Chez Shaffner

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Old Records

When I was young, my mother had a record player in the living room and an odd selection of records; my favorite album from her collection was Neil Diamond, Hot August Night. My youth, though, was solidly rooted in the cassette tape. Christmas morning ‘83 I tore wrapping paper from Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler. Ten years later Santa switched me over to the CD player (my first CDs: Black Sabbath and George Thorogood---yes, I know that’s a little strange).

I never owned an LP. Records seemed awfully clunky; at that age, even the eight-track player at my grandparents’ house seemed technologically advanced by comparison. Still, there was something about the fancy jackets, the variations in the inner sleeves, the snap-crackle sound of the albums my mother put on at Christmas time…

The camp on China Lake boasts a record player. Designed to look like an antique, the built-in CD player and FM tuner betray the truth. Unfortunately, the selection of records was not exactly extensive when the summer began. Other than a pile of scratched up Johnny Cash 45s and a few show tunes, there wasn’t much to listen to. Still, the scratchy rasp of those few records became a familiar soundtrack to our July 4th holiday.

Back in my Boston apartment, I lugged my dirty laundry down to the basement. In addition to washers and dryers, our basement provides access to the dumpster for items too large for the trash chutes located on each floor. Outside the "trash room" people sometimes leave more challenging items (refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers) and those discarded items that might be somebody else’s treasure (some examples: bookcases, desk chairs, and armoires). This particular day the booty was a large box of LPs…

I spent ten minutes leafing through the records, an eclectic collection, to say the least. Between Abbey Road and Magical Mystery Tour were the Dartmouth Glee Club and Rite of Spring; between My Fair Lady and Hair (Original Casts, both) stood Jim Nabors and The Doors; between CSNY’s Déjà Vu and Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere stood Vic Damone and Nat King Cole.

My initial reaction was shock. What were the odds that just hours after returning from camp I would find these records in my basement?

I smiled at all the good things this discovery meant:

  1. It was a great set of records according to any scale,
  2. I would definitely score major bonus points with Keryn’s family… and brownie points certainly never hurt...

Skepticism came next. What was wrong with the records? Something had to be wrong for someone to just throw them away. I mean, you could sell this collection on eBay and make a solid $300 (of course, that's chump change to most of the folks who live in my building). I pulled Abbey Road from the sleeve. It was immaculate, almost as if it had never been played. I spot-checked another five or six records and found they were all in mint condition. I seized the box in my arms and lugged it upstairs.

Up at camp, those records were well received. We put on Revolver; it sounded like new. We played things we would never normally listen to, and I realized how different records are from CDs. I found myself studying them, looking with nostalgia at records pressed when my mother was in grade school. Keryn’s seventeen-year-old sister picked out seventies’ classic rock, Keryn put on Harry Belafonte Calypso, and her mother requested Johnny Mathis. Meanwhile, I fell in love with Foreigner’s “4”, and realized that The Doors is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard. I may not like having to flip the record after twenty-five minutes, but the scratch of the needle was a pleasant change from the silent perfection of my iPod.

Now I’m home, listening to Let It Be on CD. It isn’t the same.



At 9:27 PM, Blogger Designated Blogger said...

Man, you really scored. Who in their right mind would throw out Beatles records? In great condition, no less. Not to mention all the other goodies in there.


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