A look into music’s past
Adam Ramos | Monday, January 18, 2016
I don’t think my folks will ever give up trying to recreate the unbridled exuberance of Christmas morning from my family’s younger years. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but Lord (happy belated birthday by the way) knows running down the stairs at 7 a.m. is just not happening when sleeping until 11 a.m. is a viable alternative. Material things just don’t get me as jazzed up as they used to, despite the colorful wrapping. Not to get all preachy here, but unless I explicitly need something, most of the time I’d be just as happy if the money wasn’t spent on my behalf. Yet, this year I was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected gift — a record player. Bear with me.
Some background: I love music. Listening to it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it — and thus music has always been an easy area for my parents during gift-giving season. So upon unwrapping the record player, I wasn’t surprised, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it. My mind immediately conjured up images of hipsters scoffing at the iPod-donning plebes while perusing the catalog of vintage records offered at the Urban Outfitters on Eddy Street — and I cringed at the thought. Thankfully, my venture into music’s past wasn’t anywhere near as condescending, and after a pleasant afternoon saturated with ’70s and ’80s jams, I realized what an awesome gift I had received.
After an hour of digging through dusty boxes in the attic, my dad and I exhumed a box full of old records from my father’s DJ days. Comprising some of my pop’s essential rotations, the collection contained a nice variety of artists, from Culture Club to Bob Marley to Minnie Riperton. The first thing I noticed was the artwork and presentation. Nowadays I barely even notice album art, which makes sense as just about all I see is the little album cover in the corner of my Spotify screen. In the past, albums needed to catch eyes, producing stunning visuals capturing unique cultural snapshots — something I immediately noticed just from lugging the box of records down the stairs.
One by one, my dad excitedly played each record, proclaiming some derivative of “This was all we listened to in college” each time he unearthed a new one. There was something curiously satisfying about the whole process — and it really is a process. Between carefully unsheathing the record, placing it on the player and correctly aligning the needle, I really began to gain a sense of excitement as the music began to hum. Such a process produced a giddy thrill as the opening line to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House” spurted out — a thrill which remained as I boogied in my Christmas jammies all around the kitchen.
I couldn’t help but listen to the entire album, which is surprising because between my millennially-corrupted mindset and almost-eradicated attention span, I can hardly get through a full album nowadays without switching to a new artist. But can you blame me? With seemingly endless music at my fingertips via Spotify, I’m like a kid in a candy store overwhelmed by the options. Records are simpler. By the time the record starts spinning, one song doesn’t cut it; I ended up listening to whole albums, allowing for a more holistic appreciation for the record. In our digital music consumption, we have a created a “singles” culture, and I am only now beginning to understand the negative implications.
Whether or not my new record player will make it with me on my 10-hour drive back to the Bend is still up in the air, but either way I am very grateful. Getting a look into my dad’s past and his “pre-me” musical tastes was eye opening and awesome. Bridging the age gap with music is an experience I aim to share with future generations, no matter how music consumption continues to develop.