Old, black gold
Sometimes, the vintage stuff just refuses to be put out to pasture.
TRIED and tested technology can be hard to kill off, even if made redundant by something “better”. Illustrating this is the resilience of the phonograph record – that large black, grooved disc made of vinyl.
The return of vinyl has been with a vengeance, after being consigned to the bargain bin two decades ago. They said then that its day was done. Over. CD was the new king. Silver was the new black.
Most of us embraced the smooth and shiny disc for its convenience and hype of perfect sound forever.
However, 20 years down the road, and things are not looking rosy for the CD. Global sales are sliding as newer generations of music-lovers turn increasingly to Internet downloads, directly into their ubiquitous iPods. CD, to them, is archaic technology.
Now, here’s the funny thing – vinyl sales are on the rise!
You see, records never really went away. They were just lurking in the fringes, getting their second wind.
Sure, many more CDs are still sold than records but the reversal of trends, compared with, say, 1990, is telling. Perhaps John Lithgow’s alien character in the sitcom Third Rock From The Sun said it all, as he disdainfully examined a CD: “Such primitive technology! I wonder if the people on this planet will ever discover the superior sound of vinyl?”
Okay, the CD (digital) versus record (analogue) debate has been raging for 25 years, so let’s not take that detour. Me, I’ve been a vinyl fan for the past four decades. My first encounter was in a classmate’s house. He showed me what looked like a small briefcase, split it open and loaded up a black disc. Glorious music – Jim Reeves singing Partners, I recall – emerged, to my delight. I bought my first recordplayer when I started working in the mid-1980s and, except for a brief pause some years ago, have never been without one since then.
Just the other day, my mum was reminiscing about the times when she would place a stack of records on a radiogram (remember those?) that played one disc after another, for a few hours of uninterrupted music. Those old, hefty radiograms were as much furniture as they were musicplayback systems; they were the home entertainment centre in the decades following World War II.
I remember them well into the 1970s and used to wonder if I could design a way to make each record flip over automatically. Never happened!
In fact, my mum even recalls listening to music on those classic wind-up gramophones – who needed electricity then? She was surprised when informed that the vinyl business has survived into the 21st century!
Just walk through Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, on a Sunday morning, when the flea market operates, and you will be surprised to see the number of used records and old turntables for sale – as far as the Malaysian angle on vinyl resurrection is concerned, I suspect this is where it may have started some years ago.
I get calls from friends occasionally, telling me about stacks of records they inherited from a parent or relative. A decade ago, it was about finding those records a new home; nowadays, it’s for advice on buying an affordable record-player!
So if you’re a music lover with a wide variety of musical tastes, perhaps you owe it to yourself to explore this “new” phenomenon, this unlikely resurgence of a format whose obituary was written in the early 1990s. There must be something so right about it, if it has refused to go away despite all the hassles involved in playing a record!
What next? Maybe I should put my money on LaserDiscs – hey, remember those?