#167 The sound of the needle hitting the record

We didn’t used to download.

Nope, after spending a few weeks saving money from mowing lawns, shoveling driveways, or delivering papers it was time to get on a creaky bus and head downtown to the record shop. After walking around dusty aisles, chatting with the snobby staff, and flipping through plastic-wrapped stacks, you’d finally find the one you wanted. After paying, you’d get back on the bus, tear off the cellophane, and excitedly flip through the lyrics and liner notes before getting home.

Next it was time to run to your bedroom, flip on your stereo, and peel the black plastic disc from its sleeve. Maybe that’s when you stared at it for a second and wondered how that little plastic groove could hold all those guitars and drums, before setting it down spinning on the machine.

The sound of the needle hitting the record is the sound of a big moment about to happen. It’s the shotgun before the race, lightning before the thunder, or lion’s roar before the movie. It’s the sound of waiting, the sound of saving, and the crackly sound of imperfection opening the way, into a perfect moment, into a perfect day.


Photos from: here and here

44 thoughts on “#167 The sound of the needle hitting the record

  1. Those were the good ol’ days! Personally, it’s so much more fun buying a record, tape or cd from a store, than just downloading a song from i-tunes!….. I have two records in my collection and they do have a diff. quality of sound! And yes, I love when the needle first touches the record! :-D

  2. I’m too young to have ever dealt with records.

    …But I still got unnecessarily excited when I found an old Grease record at my Nan’s place, which used to belong to my Mum. Can you blame me? It was a Grease record! What would you have done?!

  3. “Twist and Shout”…”These boots are made for walking”…Break on through to the other side”…”Yummy, yummy, yummy”…”Mashed Potato”, “Peanut Butter”…”Ziggy Played Guitar”…”Paint it Black”…”In the eyes of a child”…”Hey you”… “Heart of gold”…INFINITOUS ETCETERAS! One of my fav jobs was at a music store. I was not snobby but friendly and helpful. I was there with tissues consolling, when John Lennon was taken off the rock and the shelves were cleared the next day in less than twenty minutes.
    I refuse to part with my 30 year old stereo and 100 LP’s. Vinyls, will be forever the only way music emotes sound that seers through the soul~besides live~ is where true beauty in love and lyrics resides…”High Fidelity” style. AWESOME!

  4. I have this old Wizard of Oz record that I’ve been dying to listen to, but I can’t get my hands on a player.
    I grew up with a record player in the house, but we rarely used it. Honestly, I can’t remember much about it other than going through all the records to pick what to play. I don’t remember the sound, but I was a youngen.

    1. Oh the old “Wizard of OZ!” Awesome! You simply must get yourself a stereo…they’re always reasonable at thrift shops.
      I know a collector and would send you one for a few boxes of Trix:)

  5. B-b-b-bird bird bird. The bird is the word, b-b-b-bird bird bird. The bird is the word. Oh have you heard about the word? Everybody knows that the bird is the word! B-b-b-bird bird bird, the bird is the word…

  6. I used save up my change and ride my pink stingray bicycle down to Grant’s department store to check out the 45’s. Pretty sure I had Rubber Duckie, The Monkees and The Jackson 5 in my collection! My mom bought me the soundtrack album to The Jungle Book and I must have listened to that music at least 100 times when I was a kid.

    My dad loved to sing and always tried to make us laugh with his silly songs. When his parents died, the one thing he wanted was the old Victrola record player so we drove it home from Massachusetts to Indiana. When we got it home and wound it up (really! it has a crank!) I was so surprised that the silly songs he sang to us were from the old 78’s he listened to as a kid in the 1930’s!! The sound of the needle hitting those records is AWESOME!

    1. Hey! I still have the Jungle Book soundtrack, complete with the illustrated story book. I even let my kids listen to my 45 of the Astro Boy theme song. (I guess I never get rid of anything.)

  7. And this is why I now have a 1972 Thorens TD-162 (in fairly good condition) with a new Ortofon cartridge in my living room, and new shelves from Ikea which hold 450 of my albums which have been stored for decades. Best therapy there is.

  8. Sadly, I’m too young to have experienced vinyl, but I do love buying a new CD and listening to it for the first time. It’s much more satisfying to ride my bike down to the mall and come back with something solid tucked into my bag than to sit at my computer picking and choosing then putting it straight onto my MP3. Buying a hard copy of the album is also a gamble because usually it’s because I like the artist or have only heard and liked one or two of the songs. Then of course there’s the actual first listen, ripping off the plastic, admiring the artwork, popping it into the player, and waiting with baited breath for it to start while flipping through the booklet. Not to mention the all important decision of where in the CD shoebox it should reside forever more. Should it be before or after McFly? Perhaps in between Autorickshaw and Green Day? Could it even be worthy of touching cases with Jimi Hendrix? I haven’t had this joy for a while, though, because my local CD store closed down in April. :( Meanwhile, my list of CD’s I’d like is growing.

  9. Also awesome: the crackles, hisses, and pops that records make. I have a ton of records and I love them. :)

    Records and CDs are so much better than downloads. There’s the obvious: holding a physical object, looking at the artwork, and reading the liner notes. But also, when you have a physical album, it’s more of a deliberate listen. You choose it and you listen to it all the way through, the way it was intended to be heard. An album is a cohesive unit, as opposed to a collection of songs. Don’t get me wrong, shuffle is great, but there’s nothing like listening to a whole album from start to finish.

