP12, SLDL1, a Musical Fidelity The Preamp, a Crimson Electric amp and a pair of Wharfedale Diamonds, but I wasn’t content and so, chancing it a bit, I walked into a hifi shop in Sunderland and asked the owner if he fancied swapping all my kit for a pair of new Technics 1210s. He agreed and the rest, as they say is history. I was a DJ, got myself a slot on radio, a residency in a club and the 12” singles flooded in from all over the world. I opened a record shop (vinyl only) and just couldn’t resist taking a copy of whatever was great and adding it to my collection, which quickly grew to well over 3000 bits of vinyl. At home I had a pair of decks, my sound system PA and that was it. No hifi and nothing but house and techno got played and so logically (read stupidly) I decided to flog my collection of everything that wasn’t what I was playing out. Big mistake!!!

So I had masses of vinyl, my life was filled with music and all was good. I often think back to these days and the hammering that the vinyl got. I imagine most of it would be unplayable now in a domestic situation. It never got cleaned, the headshell of the turntables often had a penny blutacked to it to stop it bouncing around when at parties and they got slung about quite a bit whilst DJing. Most folk reading this would be horrified I’m sure.bill dj

Time moves on though and our first son Billy was born. Djing until 4 in the morning, having a shop to open at 9 and a newborn at home was not a recipe for a sensible life and so the time to move on had arrived. The shop was sold, all the vinyl was sold (other than a few prized pieces) and we moved away from the city we were in. A proper job was sought, CDs became the format of choice, along with a cheap little system from Richer Sounds and I took a hiatus from vinyl of about twelve years until, now having moved to France, I bought on a whim a full Linn system including an LP12 and the vinyl buying started in earnest.

Of course, like anyone who has foolishly disposed of their vinyl collection, I can never hope to replace all the classic albums that I had, though I am trying and there’s never a week goes by where I don’t buy at least a couple of albums to add to the collection. I’m much more careful now and realise that these 12” pieces of black magic are much more precious than I previously gave them credit for. They are filed alphabetically and they are cleaned meticulously and I’ve fallen in love with vinyl all over again. Of course I have other sources and to be honest the cleanliness and hassle free operation of CDs and computer files dictates that these are my main source of listening, but there’s seldom a day goes by when I don’t look through my vinyl collection, pull an old classic from the shelves, sit down with the cover in my hands and listen all the way through, without thinking to skip a track or make a playlist. There is something exquisite about vinyl that is indefinable and I’m glad to see the resurgence in the format is continuing apace. Will I ever be without my record player and records again? Never say never, but I can’t see it happening in this lifetime!

Stuart Smith

Read more View Of Stu Here. 

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