By Heather Mullinix
Before digital music made it possible to take your music with you everywhere; before those shiny compact discs offered crisp, clear reproductions of your music; before you would spend an hour winding a tape back into the cassette after it was eaten by your tape deck; there was vinyl.
With its popping and cracking and susceptibility to scratching or melting in the sun, the LP was not made for mobile music. And with each new leap in technology, it became less and less popular, finding itself relegated to the world of professional DJs and rabid collectors, but you wouldn't find the latest mainstream hit available on vinyl.
But that's changing. Vinyl, it seems, is making a comeback. College age kids are scouring their parents' (or grandparents') attics and digging out those old roundtables while the music industry is looking to fill their demand with most major new releases offing a vinyl version.
Granted, the number of records being sold pales to the number of downloads or CDs being sold, accounting for only 1.4 percent of the total market. But unlike CD sales, vinyl is on the rise, up 18 percent from 2011.
What's being released on vinyl? Classic rock fans will be happy to hear that many of the hits of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and the Beatles are being reissued. Gen Xers, if you ever wanted to hear Nirvana on vinyl, you can get your chance, too.
That's a good thing, because records, while better able to stand the test of time than CDs, still wear out. They still get scratches. They still can break. And if they've been left sitting in the back window of a car on a sunny day, they can melt. So if your classic collection is showing it's age, you can replenish it.
If you're like me and wishing your parents had better taste in music as teenagers, you can supplement their collections with the "cool" stuff. I recall going through my parents' records, both of whom were in high school during the '60s, and finding only a greatest hits compilation of Jimi Hendrix. I was highly disappointed in them.
I'd been exposed to the vocal ability of Janis Joplin, the Temptations, Three Dog Night (mom's favorite band), and I'd heard the incredible guitar ability of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. But when they were playing those old records, the sound seemed so much richer. I was hooked.
I've scoured those old record stores and added to the collection through the years. My aunt was kind enough to entrust me with her collection of 1970s rock. I have the complete line of Journey and Steppenwolf thanks to her, as well as, of course, Skynard. There is no escaping "Free Bird."
I'd like to tell you I have some valuable records. Of course, it's the covers that are valuable, and those must be protected and in mint condition, as well as being a sought-after title. Even the "cool" records I have are worth nothing greater than the enjoyment they give me when I turn on my dad's 1970s stereo system and blast some good old rock and roll through the house. Why? Because they all wrote their names on the covers so they would be able to retrieve their records after a party or loaning them to friends.
This vinyl revival has me hopeful that I will find even more treasures to add to my collection, and that our free market will respond by making it easier to find replacement parts. Right now, I live in fear the needle on my turntable will go bad, and I have no idea how I would replace it. I'm sure there's one out there, somewhere. But it would probably be like actually finding a needle in a haystack.
Kids, if you've never experienced the unique, rich sound of music on vinyl, ask your parents if they have any old records tucked away and give them a turn. You might be surprised how much you enjoy music that isn't perfect or crystal clear.
You might become one of the new vinyl converts.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.