  10. ohhhh….. i haven’t listened to a record in FOREVER. I was a music major, so we used to listen to records in college (1999-2003), cause we were cool like that :) it is the best! (and then i got an office job and haven’t had a reason to listen to a record / have a record player since… feeling nostalgic now…)

  11. I’m too young for records, but I prefer actually getting to hold a cd in my hands then just downloading it. Downloading it’s just boring. :P

  12. In my early twenties I owned to vintage record players. One was in a red velvet case and was from the 1950s. It was gorgeous. The second one was from the 40s and it was silver. I had many records such as Eddie Cochran, Wanda Jackson, Hank Williams, The Clash, Iggy Pop & The Stooges,Johnny Cash and many more. When traveling I would always stop in as many record shops are possible. Sadly I no longer have my lovely collection or my record players. I enjoyed your post quite a bit!

  13. Hey guys and gals, I’m 24. I bought an awesome Panasonic record player, receiver and speakers for two dollars.
    I add to the record collection for about $5.00 per box of 20+!
    I still own an ipod shuffle, but when my friends come over nothing can compare to listening to music “together” singing and dancing our hearts out.
    Telling stories our parent’s and grand-parents told us and making new ones for the next generation.
    When the needle hits the record, there is silence, then “Ziggy plays guitar”, “Crocodile Rockin’ is outta sight” we have a “Gas, gas, gas”, usually till “Morning has broken.”
    You should all give it a spin<:)

    1. Do you have any 45’s? I always thought they were cool because there’s only one song per side (for those of you who don’t know). That means each time a record ends, you have to choose another record. They’re fun to listen to with a friend. I never had many of my own (“99 Red Balloons”, “Eat It”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”), but my brother and I used to play my mom’s 45’s and sing and dance. So much fun. :)

        1. I like the ones with the big holes in the middle because they’re easier to hold by the edges. And they just look more fun, like little tires. :)

  14. Gosh, how fun to reminisce about vinyl records! Admittedly, I love my cds since I’m much less likely to scratch them, but nothing compares to the pops and crackles of vinyl nor can a tiny cd booklet compare to the album art of old. Breaking the plastic seal on a new album or pulling the 45 out of the paper sleeve for the first time was so exciting! 45’s were cheap, too, so I could buy then pretty often with my allowance. I always loved thise plastic adaptors for the middle so I could play them on the thin spindle.

    1. I still remember my first albums: Rod Stewart’s A Night On The Town and Paul McCartney’s Wings at the Speed of Sound. Wow, hadn’t thought of them in a long time. We had an old cabinet stereo with awful speakers in the living nroom and I had a record player ina carrying case for my bedroom…very cool! Hey, this reminds me of something…anyone remember when cereal had plastic or cardboard-ish records that you could cut off the back of the box and they really played?! I got The Archies “Sugar Sugar” that way. Now those were great cereal prizes!

      1. Those were so cool. Do they even put prizes in cereal anymore? It seems like nowadays you always have to go online or send away for things.

      2. We had these small records that came in a fold-over cardboard case with a needle attached and a spinner that you had to turn at j-u-s-t the right speed to make it sound right. It was about as low-tech as you could get! Most of them were children’s stories. Of course it was way more fun to play them too fast or too slow. Heh heh that big bad wolf didn’t sound so threatening at double-speed!

        1. Playing records at the wrong speed was one of my favorite pastimes as a kid! We had a record player that had four speeds: the standard 33 and 45 RPM plus 16 and 78. When we played records at 78 we would dance really fast, flailing our arms wildly; when we played them at 16 we would sing along really deep (which wasn’t all that deep since we were little) while moving around the room in exaggerated slow motion. So much fun. :)

          1. OH MY GOSH, you 2 just made my day bringing back those memories to reflect on. Try having that kind of power today! Thso times were the best awesome! I have an iridescent frog in my throat…THANK YOU!!!

  15. I used to save up my pennies to get K-Tel records that were advertised on TV. Most of them were compilations. My favourite was one called Star Tracks that included pop hits from the early 80’s such as Mr. Roboto, Electric Avenue, Our House, and Puttin’ on the Ritz.

    I remember feeling the pride of hitting the milestone of being permitted to touch the record player (when I was about 8). Until I was deemed responsible enough not to damage anything the record player was strictly off limits.

  16. i love music with out music i wouldnt be able to get through some tough times in life and such this really helped me out haha an yeah i would way rather buy a cd or wha ever then download on itune or what ever

  17. Ahhh The memories of being 3, swinging in my basement to The Cookies, “Girls grow Up faster Than Boys Do” on my blue and white record player that folded up like a suitcase. The good ol’ days…..the anticipation of the crackle, waiting for the song……

  18. Unfortunately, I was born too late to really experience records. But I do enjoy the music of yesterday’s eras, rather than the auto-tuned downloads of today. I have a few records of my own. Sadly, I don’t have a player. Maybe I’ll ask for one for Christmas.

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