How Sarah got her groove back

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2009

When I was 5 years old, the nation was awash in Beatlemania.
My kindergarten teacher, like everyone else, bought the album “Meet the Beatles.” We 4- and 5-year-olds twisted and watusied happily. The cool girls danced in their white go-go boots. (I wore Stride Rites due to flat feet.)
Our daily Beatle workout was threatened when the class bully, Stanly, maniacly colored the record with a green crayon, rendering the B side unplayable. Fortunately, we could still listen to the side that contained “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” at least until it became so scratched that its skips made it no longer feasible for dancing, even by preschool standards.
By the time I was old enough to buy records myself, the Beatles had broken up. But this didn’t keep me from buying their albums with my babysitting money throughout my teen years, until I owned all of the U.S. releases. I also had an unusually large number of classical records for a teenage girl.
When I majored in music theory and composition in college, my LP collection grew. Then I married another music major and our shelves groaned under the weight of our combined record libraries.
It was about that time I decided that since I was a “serious” musician, I would listen only to classical music. We needed money, so I sold a lot of my popular records, including all of my Beatle albums.
My husband and I moved often, and would lug crates full of records to each residence. When CDs came along, we began purchasing those instead, anticipating the extinction of the less durable vinyl records. Our turntable broke, and none of the stores we visited carried turntables anymore.
It was 2001, and we were preparing to move again. Hauling all those records with nothing to play them on seemed like a waste of space and energy. We donated hundreds of our LPs to a charity sale.
My musical tastes and interests have continued to widen and fluctuate, and I’m just as likely to listen to rock as I am to Bach. I have Beatle CDs, but they just don’t sound the same as my records. I attributed that to my loss of youth and to my jaded old ears.
But that may not be the real reason. Vinyl is making a comeback, riding on a wave of music aficionados who say that while CD technology produces a product that’s more compact and durable, it’s at the cost of sound quality. And there’s the loss of all that cool record jacket art.
And LPs are not just being sold secondhand. Current artists are releasing new recordings in this once obsolete medium.
A friend of mine was downsizing recently, and he gave me a turntable, but I left it in a box, since I was too busy to re-arrange my stereo equipment.
Then I was in a used record store in Chapel Hill and I impulsively purchased an original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in great condition, for $27. I believe 25 years ago I sold the one I owned for maybe $3.I moved my old stereo to a different location, cleaned it thoroughly, re-attached the speaker wire since the speakers were only halfway working. Then I carefully removed the turntable from the box.
But I made a disappointing discovery. There was no place on the back of the receiver to connect a turntable. We had purchased the equipment at a time when the manufacturer must have thought records were washed-up, and such a connection would no longer be required.
As the poet Alexander Pope said,”hope springs eternal.” And the poet Ringo Starr said “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.”
Another friend came to the rescue, giving us his used receiver with the proper connection. So now I’m back in the groove.
I can’t help but relate the return of records to what is happening in the newspaper industry. With many people turning to the Internet for news, and doing their advertising online as well, some think print versions of newspapers could soon be a thing of the past, replaced by more efficient technology. And judging by the layoffs, cutbacks and closings by newspapers recently, there’s sufficient reason for this prediction.
Many people missed the things that made records special, so much so that vinyl LPs were resurrected. Maybe if enough people decide they want to continue to hold their newspaper, and clip articles, or fold it and carry it with them to read on their coffee break, they will resubscribe and help rescue newspapers before they reach the brink of extinction.
When John Lennon sang, “I read the news today, oh boy…” I’m sure he never envisioned the flashy media barrage we experience today. Go ahead and call me old-fashioned. I’m going to put a record on, sit back in my easy chair and read the paper now.