I’m supposed to like record players; I know this.
I’m supposed to like them because I’m a musician, and somehow I’m still slightly cool (at least, my 18-year old daughter still tells me that).
So just those two things alone are supposed to add up to me liking (and collecting) vinyl.
Oh, and then add into the fact that I’m white, and (somehow) middle-class.
This is a slam-dunk, people.
But here’s the deal:
I really don’t.
And it’s not like I haven’t tried: Just like I was supposed to, I retrieved my old records from my parents’ house years ago, in preparation for when I’d get my own turn table and begin to revel once again in that warm analog sound.
I prepared for this!
Then a year or two ago, I even talked my parents (in Virginia) out of their turntable, which was/is a decent Yamaha model from the 80s. When I got it home to Florida, it didn’t work right, but I figured, “Hey, I’ve got time to get this thing repaired, and then I’m gonna be just as cool as all of my hipster friends!”
Then my family got me both a new turntable and a vinyl copy of Funeral by Arcade Fire.
Folks, it doesn’t get any more hip than that.
So I played the Arcade Fire (starting with, what else, “Wake Up”), and then started to cycle through my old records, and in about 5 minutes I remembered something about vinyl that I’d long since forgot:
Vinyl scratches really easily.
I remember being 13 or 14 and sitting down to listen to my favorite “LP” or “45” and being shocked and devastated when a skip or a scratch appeared. I remember delicately handling the records only to have mysterious clicks and skips appear no matter what I did.
My memory wasn’t that rosy.
What’s more, I discovered that I really enjoyed having my entire catalog of music available on my iPhone, my desktop, my laptop, my iPad (as long as there is WIFI, of course), and my AppleTV.
It like the convenience.
And as far as the tone goes, I get that I am losing sound in the compression (as good as it gets), and let’s face it analog warmth does trump (ugh) digital clarity sometimes.
But here’s the thing: 1) To a certain degree, I can EQ for warmth. I roll off some highs, and bring up some some low-midrange, and revel in the color of a nice low end. Also, 2) being a musician, I already hear a lot of what many people miss. I don’t have “Golden Ears”; they’ve never made hit records, but I’m aware of the fact that I’m probably hearing probably 20% more of what the average listener hears, even with the data loss.
Okay. So what’s the point?
The point is, I know all of these things. I love the fact that my family bought me a turntable, but for now in my life, I will focus on digital music, if for no other reason than I don’t need any more stuff in my house. I already have an acquisition problem, and I am practically ashamed of how much I have. Some of this I can justify as “ministry tools” (guitars and books), but other things… like records. I just can’t, at least for now.
But then we went to St. Petersburg for vacation. As we were walking up and down the cool downtown streets, my daughter saw a record store that she wanted to go in, and so we all followed her.
I have to admit: it was very nostalgic to walk around the aisles filled with all of those discs. It felt like 1982 all over again.
My wife casually said to me, “You know, you should buy a record. Don’t you like Wilco? It can be your souvenir.”
She said this to me with all innocence.
But the most amazing thing happened to me when she said it…
Despite the fact that I have no room for vinyl in my house…
… Despite the fact that I know that I prefer to listen to my stuff through iTunes or Spotify…
… Despite the fact that I am crystal clear on the fact that I did not want a record…
… Despite all of that I said, “Yeah… I love Summerteeth; I’ll get it.”
And so I did.
And then I felt awful.
You might say, “What’s the big deal, Eric? It’s just a record?!?!?”
But in my spirit, I was crushed.
Why couldn’t I say no?
How does one’s life get to the point where there is something inside you that drives you to just *acquire* things that you know you neither need nor want?
It was/is a sobering reminder: I am wired up for appetite; for desire; for selfish acquisition.
I desperately need someone or something to heal this sickness inside of me; I don’t want to be a person who mindlessly buys and consumes things simply because I can. Nonetheless, in this minute I utterly failed the test that life gave me.
So this day: this Holy Thursday. The day before Friday of the Cross, I am reminded that the “SELF” inside of me still has an agenda that is opposed to a life of simplicity. My self remains centered on ego and an agenda that would have me consumed with acquisition and consumerism, with control and domination of anything and anyone that gets in my way.
I’m thankful that the Cross not only broke the power of evil in the world, but decisively shows us all the way to exist in a way that transcends the world’s power.
It’s by dying that we truly live.
It’s not easy. I’ll always be drawn to “Glittering Images”, to the “impossible cool” of the world, but fortunately I’ll always have that stronger vision of the Christ on the Cross that reminds me that I don’t have to live like this anymore.